More than 7,100 cities in 119 countries will be part of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy , a new group formed on June 22, 2016 by an alliance of the European Union’s Covenant of Mayors and the U.N.-backed Compact of Mayors . Canadian cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Windsor, are all members of the Compact of Mayors. The new Covenant will be co-chaired by Maros Sefcovic, from the European Commission and Michael Bloomberg of the Compact of Mayors. See the Convenant Fact Sheet here .
On World Oceans Day, June 8, Greenpeace announced that it had brokered an agreement between fishing companies, processors and retailers that will prevent fishing for cod in a part of the Arctic Ocean where it has not been fished previously. (Canada has also signed on to a 5-nation Arctic Fisheries Declaration in July 2015, pledging to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean). However, the peril of the larger Canadian fishery is comprehensively described in Here’s the Catch: How to Restore Abundance to Canada’s Oceans released by Oceana Canada on June 23, and summarized at the National Observer . The National Observer has reported repeatedly on the difficulties of Canada’s salmon fishery, and most recently, “Dire warnings in the battle for Atlantic Canada’s lucrative northern shrimp” (June 10).
Shell Canada marked the World Oceans Day by transferring its 30 offshore exploration permits in Lancaster Sound, in the Eastern Arctic, to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which will transfer them to the federal government, allowing the government to finalize creation of the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area, one of the richest marine mammal areas in the world . Although the company maintains it is not related, the World Wildlife Fund had filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in Canada in April, 2016 demanding that Shell’s permits be declared invalid.
Also on June 8, Spanish oil and gas company Repsol abandoned drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska. According to ThinkProgress, “The Spanish company joins the rush of oil drillers — Shell, ConocoPhillips, Eni, and Iona Energy — departing the Arctic region after concluding that offshore drilling is not worth the expense or the risk.” CBC reported about the start of this exodus in September 2015, in “Oil companies give Arctic the cold shoulder ” .
The Brookings Institute provides a sober overview of the issues and some international research: “On World Oceans Day, a reminder that climate change action must consider the oceans” , but last word goes to Howard Breen, the Director of Urgent Ocean and Climate Rapid Response (UCORR) in “We need tsunami of action to stop runaway ocean collapse” (June 3) : “Given the dire prospect of runaway ocean collapse, we must immediately build an aggressive citizen consensus that fossil fuels have absolutely no moral justification, and their urgent abolition is now critical.”
The New York State Climate and Community Protection Act was passed in the State Assembly on June 1 , and Inside Climate News calls it “ the nation’s most ambitious climate change bill” . The Bill was supported by NYC-Environmental Justice Alliance , as well as the Service Employees International Union. It establishes aggressive mandates for ramping up the use of clean, renewable energy, and reducing climate pollution – and is most notable because it prioritizes environmental justice goals. From the preamble, it will: “-shape the ongoing transition in the State’s energy sector to ensure that it creates good jobs and protects workers and communities that may lose employment in the current transition. -Setting clear standards for job quality and training standards encourages not only high-quality work but positive economic impacts; -prioritize the safety and health of disadvantaged communities, control potential regressive impacts of future climate change mitigation and adaptation policies on these communities.”
The Government of Quebec introduced Bill 104, An Act to increase the number of zero-emission motor vehicles in Québec on June 2 2016 . Hearings will begin in August, and if passed, the bill would set a quota requiring that 15.5 percent of all cars sold in the province by 2025 be zero-emission vehicles. For commentary and context, read “Quebec, Ontario back different Approaches to drive Clean Vehicle Uptake” in the PICS Climate Examiner , and Marc Jaccard’s essay in Policy Options, “Effective climate change regulation: Let’s transform Canadian cars” . An up to date report on Volkswagen’s new shift to electric vehicle production appears in the PICS Climate Examiner (June 22). The International Energy Association reports a global population of over million EV’s in its new Global EV Outlook 2016: Beyond One Million Electric Cars .
An Environmental Defence report Getting Fit: How Ontario Became A Green Energy Leader and Why It Needs to Stay the Course counts the Green Energy Act of 2009 as an overall success, estimating that it has created 91,000 direct and indirect solar sector jobs and 89,000 direct and indirect wind sector jobs. The report also provides results of an April 2016 opinion poll commissioned by Environmental Defence, showing that 81 per cent of Ontarians support further development of renewable energy; 56 per cent see renewable energy as having a positive impact on the provincial economy, with only 19 per cent believing green energy will harm economic growth. The report also relies on calculations done by Power Advisory LLC to refute the frequent complaint about green energy policies: it states that new renewable energy additions accounted for just 9 per cent of the average residential power bill in 2014, and that other generation sources (nuclear in particular) and costs for upgrading and expanding the province’s power transmission system represent a far larger proportion of the average monthly power bill.
On June 8, 2016, a press release from the Premier’s Office summarized the Climate Change Action Plan; the detailed plan is here . A separate press release clarified the province’s position on renewable natural gas – a strong point of opposition to the earlier announcement of the Plan. Unifor responded with a press release stating “Ontario industries must have support towards a low-carbon future, including just-transition for workers,” …. “The Action Plan provides a down payment on that transition, but much more will be needed to ensure that climate action and industrial strategies work together.” For a compilation of other reactions, see “What Ontarians think” ; also, Clean Energy Canada (“Ontario is embarking on an energy transition, not a revolution.” “commendable”); Greenpeace (“a courageous decision not to take the path of least political resistance.”)
Other Ontario announcements supporting the province’s climate change objectives have been issued: May 25, the government announced that $900 million over four years will be directed from the cap and trade proceeds for energy retrofits for social housing and residential apartment buildings.
On June 1, the Ontario Legislature passed the Waste-Free Ontario Act which will encourage innovation in recycling processes and require producers to take full responsibility for their products and packaging. The new provisions will be overseen by Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority, replacing the Waste Diversion Ontario agency. For an update on European progress on waste and the circular economy , see The European Environmental Agency report More from less – material resource efficiency in Europe (June 9).
June 10: Ontario announced new investment by GM Canada which promises to create 700 new engineering and software development jobs – in Oshawa, developing “the next generation of connected, autonomous and alternative-fuel vehicles”; in Markham, software development, and in Kapuskasing, where it will upgrade its cold-weather testing facility. On June 16, Ontario announced it will provide $85.8 million to Fiat Chrysler Canada , to support advanced training and plant upgrades for the production of the Chrysler Pacifica in Windsor. The Pacifica will be the first plug-in hybrid electric minivan to be built in North America.
With Europe reeling from the results of the British referendum vote to leave the European Union on June 23 2016, most reports focus on the considerable political and economic upheaval to come. A sampling of insight into potential impacts on climate and energy policy: from From Phil McKenna at Inside Climate News (June 24) , “Brexit Sparks Worry About Fate of Global Climate Action” – with a subtitle, “many fear the wave of nationalism will harm international efforts to halt global warming” ; from The Guardian on June 27, “EU Out Votes Puts UK Commitment to Paris in Doubt” ; also, “UK votes to Leave EU: Fears grow for Climate Ambition” , and “5 Ways Brexit will transform Energy and Climate” from Politico Europe . For European energy policy, from Climate Change News, the “impact on the EU’s faltering carbon price would be ‘calamitous’”, and a considerable voice for low-carbon policies will be lost at the EU. Domestically, there are also fears that the government’s new Energy Policy, scheduled for Fall 2016, will be modelled on the energy manifesto of the “Fresh Start” conservative coalition, which includes eliminating the 2020 targets for renewables and investing in shale gas and new nuclear.
New Brunswick’s Minister of Energy announced an indefinite extension of the province’s fracking ban on May 27, based on the February report of its Hydraulic Fracturing Commission, according to a CBC report . Similarly, the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel released its final Report at the end of May, with a recommendation that the “pause” on fracking in Western Newfoundland continue. See the Panel website, which includes Submissions and Documents , as well as technical reports as appendices, which include research into the economic and jobs impacts of fracking, as well as impacts on human health and water resources.
New Brunswick has also released a discussion guide , Building a Stronger New Brunswick Response to Climate Change , in order to to stimulate public input for the Select Committee on Climate Change, constituted in April 2016. There is no target date yet for its report.
Controversy in B.C. over the Pembina Institute report released on June 14, How do B.C.’s Climate Action commitments stack up? . The report uses modelling by the Canadian Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project Team to predict that B.C.’s emissions will rise 39 per cent above their 2014 level by 2030 following the current policies. Over 80 per cent of the emissions increase between 2014 and 2030 is projected to come from oil and gas development, including liquefied natural gas (LNG). See also the Pembina Backgrounder as well as “How B.C. became a Climate Laggard” in the Globe and Mail , a review by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and “How the B.C. Government responded” in The National Observer .
And public opinion continues to oppose current policies, including Petronas’ $36-billion Pacific Northwest LNG development, and the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal, where both the City of Vancouver and the Squamish First Nation have filed appeals in B.C. courts. Even the academics at the normally apolitical Royal Society of Canada have issued an Open Letter opposing the Site C Hydro Dam on the Peace River. Against this backdrop, the government’s updated Climate Change policy is expected at the end of June.
REVISITING THE CLIMATE LEADERSHIP PLAN: “The Economic Cost of Carbon Policy” was written by Andrew Leach, Chair of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan , and appeared in Maclean’s online on June 19th in response to a controversial article in the Calgary Herald on June 17th . The Herald article reported that a leaked memo from the government’s Treasury Board staff had predicted that the Climate Leadership Plan would result in 15,000 fewer jobs, a $4-billion drop in household income, as well as lower corporate profits, oil exports and overall economic activity. Andrew Leach defends the Climate Leadership process and “sets things straight” in a thorough discussion of the economics and politics of carbon pricing . He concedes that the policy prescriptions come at a cost – which he estimates at 0.25 to 0.5 per cent cumulatively by 2022, but he concludes that Alberta cannot maintain a “business as usual” policy; “ We believe that our policy recommendations will be of net benefit to Alberta, yes in terms of the avoided costs of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, but also in terms of the avoided costs of discriminatory and punitive policies imposed upon Alberta.”
On May 26, The Premiers of Alberta and Ontario announced a Memorandum of Understanding pledging cooperation regarding GHG reduction in the production, transportation and use of natural resources in Alberta and Ontario, as well as development of renewable energy and energy storage, and fostering new and innovative uses of carbon dioxide.
On June 6, Alberta announced the new Energy Efficiency Agency, and an Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel , which will consult with the public, Indigenous people, and technical experts until September. A Discussion Document will guide consultations.The Panel ‘s report to the Minister is due in Fall 2016, with the goal that Energy Efficiency Alberta will launch programs by January 2017. Listed as “measures of success” for the Agency: “Economic impact: the number of stable green jobs associated with program options and the direct and indirect benefits to urban and rural economies associated with the implementation of programs.”
The Trottier Energy Futures Project released a report, authored by the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the David Suzuki Foundation, in June 2016. Canada’s Challenge & Opportunity: Transformations for Major Reductions in GHG emissions uses systems analysis to discuss 11 separate scenarios with the goal of achieving the 80-per-cent GHG reduction by 2050. The paper casts doubt on the “timely availability of technology and associated infrastructure”, but considers the technical and economic barriers less important as the political and social/cultural – success will demand major change to a low-economy lifestyle. It concludes…”the project demonstrates that substantial progress can be made by 2030 using currently available systems to reduce GHG emissions. Key areas include significantly increasing the supply of electricity and biomass/biofuels in order to displace fossil fuels in all five end-use sectors, decarbonizing electricity production by switching to non-emitting sources, enabling transfers of electricity between provinces and territories, and implementing a comprehensive program of energy conservation and efficiency measures. In addition, as several provinces and the federal government have already committed to implementing carbon pricing, a national climate strategy, along with regulations and incentives that support innovative GHG-reduction technologies and initiatives, may be within reach.” A detailed summary and analysis of the Trottier report from Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (University of Calgary) is here .
Top Asks for Climate Action: Ramping up Low carbon communities was released by the Columbia Institute in B.C. in June, and makes the case for local climate leadership. It itemizes what local governments need from federal, provincial and territorial governments to realize climate action, clustered in the themes of capacity building; smart growth; harnessing local energy; reducing carbon pollution from the building sector, and from the transportation sector. The policy actions highlighted in the report are the result of an extensive literature review and survey of more than 100 locally elected officials.
Sustainable Prosperity has released a series of blogs and papers arguing that environmental regulation, if well-designed and flexible, can stimulate clean innovation and boost corporate competitiveness. (The Porter Hypothesis). Green Tape Measures Up is an Issue Summary released in June 2016; the related Policy Brief Environmental Regulation and Innovation: Select case studies of the Porter Hypothesis (November 2015) reviews seven recent case studies from four industrial sectors in the EU and U.S. to support the argument.
REVIEW OF THE NEB AND ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT: On June 20, the Federal government announced a “Comprehensive Review of Environmental and Regulatory Processes” , involving six ministries: Fisheries and Oceans; Environment and Climate Change; Transport; Science and Innovation; Indigenous and Northern Affairs; and Natural Resources. A dedicated website houses consultation documents and allows for public input, since “Consultation will be at the core of this review”. An expert panel will review the National Energy Board and submit its findings in early 2017; similarly, another panel will review the Environmental Assessment Agency . The Navigation Protection Act and the Fisheries Act will be reviewed by parliamentary committees starting in the Fall 2016, with a report due January 2017. See the CBC or the National Observer for summaries.
CANADA AND G7 NATIONS PLEDGE TO END FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES: At the G7 Summit in Japan at the end of May, member nations, including Canada, set a deadline to end government support for coal, and oil and gas by 2025. The text of the Final Leaders’ Declaration doesn’t define “subsidy” and leaves wiggle room by indicating “inefficient” subsidies (see page 7). And an article in The Guardian singles out Britain for new North Sea tax breaks, Japan for coal expansion, and Canada for extending subsidies for natural gas production in the February 2016 budget.
Climate Justice: The International Momentum towards Climate Litigation offers a unique discussion of the intersection of climate litigation and climate negotiations, and whether the Paris Agreement will contribute to a growth in climate litigation. It also provides an up to date summary of past and current cases of climate litigation against companies and governments – focusing on the various grounds of human rights to a clean environment, liability for climate-change induced damages, climate refugees, and corporate deception in the U.S., Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, and New Zealand. It examines past litigation in other sectors, including tobacco, asbestos and oil spills. Amongst the recommendations: the fossil fuel industry be removed from the climate negotiations process and banned from having a role or voice in setting climate change policy; introduce a levy on fossil fuel producers to partly fund the International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which would provide compensation for individuals and communities. Another recent but much briefer note, “Courts take on Climate Change” , published in Nature Climate Change in June, addresses the issue of liability and quotes Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel at West Coast Environmental Law , who asks, “Can you really have a business model that costs the world trillions of dollars a year and not have a conversation about who should be paying for that?” … “The question is, can such litigation play a role in accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels or is it only going to be bickering over who pays for the major damages we’re experiencing?” An example of such bickering is chronicled in a June 7 article in the New York Times, “Regulators Fear $1 Billion Coal Cleanup Bill” .
And who will be the lawyers who argue these cases? Tom Lininger, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, proposes a series of “green ethics” amendments to the American Bar Association rules in his paper “Green Ethics for Lawyers” in the Boston College Law Review .
Note that the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change (ACW) website recently posted the 2015 presentation by Roger Cox, lead lawyer in the landmark Urgenda case. See The Urgenda Climate Case and its Consequences .
On May 13, NextGen Climate announced the formation of the For Our Future Political Action Committee (PAC) , which includes labour unions and youth groups, to campaign for environmental justice issues. Subsequently, seven building trades unions send a letter to Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, demanding that the AFL-CIO cut its ties with Tom Steyer, the billionaire who funds NextGen Climate . The Labourer’s International Union (LIUNA) also sent its own letter, which characterized the AFL-CIO relationship as a “politically bankrupt betrayal” of union members. Both letters were reproduced in “Rift Between Labor and Environmentalists Threatens Democratic Turnout Plan” in the New York Times (May 16). The New York Times article prompted the Labor Network for Sustainability to write: “The Times characterized this as a “rift between labor and environmentalists.” It is much better understood, however, as an effort by a small group of unions to retain their veto power within the AFL-CIO.”… “The great majority of unions that accepted the alliance with NextGen Climate should proudly defend it as a way to express this historic tradition of meeting their members’ needs by addressing the most pressing needs of society.”
The AFL-CIO officially endorsed Hillary Clinton on June 16 ; LIUNA has also endorsed Hillary Clinton, and launched a campaign promoting natural gas as a bridging fuel and as an important fuel for the future on June 23; see their campaign website Clean Power Progress . The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not one of the NextGen PAC allies, but was endorsed by Tom Steyer when it recently voted to add environmental justice to the list of the union’s priorities. According to the SEIU, climate change disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities where many of its members live, so the union is committing resources to “broadening environmental justice”. See “Leading US Union SEIU Makes Fighting Climate Change a Campaign Priority” in The Guardian (May 24) .
Pacific Gas and Electric company of California announced on June 21, 2016 that it will not renew licenses for its two nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, set to expire by 2025. This is being hailed as a landmark because, unlike other U.S. closures which reverted to more polluting sources of energy, the Diablo Canyon agreement will replace the nuclear energy with renewable sources and energy efficiency. Further, the agreement, which included the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 and the Coalition of California Utility Employees, pledges incentives to retain employees until 2025, retraining of employees for the decommissioning process, and severance payments when their employment ends. See the IBEW Letter to Members here . But James Hansen, amongst other greens and scientists, have lobbied to keep the plant open; see “If Diablo Canyon does close, America will have lost 14 reactors since 2013, but is it a good idea?” in Vox.
“Green Skills Training and Certification” was the topic of the opening Plenary session of the Training Conference of the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO) in Vancouver on June 4 . The Green Skills session related to electrical vehicle infrastructure technology, photovoltaic solar energy technologies, and advanced energy‐conserving lighting system controls. NETCO is a joint partnership of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (CECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) of Canada, and is associated with The electrical training ALLIANCE™ of the U.S. Another IBEW initiative was highlighted in a May report from the Don Vial Center on the Green Economy at U of California, Berkeley. Training for the Future II: Progress to Date describes the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee (UPCT) program, a model program for entry-level disadvantaged workers in Los Angeles, jointly operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and IBEW Local 18. Since 2011, trainees “earn-and-learn” by working full time weatherizing homes and small businesses while learning skills and preparing for civil service exams in the utility. The first Training for the Future report from 2013 is also available.
A June 17 article in The Tyee, “Oil Sands Workers Fear Becoming Climate Change Casualties” gives voice to a Unifor worker from Fort MacMurray, and his opinions about Just Transition. Also from the Canadian oil sands, the workers’ organization Iron and Earth has posted an online survey seeking such workers’ views; the group proposes a Workers Plan with 3 main goals: Build up Canada’s renewable energy workforce capacity; Build up Canadian manufacturing of renewable energy technologies, and Position existing energy sector workers, developers, contractors, and unions within the renewable energy sector. The plight of coal workers is described in “Alberta coal communities look at what future holds as age of coal comes to end” in the National Observer (June 22); so far, the community stakes its hopes on promised “consultations”. For the U.S., see “As Wind Power Lifts Wyoming’s Fortunes, Coal Miners are left in the Dust” in the New York Times (June 20), which puts a personal face on the plight of laid-off workers from the Peabody coal bankruptcy. Although a nascent wind industry is being encouraged in Wyoming, it is not forecast to replace all of the estimated 10,000 jobs to be lost in the coal industry. And from Australia, a June paper from the Green Institute, The End of coal: How should the next government respond? states that rather than propping up the dying fossil fuel industry,.. “the most honest approach, and the one that will be best for people and the planet, is to immediately prepare for a staged transition, facilitate a dignified exit from the coal industry for workers and communities, and ensure that the corporations which have caused this mess cover the cost.” Further, the author proposes a trial of guaranteed basic income provided to coal workers in the worst affected coal areas.
The 2016 edition of Tracking the Clean Energy Revolution: Canada was released by Clean Energy Canada in June with an upbeat message, despite the fact that renewable energy investment and development slowed in some provinces ( 89% in Alberta, 52% in British Columbia, 15% in Ontario, and 9% in Quebec). At the same time, investment grew in Atlantic Canada, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, so that it was still Canada’s second-best year on record for clean energy spending, and renewable generation capacity grew by 4 per cent. The main message of the report, however, is that a new spirit of cooperation and ambition has developed with the change of leadership in the federal government. The report lists the renewable projects, their size, and companies involved throughout the country, but doesn’t report on employment impacts. For that, consult the latest survey by the International Renewable Energy Agency, Renewable Energy and Jobs 2016 . Canada ranks 11th, with an estimated 36,000 clean energy jobs, well behind the top countries of China (with 3.5 million jobs!), Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany. Solar Photovoltaics continues to be the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide in 2015, an 11% increase over 2014. For the first time, IRENA published gender-based employment figures, based on their own online survey. Women represent 35% of the workforce in the 90 renewable energy companies surveyed from 40 countries – higher than the energy industry average of 20-25%. On average, women represent 46% of the administrative workforce, 28% of the technical workforce, and 32% of management roles. Earlier IRENA reports are here .
A post in Portside on May 23 summarizes the research of Jeremy Brecher (of Labor Network for Sustainability) and Todd Vachon, which uses data from 2 national surveys in the U.S. to conclude that: “Union members, far from being only concerned with their immediate self-interest at the expense of a broader common interest in environmental protection, are often more concerned about the environment and more willing to act on that concern than either the public at large or non-union workers”. A fuller report, “Are Union Members More or Less Likely to Be Environmentalists? Some Evidence from Two National Surveys” was published as an article in Labor Studies Journal in April (access restricted). The article also provides examples from the historical record of labour and environmental issues, with the goal of contributing to the development of labour-community and blue-green coalitions to work for social change.
Another study appeared in Nature Climate Change in June, regarding the determinants of translating climate change beliefs into actions . “Meta-analyses of the determinants and outcomes of belief in climate change” analyzed 27 variables, drawn from 25 polls and 171 academic studies from 56 nations (including 7 from Canada). The authors, from the University of Queensland in Australia, concluded that variables such as education, sex, subjective knowledge, and experience of extreme weather events were not as important in predicting behaviours as the variables of values, ideologies, worldviews and political orientation. Surprisingly, the study also concludes “ belief in climate change has a solid relationship with the extent to which people aspire to behave in climate-friendly ways, but a small-to-moderate relationship with the extent to which people `walk the talk’.”
Finally, a practical example: As reported in the Washington Post on June 22, and by the Company in a detailed case study , Virgin Atlantic Airways conducted a large-scale experiment to try to influence its pilots to use less fuel and reduce GhG emissions. This was a controlled study, overseen by economists from the University of Chicago and London School of Economics, in which different behavioural interventions were used, including providing monthly feedback, setting targets, and setting targets plus making corporate charitable donations when targets were met. All pilots reduced their fuel consumption, and those that received targeted goals, or that received these goals plus charitable donations made, performed the best of all. The academic report of the study appears in A New Approach to an Age-Old Problem: Solving Externalities by Incenting Workers Directly , a working paper of the National Bureau of Economics (NBER), published in June.