International Policies to Encourage Building Retrofits and Energy Efficiency

A January report from the International Energy Agency attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of various economic policies to improve energy efficiency. A large part of the report consists of detailed case studies of incentive programs for the buildings sectors in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Canada. The Canadian case study highlights the ECO-Energy Retrofit Homes program, which ran from 2007 to 2012. The report concludes that it was “relatively effective” in delivering the expected results, but that “changes will be needed to reach a significant reduction in energy consumption from residential buildings of the order of 50% by 2050”. The program reached approximately 5% of low rise housing in Canada, and achieved an average 24% improvement in energy performance of participating homes. The report also estimates that the program supported the direct creation of 2000 energy advisor jobs, as well as construction installation jobs and jobs in insulation, window and door manufacturing (which it does not attempt to quantify).



Mobilising Investment in Energy Efficiency: Economic Instruments for Low-Energy Buildings is available at:

Overview of Green Jobs in the U.S.

The January 2013 issue of Monthly Labor Review online is a special issue dedicated to green jobs. Four articles are included, which explain the methodology of the two BLS surveys, the Green Goods and Services survey and the Green Technologies and Practices survey, and summarize previously published data. The final article, “Workplace safety and health profiles of occupations with green technology jobs” uses BLS workplace safety and health data, which shares the same industry and occupation classification systems used in the green jobs studies, to report on the prevalence and details of workplace injuries and accidents. Unfortunately, the data cannot be separated into green and non-­green jobs, so that the results are for all jobs in the industries or occupations that contain green jobs. Also included: a book review of Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy: Making and Keeping New Industries in the United States, by David J. Hess, published by MIT Press in 2012.

Monthly Labor Review Online, January 2013 issue, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is at: 

Low-Carbon Energy Futures Require Transformative Change

In Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios, the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP) summarizes common themes in leading greenhouse gas reduction strategies for eight countries: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.


The study shows that Canada and other industrialized countries have the technology to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in their energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Deep GHG emissions reductions will depend on major improvements to energy efficiency; greater reliance on electricity for heating, personal transportation and some industrial processes, coupled with a transition to low- or zero-carbon electricity sources, and a wider use of biofuels. “The transition to a low-carbon energy future will be transformative, requiring a boom in clean-energy technologies and low-energy practices at least as significant as the post-Second World War boom in fossil fuel consumption”. The TEFP is a joint initiative of the David Suzuki Foundation, The Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Trottier Family Foundation.




Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios report and news release summary are available from link at:

Canada and the U.S. are Falling Short on Capitalizing and Competing in Clean Energy

In Competing in Clean Energy, Capitalizing on Canadian innovation in a $3 trillion economy, the Pembina Institute identifies two main challenges to clean energy entrepreneurship in Canada: the lack of stable, long-term government policy and difficulty accessing capital. The report states that jobs in Canada’s cleantech sector grew by 11%, and the industry invested almost $2 billion in research and development between 2008 and 2010. Yet, “With the Harper government’s focus set on accelerating development of Canada’s fossil fuel commodities – from oilsands to shale gas and coal – Canada is currently capturing just one percent of the thriving clean energy market.” Three main opportunities for support for clean energy entrepreneurship in Canada were identified: develop a set of specific federal financial tools to encourage clean energy entrepreneurship; engage in the development of a national energy strategy; and send the right price signals.


Although the Pembina Institute sees the U.S. as one of the countries outstripping us in the cleantech sector, a new report commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts states that the U.S. is missing the boat on clean energy investment. The study developed projections of how much clean generating capacity has been deployed in the United States and globally over two time periods: 2009 to 2011, and prospectively from 2012 to 2018. The report provides a number of policy recommendations to improve the situation.



Competing in Clean Energy, Capitalizing on Canadian innovation in a $3 trillion economy. Report and executive summary:


Innovate, Manufacture, Compete: A Clean Energy Action Plan

is available from the Pew Charitable Trusts at:

Reducing GHG Emissions in the U.S.

A recently released report by the World Resources Institute identifies a suite of policies that the U.S. Administration can pursue that do not require new legislation by Congress. Can the U.S. Get There from Here? Using Existing Federal Laws and State Action to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, explains that if pursued with a “go-getter” level ambition, those policies can reduce U.S. emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 and thereby reach its international commitments.


Can the U.S. Get There from Here? Using Existing Federal Laws and State Action to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

Final Assessment of Canada’s Outgoing Commissioner of the Environment

Scott Vaughan, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, presented his 2012 Fall Report to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources on February 5th. The report is available at: as five separate chapters: Atlantic offshore oil and gas activities; Financial Assurances for Environmental Risks; Marine Protected Areas; A Study of Federal Support for the Fossil Fuel Sector; and, Environmental Petitions. The Commissioner’s Perspective document at:  concludes with the following concerns: “…. the current level of inspections of major resource projects in the North is very low relative to the level of activity. The government does not know the actual cost of its support to the fossil fuel sector. Meanwhile, offshore resource development continues to expand even as the government makes slow progress establishing marine protected areas. As well, the petroleum boards on the east coast and their federal partners are not adequately prepared to respond to a major oil spill should they need to step in.” French versions of these documents are available at: The Government’s official response to the report is at: See the reaction of the David Suzuki Foundation to the Commissioner’s report at:

Keystone XL Pipeline: Protests Include the Sierra Club

On February 13th, the day after Obama’s State of the Union address was silent on the Keystone XL issue, protestors were arrested outside of the White House, including James E. Hansen, Bill McKibben, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club of the U.S. The Sierra Club, for the first time in its 120 year history, endorsed a policy of peaceful civil disobedience: see the January 23 press release at: or the Director’s Blog, “From Walden to the White House”:  


The Canadian Executive Board meeting of January 31 issued this statement: “…..Since the history of inaction on climate change in Canada is similar to the record in the United States, Sierra Club Canada is undertaking an internal dialogue to reassess its rules concerning civil disobedience in future campaigns and will make a decision at the appropriate time.” In a survey of Sierra Club supporters on Jan. 31, over 94% responded that they agree or strongly agree with the statement: “Non-violent civil disobedience in campaigns for environmental protection can be a legitimate and acceptable tactic in a democratic society”, and 88% agree or strongly agree that “Sierra Club Canada should seriously consider participating in non-violent civil disobedience actions”. The Executive Board statement is at:; results of the survey are at:


The Forward on Climate Rally on February 17th, a project of, Sierra Club, and 120 other organizations, was billed as “the largest climate change rally in U.S. history”, in Washington, D.C. See: for details. The goal of the rally is to demand that President Obama reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, finalize carbon pollution standards for power plants, and promote energy efficiency and clean energy.

Keystone XL Pipeline: Union Opposition

Dave Coles, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) delivered a strong statement against the Keystone XL pipeline at a conference at City University of New York in January 2013. Although the CEP represents 35,000 members employed in oil and gas extraction, transportation, refining, and conversion in the petrochemical and plastics sectors, Coles stated in his speech: “We oppose the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and call on President Obama to reject the project. Climate pollution from the bitumen sands industry is already considerable and will only get worse by approving Keystone XL. The Canadian government’s aggressive lobbying in the U.S. in favor of the pipeline is an embarrassment. I have been arrested in the fight against Keystone XL because our union understands that this pipeline is bad for both the environment and Canadian workers. The pipeline will take potential upgrading and refining jobs away from Canadians and put our country’s energy security at risk.” The Canadian Labour Congress passed the following resolution at its 2011 Conference: “The CLC willpromote the creation of good jobs for Canadians through increased processing of Canadian natural resources, including bitumen, within Canada, stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline from commencing its activities, and actively supporting the Canadian petrochemical industry.”


Keystone XL Pipeline: Bad for the environment and Canadian Workers is at the CEP website at:, and was reproduced at on January 17 at:


Canadian Labor Congress resolution at:

Keystone and Northern Gateway: Union Support

The president of the U.S. Building Trades Department of the AFL-CIO issued a press release on February 13 calling for the immediate approval of the pipeline. In “President McGarvey Joins API President Jack Gerard for Joint Appeal for Keystone XL Pipeline Project”, the union states: “Keystone pipeline is critical to our domestic energy industry. And our domestic energy is proving to be critical to the re-awakening of the American economy.” See: A press release from their Canadian counterparts on January 15 indicates that the position is similar for Canada, though it is specifically about a different pipeline. “Northern Gateway project an enormous opportunity for Canada’s building trades”, includes endorsements for the Northern Gateway pipeline from Robert Blakely, Director of Canadian Affairs, Building Trades Department of the AFL CIO and John Telford, Canadian Director for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters. See:

An Economic Argument for Pipelines

The Canada West Foundation, a Calgary-based think tank, argues for their viewpoint in Pipe or Perish, Saving an Oil Industry at Risk at: The report, commissioned and financed by the government of Saskatchewan, argues “If pipeline project proposals such as Trans Mountain, Keystone XL and Northern Gateway don’t move forward, Canada will be foregoing $1.3 trillion in economic output, 7.4 million person-years of employment and $281 billion in tax revenue between now and 2035.”

Oil Sands Production: the Environmental Impact

Beneath the Surface: A Review of Key Facts in the Oilsands debate, published by Pembina Institute on January 28th, examines statements made that are not false, but selectively present information to minimize the negative impacts of oilsands production or overstate the positive strides that industry or governments have made toward addressing those impacts. The report focuses on five key areas including: air quality and emissions levels, land reclamation and wildlife, water impacts, volume of oil sands tailings and how reliance on the oil sands puts Canada’s overall economy at risk. See Beneath the Surface: A Review of Key Facts in the Oilsands debate at:

Environmental Performance is One Indicator of Canadian Quality of Life

How Canada Performs is a detailed national “report card” across dimensions: economy, society, innovation, health, education and skills, and the environment.  In the release of January 2013, at:, Canada receives a “C” grade on environmental performance and a rank of 15th out of 17 peer countries, measuring on 6 dimensions: air quality, waste, water quality and quantity, biodiversity and conservation, natural resource management, and climate change and energy efficiency. Climate change is measured using the proxy of GHG emissions per capita, and on that dimension, our country receives a “D” grade. “The main challenge is to make economic growth less dependent on energy use and related air emissions, by improving energy efficiency and by developing and using cleaner fuels and low-emitting electricity sources.” Citing its previous reports from 2007 – 2011, the Board reiterates its call for a green taxes, green investment tax credits, and a cap and trade system for emissions. Data and analysis of GHG emissions are at: The main home page for How Canada Performs: a Report Card on Canada is at:

EU Transportation Sector Urged to Find Alternatives to Food Crop Biofuels

A new report outlines a vision for the transportation sector of the EU which would reduce its reliance on biofuels from food crops while cutting its CO2 emissions by 205 million tones by 2020. The authors claim that the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) target and the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) can be met by improved energy efficiency, combined with a the growth of renewable electricity use, and the use of biofuels and biomethane from waste and residues rather than from food crops. Sustainable Alternatives for Land-based Biofuels in the European Union: Assessment of options and development of a policy strategy was commissioned by Greenpeace, Transport & Environment, the European Environmental Bureau and BirdLife Europe, and written by CE Delft, an independent, non-profit research and consultancy organization in the Netherlands. The report is available at:

Climate Change Coverage Decreasing in the Media

In its annual review of media coverage of climate change, Daily website states thatThe New York Times published the most stories on climate change and had the biggest increase in coverage among the five largest U.S. daily papers in 2012. Daily also states that climate change reporting declined by 2% worldwide in 2012 from 2011, despite the increased coverage of extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy. For a review of climate change reporting in 2012, see: Given its prominence, there is further concern for the diminution of climate change reporting after the New York Times announced in early January that it is reorganizing its coverage of environmental issues – eliminating the positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor and reassigning the seven reporters from a dedicated “desk”. The Timesmaintains that it will continue to cover environmental issues, but in an interdisciplinary way, reflecting that “environmental stories are “partly business, economic, national or local, among other subjects”. The online Green Blog is still publishing and no statement has been made about its future. See “New York Times Dismantles Its Environment Desk”, in Inside Climate News, January 11, 2013, at:  

Climate Leadership Program for Members of U.K. Parliament

Since 2009, the Green Alliance in the U.K. has been working to encourage climate change advocacy and action amongst elected politicians, through a Climate Leadership Programme. Over 50 MP’s from all three political parties have attended workshops and information sessions on the science, policy and politics of climate change, and their links with key constituency issues. As the program enters a new 2-year phase, past achievements and policy documents are summarized in an essay at:; for Background on the Climate Leadership Program, see: