International Meeting Addresses the Role of Labour in Reducing Climate Change

Labour, Climate Change, and Social Struggle was the theme of the international conference in Toronto from November 29 to December 1, organized and hosted by the Work in a Warming World project at York University. The presentations at the 3-day event reflected the participants: trade unionists, academics, and representatives of social justice organizations from Canada, U.S. U.K., EU, Sweden, India, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia. Keynote addresses made by David Miller, former Mayor of Toronto and now CEO and President of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, and Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, the international union federation which includes 20 million members. The plenary speakers were Hassan Yussuff, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress and Chris Tollefson, Professor and Executive Director of the Environmental Law Centre in Victoria, British Columbia. Other union speakers and panellists included representatives from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Public Service Alliance of Canada, British Columbia Federation of Labour, and the Labour Network for Sustainability (U.S.).

Speakers and workshops throughout the conference reflected a healthy balance and respect for both academic research and practical experience in striving for a worker-led strategic response to climate change. A broad range of topics were covered – to name a few: the role of worker capital and pensions funds, greening the built environment, the energy sector, power relationships between the global south and north, the emerging model of climate change law, gender and climate change, and greening the healthcare sector. A constant theme throughout the conference was the crucial leadership role that organized labour can play in the struggle for a sustainable, just economy, and the need for understanding and relationship-building with allies in the environmental movement.

A strategy meeting in Toronto in November brought together just such a gathering of like-minded union and environmental groups of the Green Economy Network: participants included the Council of Canadians, the Polaris Institute, the Climate Action Network, KAIROS, and unions including the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Unifor and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).


Labour, Climate Change, and Social Struggle (W3 international conference):  full list of speakers and topics is now available at:; Papers will be available online in 2014.

Activists Rally around Green Jobs press release (summarizing the Green Economy Network Strategy Meeting) is at the CUPE website at:

On the Eve of the NEB Decision Re Northern Gateway Pipeline: Eyford Report Addresses First Nations and Energy Development

On December 5th, Prime Minister Harper’s Special Representative, Douglas Eyford, presented his report about how to engage with First Nations communities and governments in British Columbia and Alberta on future energy infrastructure development. The recommendations of Forging Partnerships, Building Relationships, are summarized in the Executive summary as:

“Building Trust: identifies the efforts needed to establish constructive dialogue about energy development, to demonstrate commitment to environmental sustainability, and to enhance understanding of and participation in pipeline and marine safety.

Fostering Inclusion: proposes focused efforts to realize Aboriginal employment and business opportunities, to establish collaborations among Aboriginal communities that allow for better outcomes, and to facilitate the financial participation of Aboriginal communities in energy projects.

Advancing Reconciliation: recommends targeted efforts to build effective relationships including refinements to Canada’s current approach to consultation and engagement, to explore mutually beneficial initiatives that support reconciliation, and to encourage Aboriginal communities to resolve shared territory issues.

Taking Action: recommends the establishment of a Crown-First Nations tripartite energy working group to create an open and sustained dialogue and action on energy projects.”

The official response to the Eyford report from Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn Atleo states: “First Nations are not anti-development but if any project is going to proceed it must be responsible, sustainable, we must be involved, our rights must be respected and there must be meaningful engagement consistent with the principles of free, prior and informed consent as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” The official response of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is more strongly worded. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip states: “It is clear that Mr. Eyford listened to our communities as many, if not all, of his recommendations reflect the public positions and statements of many First Nations standing against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of their Trans Mountain pipeline. Unfortunately, many of his recommendations will be ignored. The Harper Government has time and time again demonstrated their jobs agenda trumps, ignores and arrogantly dismissed our constitutionally-enshrined, judicially-recognized inherent Title, Rights and Treaty Rights.”

Almost 1,000 delegates met in Gatineau, Quebec for the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly, from December 10-12, coinciding with the first anniversary of the Idle No More protests. Their press release states that they discussed and made progress on a policy towards a First Nations Energy Policy, although their first priority was the recent government proposals regarding aboriginal education. An article in the Globe and Mail Report on Business on December 14th is an on-the-ground profile of “a community in conflict”, the Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta, as it tries to balance the economic benefits of oil sands development with the resulting environmental damage.


