The Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest international contest for grassroots environmental activism, was announced in April 2015. The North American winner was Marilyn Baptiste , an elected councillor and former chief of the 400-member Xeni Gwet’in First Nations, near Williams Lake, British Columbia. The award recognizes her leadership in the fight against the Prosperity Mine which would have destroyed Fish Lake, a source of spiritual identity and livelihood for First Nations. Baptiste presented and prepared comprehensive environmental, cultural and economic data at federal environmental hearings. She also initiated a one-woman blockade in 2011 that prevented construction crews from reaching the proposed mine site. Other winners are profiled at the Goldman Prize website.
The list to recognize all the efforts of Canada’s First Nations to protect our environment would be almost endless. Most recently, on May 14, the Lax Kw’alaams Nation rejected an offer of over $1-billion from Petronas LNG, in exchange for their consent to construction of an LNG export terminal on Lelu Island in the Great Bear Sea. See the DeSmog blog or the WWF reactions . Meanwhile, the government of B.C. signed an agreement with Petronas LNG which will promote such ventures. Read the Globe and Mail article, “ B.C. pushing ahead with LNG proposal despite Objections from First Nations” (May 20).
The stunning win by the New Democratic Party in Alberta’s election on May 5 2015 has prompted a flurry of articles, such as What the NDP’s Alberta Win Means for Energy and Climate Change ( May 6) at DeSmog Blog and Can the NDP get Alberta off the Rollercoaster at Environmental Defence . Sean Sweeney from the U.S. Trade Unions for Economic Democracy writes about the “Alberta election shock” in the context of other recent elections (India, Greece, Spain, UK), and suggests “ a new ‘class and climate politics’ could be on the rise.” The new Premier, Rachel Notley, will be held accountable to the NDP election platform, which included the following: “We will establish a green retrofitting loan program that will assist Alberta families, farms and small businesses to reduce their energy usage affordably, which will reduce environmental impacts and create jobs in the construction industry.” “We will phase out coal-fired electricity generation to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions and expand cleaner, greener sources, including wind and solar and more industrial co-generation in the oil sands”. For reaction by the oil industry, headquartered in Calgary, see “Boss of Biggest Oil Sands player calls for tougher action on Climate Change” in the Globe and Mail (May 22) ; and “Big Oil to Rachel Notley, Bring on Carbon tax ” at CBC website (May 23).
On May 19 2015, the “ Under 2 MOU” was launched with 12 founding signatories, collectively constituting the fourth largest economic entity in the world by GDP. The signatories included Ontario and British Columbia, as well as: California; Oregon; Vermont; Washington; Acre, Brazil; Baden-Württemberg, Germany; Baja California, Mexico; Catalonia, Spain; Jalisco, Mexico; and Wales, UK. The signatories commit to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 or achieve a per capita annual emission target of less than 2 metric tons by 2050. The pact also pledges enhanced cooperation amongst jurisdictions , for example, by sharing technology, scientific research and best practices to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy; collaborating to expand the use of zero-emission vehicles; ensuring consistent monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions; reducing short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and methane; and assessing the projected impacts of climate change on communities. The full text (44 pages) of the Global Climate Leadership Agreement is available here . See the B.C. press release or the California press release .
On May 15 2015, Canada’s Environment Minister announced the submission of Canada’s overdue Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCC , pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The government also announced that it will introduce regulations to reduce emissions from methane, chemical and nitrogen-fertilizers, and natural-gas fired electricity. Jeffrey Simpson’s article in the Globe and Mail (May 19th) sums up reaction: “Having utterly failed to meet its previous GHG reduction target, no one should put any credence in the Harper government’s latest one.” “Weak” and “Inadequate” were frequent judgments in other reactions to the announcement: from the the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions ; from Environmental Defence ; from Natural Resources Defence Council; from the Pembina Institute ; from the Climate Action Network ; from the World Resources Institute .
A recent policy brief provides a thorough content analysis of recent literature concerning methods of measuring green job growth and the effects of labour market policies. The three-page bibliography is a comprehensive resource regarding international green job creation. Amongst the paper’s recommendations for improvement in green job research: improving and standardizing green job definitions, restoring the compilation of national green jobs statistics, notably in the United States and United Kingdom, and developing strategies for coping with employment losses in the sectors that will suffer from green growth policies. Looking for Green Jobs: The Impact of Green Growth on Employment was released in March 2015 by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and the Green Growth Institute in Seoul.
A recent article in The Nation online describes dozens of examples of cooperative actions by labour and environmental justice groups in the U.S. since the People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014. Author Jeremy Brecher, one of the founders of the Labor Network for Sustainability, highlights the work of LNS, which is “working to pull together a “convergence” gathering of trade unionists who want to make the labor movement a climate-protection movement” … “ Fortunately for labor-climate activists, there is no element of American society that will gain as much from such a program as the labor movement, and no force as crucial for bringing it about.” Read How Climate Protection Has Become Today’s Labor Solidarity here. Read another article by Jeremy Brecher , The Paris Climate Summit and the Power of the People here , and see his details of his newly-released book, Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival here (Paradigm/Routledge 2015).
In May, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions in Victoria B.C. released A Synthesis of PICS-Funded Social Mobilization Research: What works – and what doesn’t – for engaging people on Climate Change . The report summarizes the psychology of behaviour change, social movements, social learning, but mainly presents case studies of seven social mobilization projects in B.C. between 2010 and 2014. Based on those experiences, the report provides a range of recommendations—and pitfalls to avoid—for groups trying to mobilize their communities effectively on climate change. “ Overall the recommendations emphasize: (a) the importance of multiple social engagement methods; (b) the power of digital, visual and social media; (c) benefits of collective action at neighbourhood scale; and (d) the need for coordinated top-down/bottom-up action between citizens and government.”
At the end of April, the Canadian Labour Congress posted profiles of three green economy sectors under the banner Real Alternatives for a Green Economy. The series describes new initiatives across Canada, and call for public policy initiatives to support the growth of a green economy. Regarding Energy, the CLC calls for “public investments totalling $4.65 billion need to be made to simulate the development of renewable energy sources with a priority being put on public sector owned and operated wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal power. “ Regarding transportation , they call for investment in light rail transportation, with strong domestic content rules . One example given for transit is the Ottawa Light Rail transit project; a report for that project compiles estimates of economic benefits, including job creation, for light rail projects around the world. The third segment of the series looks at Green Construction. The CLC posts follow closely the information on the website of the Green Economy Network , an alliance of Canadian labour unions, environment and social justice organizations, of which the CLC is a member.
A May report by Prism Economics estimates that the hydroelectric sector contributed nearly US$31 billion to the country’s gross domestic product. Hydropower and the Canadian Economy: Jobs and Investment in Canada’s Largest Electricity Source also states that in 2013, “Canada’s hydropower industry’s investment and operations expenditures sustained an estimated 57,800 jobs (FTE) in Canada. When inter-industry purchases are factored in, the number of jobs rises to 100,000 jobs. In total, the investment and operations expenditures made by Canada’s hydroelectric power sector support over 135,400 (FTE) direct, indirect and induced jobs across Canada.”
In April, the Pembina Institute launched a new, interactive Clean Energy Map which quantifies the number of jobs in the clean energy sector in British Columbia, and maps where renewable energy projects are located. To date, it displays the electricity sector, where 14,100 jobs have been tallied; forthcoming updates will include jobs associated with energy efficiency, green buildings and clean transportation technologies and services. The project is funded by B.C. Government and Services Employees’ Union, City of Vancouver, Green Jobs BC, North Growth Foundation, Pembina Foundation and TIDES Canada . A text description of the project is available here.
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015 is the new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). It shows a growth of 18% in one year in the global workforce in renewable energy, and estimates that “doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030, would result in more than 16 million jobs worldwide.” Solar PV is the largest employer in the renewable energy sector, with 2.5 million jobs, mostly in China and the Asian countries. Solar PV employment in the European Union decreased by 35% to about 165,000 jobs in 2013. Countries highlighted in the Annual Review are China, India, Brazil, U.S., EU, Germany, France, Japan, Bangladesh. There are 140 member countries of IRENA , but Canada is not a member. The most recent information about Canada’s renewable energy jobs appeared in Clean Energy Canada’s December 2014 report, Tracking the Energy Revolution 2014 .
Nova Scotia’s legislative framework for marine renewable energy was tabled in the provincial Legislature on April 29. (For a plain language version of the Act, click here ) .The legislation implements the 2012 Marine Renewable Energy Strategy, and authorizes the development of regulations to govern the industry. Also in late April, a new report, commissioned by the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia (OERA), was released . Value Proposition for Tidal Energy Development in Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada and Canada forecasts that over the next 25 years, the tidal energy industry could contribute up to $1.7 billion to Nova Scotia’s gross domestic product, create up to 22,000 full-time positions and generate as much as $815 million in labour income. Annex 4 of the Report, provides a tabular analysis of supply chain requirements, including a general assesment of the skilled worker/knowledge worker requirements. The Annex is based on Module 9 of the Community and Business Toolkit for Tidal Energy Development prepared by the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute (ATEI) .