The Role of Work and the Labour Movement to Slow Global Warming

PrintWork in a Warming World, released by McGill Queen’s University Press on April 15, begins with the acknowledgement that the world of work – goods, services, and resources – produces most of the greenhouse gases created by human activity. In ten chapters, the book’s contributors demonstrate “how the world of work and the labour movement need to become involved in the struggle to slow global warming, and the ways in which environmental and economic policies need to be linked dynamically in order to effect positive change”. The book is organized into “Trends and Challenges”, such as the dilemma of the Canadian labour movement, and gender analysis of emissions reduction, and “Making Green Work”, with examples from the construction, hospitality, and energy industry, as well as chapters on sustainable infrastructure and its implications for the engineering profession, and the role of cities and the green economy. The book has a Canadian focus, but includes an international context. Chapters were written by associates of the Work in a Warming World research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, led by Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

Good Jobs and GHG Reductions Promised by Vancouver Transit Plan

Good Jobs, Clean Skies examines the potential economic and climate impacts of the Mayors’ Council Regional Transit Plan, which calls for an investment of $7.5 billion over the next ten years, to cope with the expected immigration of 1 million new residents to the Vancouver Tri-City area.

The analysis forecasts 26,322 person years of new direct employment, 43,800 person years of total employment, $2.96 billion in wages, and $4.48 billion toward GDP in Metro Vancouver over its 10 year life span. Additionally, the area would experience an 8.2% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from transport, versus a business as usual approach, and the plan would save more than $1 billion in traffic congestion costs. By improving by 7% the number of jobs accessible by transit, the Plan would support targets for livability, growth, and location of employment.

The study is a co-publication of Green Jobs BC and Blue Green Canada. In February 2015, the Mayors Council had released a report by InterVISTAS Consulting, The Economic Impact of Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan 2014 – 2045. That report forecasts direct, indirect and induced jobs, finding 40,000 jobs created for the capital phase, and 197,000 created in operations from 2014-2045. The consultants’ report doesn’t address other economic benefits such as reduced congestion, improved goods movement, and improved labour mobility, nor does it forecast the environmental benefits. The Transit Plan is subject to a Referendum vote underway until  May 29, 2015. 

Employee-Related Initiatives at Canada’s Greenest Workplaces

The results of the 9th annual Canada’s Greenest Employers competition were made available online at the Globe and Mail on Earth Day. “Canada’s greenest employers help the Earth – and their bottom lines” (April 22) is a quick overview, but the online list of winners allows readers to select each employer by name, and find much more detail on the reasons why they were selected: e.g. unique initiatives, presence of an environmental audit, organizational responsibility for green initiatives, building LEED rating, community initiatives, etc. Companies are listed both for the environmental impact of their products/services, and their workplace policies. For example, Nature’s Path is an organic food manufacturer in Richmond, B.C., but was also cited for its mandatory sustainability training for all new employees. Keilhauer, a custom furniture manufacturer in Toronto, is included for its in-house “Design for Environment” employee training program, which began in 2011 and sparked the switch to more environmentally-responsible manufacturing processes such as water-based wood stains and  FSC-certified wood. Not all employers on the list produce green products: e.g. Labatt’s Breweries is included because of its significant water and waste reduction programs, and for its employee engagement initiatives – all employee suggestions for green improvements are entered into a searchable database so employees in any of the parent company Anheuser-Busch locations around the world can learn from each other. The Greenest Employers list is linked to the Eluta job search engine to aid job-seekers who prefer to work for a green company.

Organizations will need Leaders with Sustainability Competencies

Sustainability Talent Management: The New Business Imperative is a consultant’s report released in April by Alberta firm Strandberg Consulting. Arguing that companies will need to reinvent themselves to secure their access to resources and the social license to operate and grow, the author reviewed the business and human resource management literature since 2005 to arrive at five competencies required for leaders to successfully cope with the sustainability issues. These are: systems thinking, external collaboration, social innovation, sustainability literacy, and active values. It concludes: “Professional associations, management education and business schools should consider their role in equipping future leaders with these competencies. HR, talent and learning and development professionals can identify gaps in their current approach to leadership development and build these leadership qualities to enable future sustainable and commercial success. Organizations can use these competencies to enhance the talent pipeline and develop the next generation of leaders and the organizational capacities to steer corporations toward a sustainable future for all”.

U.S. Climate Policy Considers Health Effects of Climate Change, Including Occupational Health

On April 7th, the Obama administration announced a series of new initiatives which will highlight the health risks of climate change, especially for children, the elderly and the vulnerable. In the companion Climate and Health Assessment report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, outside workers are identified as exceptionally vulnerable to heat extremes. ” Certain occupational groups that spend a great deal of time exposed to extreme temperatures such as agricultural workers, construction workers, and electricity and pipeline utility workers are at increased risk for heat-and cold-related illness, especially where jobs involve heavy exertion… Lack of heat illness prevention programs that include provisions for acclimatization was found to be a factor strongly associated with death”. The report cites numerous other reports on heat  effects, including a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control, “Heat Illness and Death Among Workers – United States, 2012-2013”.

Job Benefits of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions

An analysis published at the end of March by the New Climate Institute of Germany estimates  the co-benefits associated with the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC)  targets of the EU, as well as the anticipated statements from the U.S. and China. The co-benefits include the cost savings associated with reduced fossil fuel imports, the reduction in premature deaths associated with reduced air pollution, and the generation of green jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Job creation forecasts were only made for wind, solar, and hydro electricity sectors, and within that, only for manufacturing, construction and installation, and operation and maintenance. Even within those conservative parameters, the forecasts show that if the IDNC’s of the three jurisdictions were strengthened so that they actually would meet the 2 degree celsius reduction target, job creation would be 350,000 in the EU, 180,00 in the U.S.,  and 1.4 million in China. Assessing the Missed Benefits of Countries’ National Contributions  demonstrates that “the achievement of a 2°C compatible trajectory does not only preserve the well-being of future generations, but may also generate positive economy-wide returns, rather than costs for the current generation”. 

The European Circular Economy Debate Informed by New Job Creation Report

An interim report by the Club of Rome examines the social benefits that a circular economy would bring to the Swedish economy. The full report, due out in summer 2015, will include the Dutch and Spanish economies as well. The Circular Economy and Benefits for Society: Swedish Case Study shows Jobs and Climate as Clear Winners estimated the effects of three different scenarios to reduce carbon emissions.

The report found that if all three decoupling strategies were undertaken together, carbon emissions would be cut by almost 70% and job creation  would likely exceed 100,000. This report was partly supported by Swedish Association of Recycling Industries, and was released with the stated objective of influencing the current political debate in the European Commission, where a proposed Circular Economy program was withdrawn amidst controversy in 2014. The original proposal, included a 70 per cent recycling and reuse target for 2030, as well as a requirement to increase the recycling rate for packaging waste to 80 per cent by 2030 and a ban on the landfilling of recyclable plastics, metals, glass, paper and cardboard, and biodegradable waste by 2025. Read also Circular Economy Package Consultation Expected Before Summer (April 21) and follow developments from the official EC Circular Economy website.

Two years after Rana Plaza – the Fashion Industry hangs its hat on Greening, not Labour Rights

On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring thousands more. Two  years later, according to a report, by Human Rights Watch, working conditions and labour rights are unchanged. However, the garment industry is working to burnish its public image on sustainability issues. The recently-released H&M Conscious Action Sustainability Report 2014, discusses “the challenges” in the industry, which they identify as “Clean water, climate change, textile waste and wages and overtime in supplier factories”. But  in a press release titled, “H&M’s sustainability promises will not deliver a living wage” (Apr. 9) the Clean Clothes Campaign states: “Despite announcing partnership projects with the ILO, education schemes alongside Swedish trade unions, and fair wage rhetoric aplenty, H&M has so far presented disappointingly few concrete results that show progress towards a living wage. H&M are working hard on gaining a reputation in sustainability, but the results for workers on the ground are yet to be seen”. The Clean Clothes Campaign is an alliance of trade unions and NGOs in 16 European countries.

 H&M, along with Target, Gap, and Levi Strauss, has been commended by the Clean by Design program of the National Resource Defense Council for their progress in incorporating environmental performance in their procurement decisions. In April, NRDC also released The Textile Industry Leaps forward with Clean by Design: Less Environmental Impact with Bigger Profits which describes the extent of the pollution in textile mills in China, and highlights  the mills which made operational improvements and achieved the most cost savings, chiefly through increased motor and lighting efficiency, process water reuse, and heat recovery from exhaust.

The Premiers’ Summit on Climate Change Reveals Divisions, but the Act on Climate March shows Solidarity

The Premiers of Canada’s provinces met in a Summit in Quebec City on April 13th, sparking high hopes which were not met, according to the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, Interprovincial climate summit a damp squib. In “Interprovincial climate summit reveals rifts in Canada’s carbon strategy”, the Globe and Mail (April 14) called the final joint communiqué  “vague”, going only so far as referencing “transitioning to a lower-carbon economy” and “strengthening co-operation” on climate measures. And the Calgary Herald editorial, “On the Hot Seat”, criticized Alberta Premier Prentice for skipping the Summit. B.C. Premier Christy Clark spent her day addressing the World Bank instead of attending, but issued a challenge to other Premiers regarding B.C.’s climate action plan 2.0: “meet it or beat it”.

The Premiers meeting, however, sparked the Act on Climate March, organized by environmental groups, and including First Nations, trade unions, social and citizens’ groups, student associations, and individuals. The march attracted 25,000 marchers on April 11 and, according to participant Judy Rebick’s article, Huge march raises temperature, “…the Act On Climate march was an historic moment in the fight against climate change in Canada and a major step forward in the movement towards merging the environmental and social justice movements as promoted in Naomi Klein’s new book, not to mention a rare common action between Quebec and the rest of Canada…It was an important if not historic moment in our struggle”. For a union viewpoint, read also CUPE Says Yes to Action on Climate.

Also, on April 13, the Canadian Roundtable on the Green Economy was organized by SWITCH, the Alliance for a Green Economy in Quebec, a business-environmental alliance. The press release lists all participants, endorses carbon pricing, and affirms the central role of cities to promote a greener economy through  sustainable procurement policies and innovative urban development. A second group of business, aboriginal and civic leaders went on record with their position concerning climate change policies in Canadian Leaders Pen Low Carbon Economy Letter to Premiers (April 12), at the Sustainable Prosperity website.    

 

…Also from the Premiers’ Summit: Ontario Announces Cap-and-Trade

The main outcome of the Quebec City meetings occurred beforehand on April 13, with the Joint Statement of Intent from the Ontario and Quebec Premiers. Ontario announced that it would join Quebec in a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. The Ontario government press release, provides links to earlier discussion papers and whatever details are currently available. Reactions to the announcement were generally positive but tinged with questions about the effectiveness of the cap-and-trade system. See Want to make Polluters pay? Opt for a carbon tax over cap and trade from EcoJustice or reaction from Environmental Defence. From  the new Clean Economy Alliance of Ontario, launched on April 8 by 50+ Ontario businesses, labour unions, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and environmental groups: “Ontario should join with the many other jurisdictions around the world in putting a price on carbon. The province must also take complementary actions in other key sectors across Ontario’s economy including energy efficiency, renewable energy, climate friendly land-use planning, and low-carbon transportation”. 

Cap-and-Trade or Carbon Tax?

Recent reports have examined the strengths and weaknesses of the two systems. On April 7, the EcoFiscal Commission released The Way Forward: A Practical Approach to Reducing Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions which employs policy analysis and new economic modelling to reach recommendations that every province should put a price on carbon, that existing and new policies should increase in stringency over time, should be designed to be as broad as practically possible, should be tailored to each province’s unique economic contexts and priorities, yet should be designed for longer-term coordination.

On April 13, Clean Energy Canada released Inside North America’s largest Carbon Market: Top Lessons from the Front Lines of Quebec’s Fight Against Carbon Pollution. Together with their February report, How To Adopt a Winning Carbon Pricewhich focused on British Columbia’s carbon tax, Clean Energy Canada provides what they call “under the hood” comparisons of the  two approaches to carbon pricing. 

 Sustainable Prosperity also weighed in with two Briefing Notes on April 23; Briefing Note #1

summarizes the rationale for pricing carbon, and the main policy approaches i.e. carbon tax and cap-and-trade. Briefing Note #2 reviews the key policy design criteria and considerations, and how they differ across approaches. 

Oil and Gas and Canada’s Energy Policy

Two other reports were released in advance of the Premiers meetings in Quebec City. Crafting an Effective Canadian Energy Strategy: How Energy East and the Oil Sands Affect Climate and Energy Objectives by the Pembina Institute reviews Canadian experience with carbon pricing, emissions levels, and states that any energy strategy will only be effective if it takes into account the emissions footprint of new infrastructure projects, including the proposed Energy East pipeline project. The report also recommends that the Council of the Federation create an advisory committee modelled on the disbanded National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. The report is also available in French.

 Another study, released by Environmental Defence and Greenpeace, makes similar arguments and asserts that “continuing to expand tar sands production makes it virtually impossible for Canada to meet even weak carbon reduction targets or show climate leadership”. Read Digging a Big Hole: How tar sands expansion undermines a Canadian energy strategy that shows climate leadership.

 In April, Environment Canada released the UNFCC-mandated report, National Inventory Report 1990-2013: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. The report states that the Energy industry was responsible for 81% of Canada’s emissions in 2013. 

Health Studies of the Oil and Gas Industry

On March 26, the government of British Columbia released the Northeast Oil and Gas Human Health Risk Assessment Studywhich includes a scientific literature review, a screening level risk assessment, a detailed human health risk assessment, a review of the current regulatory framework, and recommendations for future research and action. According to the Minister of Health, “After careful review and analysis, the study found that the risk to human health from emissions from oil and gas activities in the Northeast remains low”. The report did make 14 recommendations regarding: emergency planning; flaring, venting and fugitive emission management; hydraulic fracturing; information management; and environmental monitoring. All documentation from the study is available online.

 Of related interest, several recent U.S. studies: “Predictors of Indoor Radon Concentrations in Pennsylvania 1989-2013” appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives on April 9. Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health measured radon levels in U.S. homes near the Marcellus shale fields since fracking began in 2004 and found higher readings of radon, compared with homes in low-activity areas. Another study, Wasting Away: Four states’ failure to manage oil and gas waste in the Marcellus and Utica Shale, conducted by Earthworks, explored  state oversight of drilling in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The article particularly focuses on the identification and handling of the potentially hazardous waste materials left behind after fracking. Finally, the Environmental Defense Fund in the U.S. has recently released the latest of 16 studies they commissioned/collaborated on regarding methane leaks in the oil and gas sector. 

Canadian Study finds no Significant Health Impacts from Wind Energy

Understanding the Evidence: Wind Turbine Noise, was published on April 9 by the Council of Canadian Academies, and concludes that the only adverse health effect of wind turbines is annoyance. From the report: “We identified 32 health issues and then analyzed the published peer reviewed studies on each problem to determine if there was evidence for a causal relationship with wind turbine noise…We can say conclusively that hearing loss is not related to wind turbine noise”. The experts also concluded that there is limited evidence for sleep disturbance, but inadequate evidence to link any of the other studied health issues.

Cities, including Vancouver and Los Angeles, keep Reducing GHGs

At the World Congress of the ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability in April in Seoul, Korea, mayors from over 100 cities adopted the The Seoul Declaration, and a new Strategic Plan 2015-2021. The meetings also launched the Transformative Actions Program (TAP) to improve access to existing capital and encourage additional public and private capital investment. The Press release summarizes the meetings.

At the meetings, Vancouver and Montreal joined the Compact of Mayors, launched in 2014 and described as “the world’s largest effort for cities to fight climate change”. The Compact entails a commitment for cities to make deep GHG emissions reductions and report on their progress annually, using a standardized international measurement system. Vancouver has announced a goal of 100% renewable energy in 20 years for electricity, heating, cooling, and transportation – a big jump from the current 32 per cent of its energy from renewable sources. The City maintains a website to describe and monitor progress on its Green City Action Plan 2020.

The Mayor of Los Angeles recently released a Sustainability Plan, titled The pLAn, which addresses transit, housing, air quality, water, renewable energy and carbon footprint, as well as environmental justice and green jobs. Amongst the goals: a landfill diversion rate of 90%, more electric vehicle infrastructure than any of the cities in the U.S., and complete divesture from coal power by 2025; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide to 60% below 1990 levels and to source 50% of water locally by 2035. The section on “Prosperity and Green Jobs” sets short term (2017) goals of attracting $100 million of private-sector investment though the LA Clean Tech Incubator, creating 20,000 new green jobs, and increasing the minimum wage to $13.25 per hour. By 2035, the goal is at least 150,000 new green jobs. The overall vision includes workforce development initiatives to create private-sector partnerships for apprenticeship programs in green industries, and to partner with higher education institutions to retain high-skill graduates and enlarge the talent pool in Los Angeles. Importantly, the pLAn will be integrated into the city’s administration: for example, the General Manager’s annual performance review will include measures of progress and outcomes from the pLAn, and Chief Sustainability Officers will be appointed in key departments.

For information about the sustainability, building energy use and climate change policy work of cities around the world, a series of documents was released in April by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the World Green Building Council (WGBC). Toronto and Vancouver are the only Canadian cities profiled.

New Website to Monitor Supply Chain pledges Re Deforestation and Agricultural Commodities

On March 25, Forest Trends, in collaboration with CDP and WWF, launched Supply Change.org, a web portal to track corporate supply chain commitments relating to the purchase of palm oil, soy, timber and pulp, and cattle. A report released in tandem with the portal, Supply Change: Corporations, Commodities and Commitments that Count provides an “inaugural snapshot of corporate commitments and performance”, based on publically-available data from 243 companies describing 307 commitments.

In April, fast-food giant McDonalds exceeded expectations by pledging to eliminate deforestation from its global supply chain for all commodities linked to deforestation, including beef, fiber-based packaging, coffee and poultry, and palm oil. A summary appeared in The Guardian, “McDonald’s to axe deforestation in its supply chain” (April 21), and the 8-point corporate statement is online.  

Two out of Three – U.S., Mexico Submit their INDC Targets – but Not Canada

March 31st was the deadline set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for each nation to submit a statement of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to greenhouse gas emission reduction, as a precursor to the climate discussions in Paris in December. The United States set an ambitious economy-wide target to reduce emissions by up to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. Read the White House Fact Sheet: U.S. Reports its 2025 Emissions Target to the UNFCCC.

Reductions will be accomplished primarily through fuel economy standards, energy efficiency for buildings, limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and reducing emissions from existing power plants. The statement by Mexico was the first by a developing country, and pledges a 22 per cent reduction of GHG emissions and 51 per cent cut in black carbon emissions by 2030. Prime Minister Harper promised our INDC submission by May, and lowered expectations, according to a Globe and Mail article (April 23) “Harper suggests Canada likely won’t match U.S. emissions targets”. All INDC submissions are cumulated at the UNFCC website.

 In addition, the U.S. and Mexico issued a joint statement which states, “The two countries will launch a new high-level bilateral clean energy and climate policy task force to further deepen policy and regulatory coordination in specific areas including clean electricity, grid modernization, appliance standards, and energy efficiency, as well as promoting more fuel efficient automobile fleets in both countries, global and regional climate modeling, weather forecasting and early alerts system”. Two countries – not including Canada. 

Displacement in the Energy Industry: Fossil Fuels have “Lost the Race”; Wind Power Growing; Coal Workers Displaced

Analysis presented at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual summit in New York on April 14 was titled: Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables: This is the beginning of the end (April 14). Bloomberg states that the shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels.

More statistics and a forecast are presented in a White Paper, Medium-term outlook for US power: 2015 = deepest decarbonization ever (April 8). And an International Energy Agency (IEA) press release in March states that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there is a drop in GHG emissions that was not tied to an economic downturn. “Preliminary IEA data point to emissions decoupling from economic growth for the first time in 40 years” (13 March, 2015). The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to expanding reliance on renewables in China and energy efficiency improvements in OECD countries. China alone added 23 GW in wind power, almost half the world’s new wind installation capacity in 2014, according to the Global Wind Energy Market Report 2014 by the Global Wind Energy Council. Canada ranked 6th in new wind installations in 2014 and now ranks 7th in cumulative installed capacity in the world. Canada also appears in the report regarding the use of green bonds to finance wind power, illustrated by  the case of Northland Power.
 
Duke University researchers used input output modelling to measure job loss, gains, and displacement in each sector of the electricity sector in “Employment Trends in the U.S. Electricity Sector, 2008-2012” in the journal Energy Policy in March (access restricted). They report that the U.S. coal industry lost more than 49,000 jobs, while the natural gas, solar and wind industries together created nearly four times that amount.  

 

Do Governments have a Legal Obligation to Protect their Citizens from Climate Change? Yes, say the Oslo Principles and Citizens in Netherlands and Belgium

In March, a group of experts in international, human rights, and environmental law released the Oslo Principles on Global Obligations to Reduce Climate Change. “These Principles set out the legal obligations of States and enterprises to take the urgent measures necessary to avert climate change and its catastrophic effects”. Based on a network of local, national and international laws, the Oslo Principles outline specific measures and assert that these should be undertaken “without regard to cost”. The lack of an international agreement does not relieve nations from their duty to their citizens.

The brief Principles document is accompanied by a more extensive Commentary (94 pages). The members of the Oslo Principles group are supporting a court challenge in the Netherlands, the first case in Europe in which citizens attempt to hold a state responsible for its inaction against climate change, and the first case in the world in which human rights are used as the legal basis for its arguments. The Urgenda Climate Case opened  on April 14, and a verdict is promised on June 24th. The plaintiffs are asking the Court to order the Dutch State to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. A similar case is under preparation in Belgium. 

Alternative Economic Models proposed for the 21st Century by a new U.S. Group

The Next System is a new project “that seeks to disrupt or replace our traditional institutions for creating progressive change”. Its backers include Greenpeace President Annie Leonard, clean energy champion Van Jones, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, Gerald Hudson, Mark Levinson and Peter Colavito from Service Employees Intl Union, Ron Blackwell, UNITE and AFL-CIO, Joe Uehlein from the Labor Network for Sustainability, climate activist Bill McKibben, and hundreds of other prominent academics including Noam Chomsky, Frances Fox Piven, and Jeffrey Sachs. The project launches with a webinar on May 20th, and has already released its inaugural report, The Next System Project: New Political Economic Alternatives for the 21st Century. The report states that such new movements as the Next System “seek a cooperative, caring, and community-nurturing economy that is ecologically sustainable, equitable, and socially responsible”. It draws inspiration from a variety of alternative systemic models and ideas, including employee ownership and self-management, cooperatives, social democracy, participatory economic planning, socialism and public ownership, localism and bioregionalism, and ecological economics.

Climate Action Policy Prescriptions for Canada

Two sets of recommendations were recently released: on March 18, by a new academic collaboration, Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD); and on March 19, in the Alternative Budget published annually by the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis. The Sustainable Canada Dialogues document, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, and a french-language version,  Agir sur les changements climatiques, are characterized  as “a scholarly consensus on science-based, viable solutions for greenhouse gas reduction”.

Sixty academics from across Canada combined to urge policymakers to adopt a long-term target of at least an 80% reduction in emissions by mid-century. “In the short-term, we believe that Canada, in keeping with its historical position of aligning with US targets, could adopt a 2025 target of a 26-28% reduction in GHG emissions relative to our 2005 levels”. Policy recommendations include, most immediately: Either a national carbon tax or a national economy-wide cap and trade program; elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; and integration of sustainability and climate change into landscape planning at the regional and city levels so that maintenance and new infrastructure investments contribute to decarbonizing.

The paper also advocates establishment of East-West smart grid connections to allow hydro-producing provinces to  sell electricity to their neighbours; energy efficiency programs, and a “transportation revolution”. The Acting on Climate Change document will be followed by a special issue of Alternatives Journal magazine, to be released on March 27, to include more detailed articles by 20 of the SCD participant authors. Sustainable Canada Dialogues, launched in September 2014, is partnered with three institutions in Panama, and “proposes to advance sustainability education, research and social dialogues in Panama and in Canada”.

The second statement of recommended climate policies appears in the CCPA Alternative Budget for 2015, Delivering the Good. The Alternative Budget, like the government budget statement that it shadows, covers the full range of economic and social issues facing Canada. It also includes a section on the Environment and Climate Change, which states: “The best current budget opportunities include implementing a price on greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon tax; not subsidizing liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hydraulic fracturing (fracking); protecting Canada’s public lands and species at risk; and supporting power storage through accelerated expense write-offs, electric vehicles through fast-charging recharging stations in high-demand areas, and public transit and energy efficiency home retrofits”. A National Harmonized Carbon Tax should be implemented immediately, at $30 a tonne (the current level in British Columbia), increasing to $200 a tonne by 2020. More than half of the HCT revenues should be used to provide a Green Tax benefit for individuals and the remainder transferred to the provinces to fund “climate change abatement measures”. It is estimated that the carbon tax would generate annual revenue of $16 billion, with the Green Tax Refund incurring a net annual cost of $8.8 billion (p. 28).   Is the time finally right for serious consideration of Canada’s climate change policies? As Environmental Defense reported on March 9, NDP, Liberals and Greens agree on an Approach to Assess Carbon Pollution Reduction. Calling it “a step in the right direction”, the blog describes the February 19 debate in the House of Commons around Bill C-619, the Climate Change Accountability Act, a private members bill introduced by NDP Matt Kellway in June 2014. NDP, Liberals and Greens are now on record as supporting the Bill’s accountability measures and the target of  domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions to at least 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

CUPE Provides a New Guide for Greener Workplaces

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, in advance of Earth Day in April 2015, has released Healthy Clean and Green: A Worker’s Action Guide to a Greener Workplace. CUPE answers the basic question, “Is climate change a union issue?” and then focuses on workplace actions and solutions, with examples and tips to improve energy efficiency, recycling and reduction of resources, worker education, and workplace environment committees. The book also describes the LEED features of the CUPE National Headquarters in Ottawa. To further encourage greening activities, the union announced the 2015 CUPE Green Workplace Contest, with a deadline of May 2015.

How are U.S. Unions Working Toward a Climate-Safe Economy for All Workers?

Joe Uehlein, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS), has written A Climate Protection Guide to Organized Labor, which summarizes the issues and arguments regarding the role of U.S. labour in the fight against climate change. Joe’s essay also introduces the Labor Landscape Analysis, a “set of tools” compiled by the LNS and consisting of several units. For climate activists not familiar with the labour movement, The Labor-Climate Landscape: A Guided Tour for Worker- and Climate-Protection Advocates explains decision-making in labour unions, relationships in the movement, and the climate change policies of 42 U.S. unions, as well as the role of more than 800 local, regional and national labour leaders. It updates and expands on Labor and Climate Change: A Briefing Paper for Activists (2010). In his introductory essay, Joe Uhelein states: “The threat of global warming requires a different concept of solidarity, one which recognizes the common interest of all workers in climate protection. That concept gives all unions a legitimate role in shaping labor’s climate policy. But it also gives them an obligation to protect the livelihoods and well-being of any workers who might be adversely affected by climate protection policies through a just transition to a climate-safe economy”.

 

Workforce Development Issues for the Expansion of Wind Energy in the U.S.

Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States was released by the White House on March 12, providing an overview of the U.S. wind industry and projections for the future. Analysis focuses on greenhouse gas (GHG) and pollution reductions, electricity price impacts, job and manufacturing trends, and water and land use impacts – for the years 2020, 2030, and 2050. The study provides a roadmap of actions to achieve a goal of 35% wind energy in the U.S. by 2050, at which time the wind industry would employ more than 600,000 people. Workforce development is one of nine core topics in the roadmap, detailed in item M8 of the Appendix.  The workforce development recommendations build on previous research published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in 2012, National Skills Assessment of the U.S. Wind Industry by Levanthal and Tegen.

Ontario Appoints a Climate Change Advisory Group

In March 9, the government of Ontario appointed John Godfrey as Special Advisor, and created a new Climate Change Advisory Group which he will chair. The Climate Action Group is composed of academics, business and civic leaders, with one representative from the labour movement: James St. John, the business manager of the Central Ontario Building Trades. The advisory group is meant to  collaborate closely with Québec’s Climate Change Advisory Committee to support work between the two provinces.

 

Alberta Regulations Re Water Management and Tailings Management

On March 13, the Alberta government announced two new policies meant to provide environmental protections in the Athabasca Oil Sands area. The Tailings Management Framework for Mineable Oilsands limits the amount of tailings allowed to accumulate and  requires that sites be remediated to a ready-to-reclaim state within 10 years of the end-of-mine-life of a project. Companies are encouraged to invest in new technology, and are required by the Conservation and Reclamation Regulation to post additional financial security to deal with potential remediation issues. Read the Pembina Institute reaction, Tailings Management Framework: A new Chapter in the Alberta Oil Sands Story? (March 16). Regarding water policy, The Surface Water Quantity Management Framework establishes limits for water use during low-flow periods and requires maintenance of an adequate quantity of water for Aboriginal river navigation and pursuit of traditional activities. It does not establish Ecosystem Base Flow (EBF) system, as recommended by scientists. The Council of Canadians reacted by pointing out that the Framework restrictions are voluntary, and provide exemptions to Suncor and Syncrude, even if water levels are low. The explanation? Under NAFTA Chapter 11, the government of Canada could be sued if Alberta were to limit the current water access of the oil sands companies.  SumOfUs.org, Keepers of the Athabasca, Environmental Defence Canada and the Natural Resources Defence Council issued a joint press release condemning the new regulations as an “oil industry wish list”. See also the NRDC blog, New Tar Sands Water Policy from Alberta favors Industry (March 13).

Clean Water Week, March 16-22, including the Importance of Water in the Fracking Debate

The Council of Canadians continues its advocacy for a clean, safe, public water system with a new campaign for a National Water Policy. Their proposals include the creation of a national public water infrastructure fund, a strategy to reduce water pollution (including stronger standards for agriculture, oil sands extraction), a ban of bulk water exports, and exclusion of water from NAFTA and all future trade agreements. On March 12, the Council of Canadians released a new report, On Notice for a Drinking Water Crisis and will be staging protests throughout Canada on World Water Day, March 22. Environmental Defence also marked Water Week with several blogs, including No Energy East Tar Sands in our Water!. And for interesting case studies of the importance of water in the anti-fracking movement, see Getting Off the Frack Track: How Anti-Fracking Campaigns Succeeded in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (Feb. 20) at the Freshwater Alliance website.

Economic Impact of Alberta Greenhouse Gas Emissions Funds

On February 27, the Conference Board of Canada released Investing in GHG Emissions-Reduction Technology: Assessing the Economic Impact (free with registration). The study quantifies the economic impact of investments in greenhouse gas emission-reducing technologies that are funded in whole or in part by Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC), and concludes that the total economic impact of CCEMC and related investments from 2011 to 2016 will be over $2.4 billion and an additional 15,017 person-years of full-time-equivalent (FTE) employment. The Pembina Institute reaction (March 5) was to point out that despite any economic gains, the problem remains that there are no significant reductions to greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Resolute Forest Products on Notice after 3M Announces a new Sustainability Policy for Paper Procurement

Following a review of its procurement processes conducted in collaboration with ForestEthics and Greenpeace, multinational 3M released a revised Pulp and Paper Sourcing Policy in March, with high standards for environmental protection and human rights. 3M will no longer use the Sustainable Forests Initiative (SFI) label. Its new policy requires improved monitoring and reporting of source materials, and “free, prior and informed consent by indigenous peoples and local communities before logging operations occur”. The company has already cancelled its contracts with Indonesian Royal Golden Eagle Group-owned suppliers and has warned Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products that it must quickly improve its controversial relationships with First Nations, as well as its practices of logging of caribou habitat and in High Conservation Areas. Read ForestEthics Applauds 3M’s New Industry-Leading Sustainability Plan (March 5), or 3M’s new pulp & paper policy impacts Resolute Forest Products (CBC, March 5). For an excellent history of Resolute’s controversial environmental record, see “Resolute and Greenpeace at Loggerheads” in the Montreal Gazette (Feb 13).

Clean Tech Investments in Canada

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) began its rollout of announcements of recipients from the SDTC Tech Fund in February in Southwest Ontario and in Quebec on February 16. Of the $25 million invested in Quebec, almost half was directed to Nemaska Lithium Inc., for a pilot demonstration project aimed at lowering costs associated with electric vehicle use. On February 20, seven clean technology projects in Ontario received over $26.8 million and on March 4, similar investments in Alberta were announced. In Alberta, with the top three recipients are projects for cleaner technologies for oil sands. It was B.C.’s turn on March 16, when a further $27.3 million was distributed for 10 projects. Each press release names the recipient companies and summarizes their technologies.

Oregon joins B.C. and California with Clean Fuel Standards

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council the state of  Oregon “clinched a spot in the clean energy future” on March 12 when the Governor signed Bill SB324A, which removes the December 2015 sunset clause on previous legislation requiring the adoption of clean fuel standards, and extends the target date for compliance from 2020 to 2025. With B.C. and California already regulating clean fuels, the NRDC states that it needs only the state of Washington to pass similar standards to “create a corridor of clean fuel demand encompassing more than 50 million people up and down the length of the West Coast, equivalent to the 5th largest economy in the world”. The NRDC draws its information from a detailed and wide-ranging analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation, Potential: Low-carbon Fuel Supply to the Pacific Coast Region of North America (January 2015). Of related interest, The California Energy Commission issued its 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) Update in March, highlighting its transportation achievements in electric vehicles, fuel cell development, and biofuels.

Toronto, Vancouver amongst Case Studies of District Energy in Cities Worldwide

A new report  released on February 25 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency (C2E2), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and UN-Habitat, offers concrete policy, finance and technology best practice guidance on energy efficiency improvements and the integration of renewables in cities. District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, offers an analysis of the 45 ‘champion cities’, which have collectively installed more than 36 GW of district heating capacity (equivalent to 3.6 million households), 6 GW of district cooling capacity (equivalent to 600,000 households) and 12,000 km of district energy networks. The case studies include Toronto, Vancouver,  St. Paul Minnesota, Paris, London, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, and Tokyo.

New GHG Emission Reduction Targets for the U.S. Federal Government

The Federal government of the U.S. operates 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles, and spends $445 billion annually on goods and services, making it the largest consumer of energy in the country. To reduce GHG emissions, an Executive Order by President Obama on March 19 mandates that Federal buildings reduce total energy use by 2.5% per year between 2015 to 2025, and increase the proportion of clean energy to 25% by 2025. Water intensity in Federal buildings will also be cut by 2 percent per year till 2025. Regarding the fleet of 650,000 vehicles, the Order establishes a goal of 30% reduction of GHG’s from 2014 levels by 2025. A White House Fact Sheet, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Federal Government and Across the Supply Chain (March 19) provides more details, and summarizes the emissions reductions commitments made by major suppliers in the federal government supply chain. Those suppliers include such giants as IBM, HP, AECOMM, Northrup Grumman, and United Technologies.

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment and the New Campaign by the Guardian Newspaper and 350.org

The divestment movement has been busy since global Fossil Fuel Divestment Day in February, with news that hundreds of thousands of academics, engineers and lawyers in Denmark will vote on divesting their €32bn pension funds from fossil fuel investments in April, and that Oxford University is facing protest demonstrations because it has deferred a vote on divestment till May. In March, The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. and 350.org launched the Keep it in the Ground campaign, asking the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation to divest their endowments from fossil fuels. The Guardian has been relentlessly posting information and arguments for the cause of divestment: “Bank of England warns of huge financial risk with fossil fuel investments”(March 3); “Mark Carney defends Bank of England over Climate Change Study” (March 10); “UN Backs Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign” (March 16); “Wellcome Trust sold off 94 million pound ExxonMobil oil investment” (March 18) and, “Revealed: Gates Foundation’s $1.4bn in fossil fuel investments” (March 19). The retiring editor of The Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger,  announced the paper’s new editorial stance in “Climate change: Why the Guardian is Putting Threat to Earth Front and Centre” (March 6). He states: “The coming debate is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of global warming beyond 2C by the end of the century. And how we can prevent the states and corporations which own the planet’s remaining reserves of coal, gas and oil from ever being allowed to dig most of it up. We need to keep them in the ground”.

Clean Energy Canada Moves to Simon Fraser University

Clean Energy Canada, formerly a project of Tides Canada, announced on March 2 that it will become a new program within the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. The Centre for Dialogue states that “uses dialogue to generate non-partisan and constructive communication around difficult topics. We partner with government, business, and community groups to explore critical issues that impact the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of our communities”. Merran Smith, Director of Clean Energy Canada, has been named a Fellow within the Centre and will continue to lead the program, which aims to accelerate Canada’s transition to a clean and renewable energy system.

Literature Review of Climate Adaptation by Multinationals

A recent working paper by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics finds that “there is a paucity of work analysing adaptation actions by MNCs, their motivations and contribution to broader adaptation and climate resilient development efforts, as well as possible instances of maladaptation”. The review points out research gaps and provides a useful bibliography of the academic literature. See Multinational corporations and climate adaptation – Are we asking the right questions? A review of current knowledge and a new research perspective (March 11).