Forging Partnerships Building Relationships: Aboriginal Canadians and Energy Development. A Report to the Prime Minister. (The Eyford Report ) is at:

“First Nations Leaders Cool to Blueprint for Garnering their Support on Energy Projects” in Globe and Mail (December 5, updated Dec. 6) at:

Assembly of First Nations Chief Welcomes Eyford Report and calls for Action…is at:

UBCIC Responds to Forging Partnerships Building Relationships is at:

Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly Concludes press release is at:

“A Line in the Oil Sands: the Dispute the entire Oil Industry is Watching” in the Globe and Mail (Dec. 14th) at:

The Jobs Argument and the Costs of Energy Development: Two Views

A December study by the right-wing Fraser Institute starts from two foundations: “every proposed oil and gas project in Canada affects at least one First Nation’s community and secondly, these young and highly unemployed communities are sorely in need of jobs. Oil and gas development can provide those jobs and a way out of poverty and into prosperity.” To bolster its arguments, the study states that “In 2010, more than 1,700 aboriginal people were directly employed in oilsands operations. Over the past 12 years aboriginal-owned companies have secured more than $5 billion worth of contracts from oilsands developers in the region.”

The David Suzuki Foundation has released an alternative view in a report about industrial development in the Peace River Region. Passages from the Peace states that there are 16,267 oil and gas wells, 28,587 kilometres of pipeline, 45,293 kilometres of roads and 116,725 kilometres of seismic lines packed into the region, and the  lives and well-being of local First Nations and non-aboriginal farming communities is being adversely affected. Suzuki will present the report during the public consultation period (December and January) of a 3-person joint federal and provincial Environmental Assessment Panel which is touring the Peace River Region in Northern British Columbia. The Site C Dam proposed by B.C. Hydro is a $7.9-billion hydroelectric dam proposed to be built seven kilometres downstream from Fort St. John, and would flood an 83-kilometre stretch of the Peace River upstream, as well as the mouth of the Moberly and Halfway Rivers. Opponents are also concerned about the impact downstream, on Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. As yet there is no First Nations consensus position, and B.C. Hydro is arguing that the project is expected to produce 10,000 direct jobs and employment for thousands more indirectly.


Opportunities for First Nation Prosperity through Oil and Gas Development is at:

Passages from the Peace, is at the David Suzuki Foundation website at:

“First Nations welcome Site C review panel” (Dec. 9) in the Globe and Mail at:

A Strategy for the U.S. to Lead the Global Green Industrial Revolution

On December 10th, the BlueGreen Alliance, the Institute for America’s Future, and the Center for American Progress released The Green Industrial Revolution and the United States: In the Clean Energy Race, Is the United States a Leader or a Luddite? The report acknowledges and summarizes the strong U.S. position in clean energy development, and proposes to exert a competitive advantage over its closest rivals, China and Germany, by innovating from the state and local levels “up”, combining regional  policies that work into a national energy strategy that is based on “an integrated set of regional energy strategies. “Citing the examples of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and the currently uncertain Production Tax Credit program for wind energy projects, the report charges that “U.S. clean energy policies have been time limited, underfunded, and politically charged.” The strategy argues that the relatively small U.S. Department of Commerce should take the lead: “With solid leadership and increased capacity, Commerce could be the central department ensuring that energy programs out of the Department of Energy, environmental programs out of the Environmental Protection Agency, and workforce training and standards programs out of the Department of Labor, all work together to support regionally specific economic development plans that will help America consolidate global leadership in the green industrial revolution.” BlueGreen earlier released a Policy Statement calling for a state-level Clean Energy Transition Fund, to first and foremost, “ensure that displaced workers from closing power plants and affected fossil fuel extraction sites receive transition support, including wages, benefits, and retraining.”

BlueGreen has also launched a Repair America campaign, urging investment in infrastructure building and repair; a report about job creation potential in Minnesota was released on December 11th to launch the campaign. The Repair America theme will also be reflected in the Good Jobs Green Jobs 2014 conference in Washington, D.C. in February 2014.


The Green Industrial Revolution and the United States: In the Clean Energy Race, Is the United States a Leader or a Luddite? is available at:

BlueGreen Policy Statement for a Clean Energy Transition Fund is at:

Repair Minnesota: Creating Good Jobs While Preparing Our Systems for Climate Change is available at: For Good Jobs Green Jobs 2014 conference information, see:

Trades Union Congress Issues New Green Policy Statement

The U.K.’s Trades Union Congress has posted Green Growth – No Turning Back. This consolidation and updating of TUC policies about climate change and energy was prompted by the latest scientific evidence, as well as Britain’s current concerns with energy security and the affordability of energy for citizens. Recommendations include: parliament should adopt the Committee on Climate Change’s Fourth Carbon budget as a framework for carbon emissions action; move to fund energy subsidies through income and corporate tax and eliminate regressive consumer taxes; make significant reforms to the existing Energy Bill, including a 2030 decarbonisation target to attract investment in low carbon technologies; and further encourage investment through a “properly funded” Green Investment Bank, state support for strategically important low-carbon sectors such as renewables, electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage, and a skills strategy for a low carbon economy. The policy also calls for no further investment in fracking or “unabated fossil fuels”.




Green Growth – No Turning Back is available at: The Summary of Recommendations is at:

The Jobs Argument of the Keystone Pipeline

A newly-released report by the Labor Network for Sustainability and Economics for Equity and Environment compares the jobs that would be created by the proposed Keystone pipeline to the jobs that could be created if investment was placed in water, sewer, and gas infrastructure projects in the five states the pipeline crosses. The report concludes that the infrastructure investment would create more than 300,000 total jobs across all sectors: five times more jobs, and better jobs.


The Keystone Pipeline Debate: an Alternative Jobs Strategy is available at:

OECD Analysis of Innovation for Clean Energy Emphasizes the Importance of Human Capital

A recent OECD working paper reviews case studies of renewable energy initiatives in Australia, Brazil, China, Mongolia, Spain and the United Kingdom, and  emphasizes the importance of local governments in the transition to low-carbon economies. “What sets a region on a path to innovation is openness to new ideas of business…their ability to source and absorb new ideas; in effect, a region’s ability to learn. This is also strongly related to the training and skills ecosystem present in the region. A region’s capacity to innovate relates to the stock and quality of human capital embodied in its workforce. The successful transition to a low-carbon economy will only be possible by ensuring that the labour force is able to transfer from areas of decreasing employment to other industries, and if adequate human capital exists to develop new industries that will grow as a result of climate change mitigation and adaptation activities. Skills development activities will play a major role in each of these transitions.”


Improving the Effectiveness of Green Local Development: The role and Impact of Public Sector-led Initiatives in Renewable is available from a link at:

Ontario Updates its Long-Term Energy Plan

On December 2, the Ontario government waded into the highly-politicized and controversial field of energy in the province, with the release of Achieving Balance, its updated long-term energy plan which emphasizes energy conservation, maintains the policy of ending coal-generated electricity, and holds the line on investment in new nuclear power facilities. The plan acknowledges Ontario’s reduced energy demands and sets a target of about half of Ontario’s installed generating capacity to come from renewable sources by 2025. See the Ontario government news release, with links to supporting backgrounders at:

The Plan, Achieving Balance is at:

A series of Backgrounders focusing on topics such as Conservation initiatives at:, First Nations and Metis initiatives at:, and Northwestern Ontario programs (to support mining projects and First Nations) at:

Reaction from Environmental Defence is at:; From the Pembina Institute at:, and from the Society of Energy Professionals at: “The Society of Energy Professionals supports the government’s decisions to continue with plans for nuclear refurbishment at Darlington and Bruce Power, maintain Pickering until 2020, and move forward with the conversion of the Thunder Bay Generating Station from coal to advanced biomass.”

Quebec Government gives Conditional Support to Enbridge Line 9B

In the first week of December, a Quebec parliamentary committee came out in favour of Enbridge’s proposal to reverse the flow of the Line 9B pipeline, allowing crude oil and bitumen to flow across Quebec to refineries in Montreal. The committee stipulated 18 conditions, including: the creation of an oversight committee composed of federal, provincial and Enbridge representatives; Enbridge must provide Quebec’s environment department with its inspection data and its inspection and maintenance practices, so that an independent expert can evaluate the integrity of the pipeline; Enbridge must conduct hydrostatic studies on the integrity of the pipeline; Enbridge must provide a sufficient financial guarantee to pay for any damage in the event of a disaster, including after the pipeline is no longer in operation; and Enbridge must develop an emergency plan for drinking water. See the summary at Equiterre website at:, with a link to the full report of the Committee (French only). For background to the controversy, see “6 Reasons why some Labour is Rallying against Line 9” at at:

Green Awards for Cities: Vancouver for Green Building Practices

On November 20, the World Green Building Council (WGBC) gave its Government Leadership Award for Best Green Building Policy to the City of Vancouver, recognizing international best practice for green building initiatives at the city level. Under Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, existing buildings must reduce their energy use and GHG emissions by 20% from 2007 levels, by 2020. New buildings constructed after 2020 must be carbon neutral. Read the press release, with links to the Action Plan and supporting documents at: And on Dec. 20, new energy efficiency requirements will come into effect under the B.C. Building Code. Developers will have a choice of energy efficiency standards for “complex buildings” (this includes large residential, industrial, commercial and institutional buildings, but not houses or small buildings). Developers can choose to use either the 2011 National Energy Code for Buildings or ASHRAE 90.1 (2010), creating greater flexibility for the construction industry.

Press release at:

European Green Capital Award for 2013: Nantes, France

Nantes was chosen for the 2013 Award on the strength of its public transport policy. It was the first city in France to successfully re-introduce electric tramways, and plans to encourage bicycle and public bus infrastructure. The Award, begun in 2010 by the European Commission, recognizes a consistent record and a commitment to future goals and ambitions for environmental improvement and sustainable development.  See:

Another Assessment of Canada’s Energy Gridlock from Business, Environmentalists, and First Nations

A report released on December 13 is the result of five meetings of a unique gathering of perspectives: business, government, environmental groups, and First Nations. Each of the 21 participants was said to speak as an individual, not representing their constituencies. The project, the Charrette on Energy, Environment and Aboriginal Energy Resource Development in Canada, defined both the problems and the opportunities of Canada’s energy and electricity systems, and concludes that we are in a state of “energy development gridlock.” The path forward, they state, must build on a respect for First Nations concerns and the environment. The report recommends that First Nations be included early in project consultations, that assessments should address cumulative impacts of resource development on traditional lands, (not just project-specific impacts); that First Nations are entitled to greater benefits from resource development, including some form of revenue sharing; that government and industry should monitor the impacts of resource development; all energy companies should be incorporating the best environmental technology to minimize impacts, and that there is a “pressing need for a credible and substantive commitment to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint.”


For Responsible Energy Resource Development in Canada: Summary of the Dialogue of the Charrette on Energy, Environment and Aboriginal Issues see

Canada’s Environmental Prestige at a New Low

Two new reports reflect the global dismay for Canada’s environmental performance. Climate Change Performance Index Results 2014, released by the Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, ranks Canada at 58th in their index, “the worst performer of all industrialised countries”. Even China, the world’s highest CO2 emitter, ranked 46th, thanks to its heavy investment in renewable energies. See Climate Change Performance Index Results 2014 at: . And in Race to the Bottom, the 2014 report of the international Climate Action Tracker project, Japan, Australia and Canada are singled out for poor performance. See: with the 8 page policy brief at:

Carbon Pricing is Gaining Acceptance Among U.S. Businesses

A New York Times article reports that at least 29 companies are incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term financial plans.  The list of companies includes many with ties to the Republican Party: ExxonMobil, Walmart, American Electric Power, Microsoft, General Electric, Walt Disney, ConAgra Foods, Wells Fargo, DuPont, Duke Energy, Google and Delta Air Lines. The article focuses on the political divide that this development  represents, and concludes that: “The divide, between conservative groups that are fighting against government regulation and oil companies that are planning for it as a practical business decision, echoes a deeper rift in the party, as business-friendly establishment Republicans clash with the Tea Party.”  The article is based on a report by environmental data company CDP. See “Large Companies Prepared to pay Price on Carbon” in the New York Times at:

90 Companies Account for Two-Thirds of Global Emissions: a New Look at who is Responsible

A widely-cited article in the November issue of Climatic Change analyzed the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the largest investor-owned and state-owned companies, rather than the usual metric of national emissions.  The results show that nearly two-thirds of carbon dioxide and methane emissions from 1854 to 2010 can be attributed to 90 companies, with almost 30% of emissions produced by the top 20 companies .  Among state-owned companies,  Russian enterprises produced 8.9% of the total emissions, with China accounting for 8.6% of total global emissions. Among investor-owned companies, ChevronTexaco was the leading emitter, causing 3.5% of global emissions, with Exxon causing 3.2% and BP causing 2.5%. The data in the article was constructed using public records and data for the period 1854 to 2010, from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Centre. Author Richard Heede states, “the present analysis…invites consideration of the suggestion that some degree of responsibility for both cause and remedy for climate change rests with those entities that have extracted, refined, and marketed the preponderance of the historic carbon fuels.” Read “Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854-2010”  in Climatic Change (November 2013) at:

James Hansen Challenges the 2 Degrees Target

A new paper by James Hansen and Jeffrey Sachs was published in the Open Access journal PLOS One, arguing that a global warming target of 2 degrees Celsius is not acceptable and will lead to disastrous consequences. According to a summary at The Climate Desk, Hansen has said that the paper is intended as “a tool for the courthouse, rather than the scientific debate hall”…”We started this paper to provide a basis for legal actions against governments in not doing their jobs in protecting the rights of young people and future generations.” See:  The full article, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations, and Nature” is at PlosOne at: