Job losses feared as Ontario government cancels renewable energy contracts

On  July 13, the Province of Ontario announced the immediate cancellation of 758 renewable energy projects, calling them “unnecessary and wasteful” .  In “Inside Ontario’s clean energy contract cancellations”  by GreenTech Media  (July 26), the CEO of the Canadian Solar Industry Association estimates that  Ontario will lose 6,000 jobs and half a billion dollars of investment as a result, although the general tone of the article displays confidence in the unstoppable momentum of clean energy.  The decision, however, has thrown the industry into confusion, disappointed some consumers, and is seen as a blow to Ontario’s reputation amongst investors.

A sampling of reaction:  “Green shift to green slump: How trade decisions and electoral politics are crippling the vision of a clean Canadian power play”    in the Globe and Mail (Aug. 3)

Solar companies may exit Ontario for Alberta after Doug Ford kills rebate program”    from CBC News

Renewable Energy stocks slide as Ontario vows to scrap clean- power projects” in the Globe and Mail  (July 13)

Clean power advocates disappointed by defiant in the face of Ford’s sweeping cuts”   (July 17) in the National Observer

Cancellation of Energy Contracts Punishes Famers, School Boards, Municipalities and First Nations”   a press release from the Canadian Solar Industries Association.  CanWEA also responded to the announcements with a disjointed compilation of links about the benefits of wind energy  (July 13) .

wind turbine and cowsOne high profile  example of the cancelled projects:  the White Pines wind project in Prince Edward County, owned by German company WPD ,  which was first approved in 2010 and was weeks away from completion when it was cancelled by Bill 2, The Urgent Priorities Act.  Local reaction appeared in  The Picton Gazette , and the National Observer published an extensive four part report, “Inside one Ontario town’s  decade long wind war”  .    CBC News published  “Ford government’s plan to cancel wind project could cost taxpayers over $100M, company warns”  , and even the conservative National Post published “John Ivison: Wind turbine decision says Doug Ford’s Ontario is closed for business”   (July 23), calling it a “bone-headed”decision.  Activist group Leadnow.ca has posted on online petition, “Save the White Pines project”  .

 

 

TUED conferences: A Social Power vision of Just Transition, and U.K. Energy Democracy

The international alliance of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy  convened two meetings over the summer of 2018, summarized in  Just Transition: A Revolutionary Idea – TUED Bulletin 73 , which summarizes an international conference held in New York in late May, and  Reclaiming UK Energy: What’s the Plan? – TUED Bulletin 75  , which summarizes meetings in the U.K. on June 28 and 29 to discuss different approaches to reclaiming the power sector, while honouring climate commitments and addressing energy poverty.

The Just Transition international conference brought together representatives of 31 unions as well as 15 environmental, community-based, research and policy allies from both the global North and the South.  The Program is here  ;  links to videos of the presentations on YouTube  are here  . In Opening Remarks, Paula Finn, Associate Director of the Center for Labor, Community & Public Policy at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies  “highlighted the necessity of confronting frankly and honestly the divisions within the global trade union movement—in particular divisions over “whether unmitigated economic growth and extractive capitalism must be challenged, or we can somehow ride the wave of ‘green jobs’ towards a solution of the climate crisis.”  Much of the discussion was based on the TUED’s Working Paper #11, Trade Unions and Just Transition: The Search for a Transformative Politics ( April 2018) by Sean Sweeney and John Treat and available from the Rose Luxemburg Stiflung  as part of its Climate Justice Dossier .   The Sweeney/Treat paper argues for a “Social Power vision” of Just Transition, which “ must be radically democratic and inclusive, and it must hold at its center a recognition that nothing short of a deep socioeconomic and ecological transition will be sufficient for the challenges our planet currently faces.” Watch Sean Sweeney summarize and discuss the paper in a video of Session 2: Broadening the Just Transition Debate: The Search for a Transformative Politics . Donald LaFleur, Vice-President of the  Canadian Labour Congress,  appears as a discussant to the paper at approximately minute 29 of the video.

The second TUED meeting of the summer of 2018 is summarized in Reclaiming UK Energy: What’s the Plan? – TUED Bulletin 75  .  The forty delegates attending  included GMB, UNISON UNITE, PCS, TSSA, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, National Education Union,  and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), along with allies including the Greener Jobs Alliance, Friends of the Earth Europe and Scotland, Transnational Institute and others from across Europe.  The Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of the U.K. Labour Party presented their current energy platform which focuses on establishing a number of regional public energy companies, and participated in a discussion of union policies and opinion.  In addition to the summary from the TUED Bulletin, a summary also appears in the July/August Newsletter of the Greener Jobs Alliance .  Documents on which discussion was based include:

From the TUED: All, or Something? Towards a “Comprehensive Reclaiming” of the UK Power Sector, which argues for  establishing a new national public entity that would encompass generation, transmission, distribution and supply.

From Unison: The need to take into public ownership the customer and retail operations of big 6

From Professor Costas Lapavitsas,  the University of London spoke regarding the potential impacts of Brexit on energy nationalization, based on  his  arguments and observations in  “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour vs. the Single Market.”   in Jacobin (May 2018) .

The many activities and accomplishments of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy are summarized in New Unions and Regional Advances: A Mid-Year Report — TUED Bulletin 76 dated 30 July 2018.  Of note : “The first half of 2018 saw three important additions to the TUED network, with the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union(BCGEU), the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU; US and Canada) and the Nordic Transport Workers Federation (NTF; headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden). Together these unions represent 560,000 workers.”  64 trade union bodies are now members of TUED .

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Against the evidence for its efficiency, Ontario’s Cap and Trade program axed

Doug Ford clappingIn Ontario, newly-elected Premier Doug Ford quickly fulfilled a central campaign promise, as the Province revoked the cap-and-trade  regulations and prohibited all trading of emission allowances, officially announced on July 3, 2018.   A further July 25  press release  announced the introduction of Bill 4, The Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018  and claimed that “The average Ontario family will receive $260 in annual savings thanks to the elimination of the cap-and-trade carbon tax.”  All programs currently funded through the cap-and-trade revenues have been cancelled, including the immediate wind-down of the Green Ontario Fund, which funded many energy efficiency incentive programs.  The Cap and Trade Cancellation Act repeals the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, 2016  of the previous Wynne government “and provides for various matters related to the wind down of the Cap and Trade Program.”

Earlier, on July 13, the province had announced  the cancellation of 758 renewable energy projects, calling them “unnecessary and wasteful” – one notable example, the almost-completed White Pines wind project in Prince Edward County.  And on August 2, in addition to the previously announced court challenge  to the federal government’s carbon pricing requirements under the Pan Canadian Framework,  Ontario’s  Attorney General announced a second court challenge  – this time in  the Ontario Court of Appeal.  “Doug Ford’s Ontario pursues ‘doomed’ plan to stop Trudeau government’s efforts to fight climate change”   in the National Observer (August 2) summarizes the development from a political viewpoint, and the Globe and Mail’s editorial is titled: “Caroline Mulroney’s carbon-tax court challenge is a partisan waste of money

Reactions :

Ford government Attempts to minimize Ontario taxpayer losses after abandoning carbon markets”   (July 25) in the National Observer;

“Ontario’s fiscal watchdog to probe cancellation of cap and trade,at Horwath’s request”   in the Globe and Mail (July 24);

From Professor Mark Winfield, York University:  “Doug Ford’s energy shake-up could cost Ontario”  in The Conversation (July 25)   ;

Clean power advocates disappointed but defiant in the face of Ford’s sweeping cuts” from the National Observer (July 17)

Solar companies may exit Ontario for Alberta after Doug Ford kills rebate program”  from CBC News (June 21) ;

Scrapping of cap and trade revenues a big loss for Ontario tenants badly in need of apartment retrofits”   from ACORN Canada;

  “From Cap-and-Trade to White Pines: What Lies Ahead In Ontario’s Energy Sector” from Toronto law firm Gowlings .

Before his election but based on the platform statements,  Unifor said in June  : “Workers in Ontario need forward-looking policies with the intention to build a green economy, but instead Ford announced his intention to cancel a successful program and pick an unnecessary fight with the federal government…. “Workers accept that climate change is real and need our government to lead with a real, predictable plan to reduce emissions and grow green jobs.”

Was there a problem with Ontario’s cap and trade system?  The April 2018 WCR article “New evidence supports benefits of cap and trade policies”  summarized several favourable studies, including  A Progress Report on Ontario’s Cap-and-Trade Program and Climate Change Action Plan: Year One ,  published by the Clean Economy Alliance –   which concluded that, in the first year of cap-and-trade employment had grown at the same time that Ontario economy grew to a 7-year high.  Environmental Defense published “Carbon pricing has no downside: why are we still arguing about it?” , which summarized the Clean Economy Alliance report, as well as No Bad Option: Comparing the Economic Impact of Ontario Carbon Pricing Scenarios  by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, published in April 2018 by CCPA in partnership with the Clean Economy Alliance.

More recently, Dale Beugin, Don Drummond, Glen Hodgson and Mel Cappe asked “If not carbon pricing in Ontario – which works well – then what, Mr. Ford?”   in a blog published by the Ecofiscal Commission.   The purpose of the brief summary is to “correct the record on some of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding carbon pricing. The economic evidence clearly contradicts some of the recent rhetoric coming from Ontario.”  Earlier Ecofiscal opinion appeared in “Tread Carefully: Ontario’s cap-and-trade system meets a fork in the road” (June 8)  , and  “Can Ontario hits its targets without carbon pricing?”  .

In the U.S.,  economist Marc Hafstead  recently published “Carbon taxes and employment: Rhetoric vs research” in the Summer Issue of Resources, the online newsletter of Resources for the Future (RFF) , stating  “Opponents of policies to price carbon will likely continue with the “job-killing” rhetoric, but careful economic analysis suggests that these arguments are seriously exaggerated.”  (the brief article is based largely on his academic working paper Unemployment and Environmental Regulation in General Equilibrium: Considering a US Carbon Tax: Economic Analysis and Dialogue on Carbon Pricing Options  )  .

 

New podcast series celebrates women fighting climate change

MothersOfInvention_PressShot_11A new, optimistic initiative called Mothers of Invention  was launched in July, led by Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland and a well-known climate justice campaigner. Maeve Higgins, an Irish-born comedian is her  “sidekick” in a series of podcasts designed to celebrate “ amazing women doing remarkable things in pursuit of climate justice.”  Through lighthearted, informal conversations, the podcasts educate and inspire with stories of local climate activists – initially focusing on women only, but eventually planned to include men as well.  The clear purpose is to motivate individuals with positive examples, rather than a climate change “doom and gloom” message.

Episode 1, All Rise ,  explores the issue of global climate litigation through interviews with Tessa Khan, Co-Founder of the Global Climate Litigation network ; Marjan Minnesma, Director of the Urgenda Foundation which launched the world’s first climate liability lawsuit in the Netherlands; and Kelsey Juliana, Victoria Barrett & Ridhima Pandey – young plaintiffs from the U.S. and India who are supported in  lawsuits against their own governments by the Our Children’s Foundation. Each episode consists of the podcast interviews and discussion, with links for more information, more involvement, and  a chance to donate.

The line up of future “Mothers”   includes activists from around the world who have focused on land protection, zero waste, fossil fuel divestment, energy poverty, plastic pollution, and environmental racism. The initiative is profiled in The Guardian in “Mary Robinson launches new feminist fight against climate change” (July 24).

 

U.K. Committee issues recommendations for heatwaves – including workplace changes

sweating office workerOn July 26, the U.K.’s Environmental Audit Committee published Heatwaves: adapting to climate change,  which examines the developing trend of heatwaves, the responsibility for heatwave protection, how to protect human health and well-being, and effects on  productivity and the economy.  The final statement on conclusions/recommendations states:  “Heatwaves can result in overheating workplaces and lower employee productivity. In 2010, approximately five million staff days were lost due to overheating above 26°C resulting in economic losses of £770 million. Given that extreme temperature events in Europe are now 10 times more likely than they were in the early 2000s, similar losses will occur more frequently. However, some businesses, particularly smaller businesses, do not have business continuity plans in place. The Government should make businesses aware of the developing threat of heatwaves and the economic consequences. Public Health England should also issue formal guidance to employers to relax dress codes and allow flexible working when heatwave alerts are issued. The Government should consult on introducing maximum workplace temperatures, especially for work that involves significant physical effort. Procurement rules should be updated so that schools and the NHS do not spend public money on infrastructure which is not resilient to heatwaves. The Department for Education should issue guidance for head teachers about safe temperatures in schools and relaxing the school uniform policy as appropriate during hot weather. ” At present, there is no set temperature limit for indoor work, (only that buildings be kept at a “reasonable” temperature)  and the government’s 2018 Heatwave Plan makes no mention of employer responsibilities or the dangers of heat stress for workers.

tuc logoSome of the Committee recommendations echo those contained in the  Trades Union Congress publication, Cool it! Reps guide on dealing with high temperatures in the workplace .  It documents examples of heat stress in workplaces, and provides checklists for union representatives in both indoor and outdoor workplaces. The Cool it! guide  recommends that a maximum indoor  temperature be set at  30°C (27°C for those doing strenuous work), and  “ a new legal duty on employers to protect outside workers by providing sun protection, water, and to organise work so that employees are not outside during the hottest part of the day.”  The guide also takes note of the  special circumstances of drivers.

Current heat-related guides and information from the government’s Health and Safety Executive are here.