In Alberta: A Call for Renewable energy legislation ; Government funds directed to methane emission reduction

On October 24, several renewable energy companies, industry associations and think-tanks released an Open Letter   to the Alberta government, urging it to establish in law  its commitment for renewables to supply at least 30 per cent of the province’s electricity by 2030.  Amongst several arguments in the Letter is one related to job creation:  “the fraction of construction jobs as well as head office jobs based in Alberta would be much higher and more stable under the larger market assured by a legislated target. Without the clarity of a legislated multiyear commitment, there is a risk that companies would keep Alberta operations to a minimum and with many of the jobs created in other jurisdictions.”    The arguments are supported by other documents at Pembina Institute, including Cheaper renewables spur companies to buy clean energy directly from producers .

This may be of interest to the Energy Diversification Committee announced  on October  13  , which is tasked to consult with Albertans and make recommendations in the fall of 2017 on how to increase the value of energy resources, create jobs and attract new investment. The press release gives examples of “value-added ideas” such  as partial upgrading, refining, petrochemicals and chemicals manufacturing.  Nothing about renewables.  The Committee website  names two Co-Chairs:  Gil McGowan, president of the  Alberta Federation of Labour , along with Jeanette Patell, government affairs and policy leader at  GE Canada   . Warren Fraleigh, Executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta is a member, along with business and First Nations representatives.

On October 21, the government of Alberta announced  that it will redirect  $33 million to  support medium- and long-term technologies  that reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas, agriculture and landfill sectors, as well as projects to improve methane detection and quantification. This initiative springs from  the commitment in the Climate Leadership Plan to  reduce methane emissions  by 45 per cent by 2025.  The augmented funding , which will total $40 million, will be administered by Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA),  which is the new name being given to the industry-sponsored Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation  .

 

 

Canada promises action to implement the Kigali agreement on HFC’s

The agreement reached  in Kigali, Rwanda  on October 15 2016, to regulate the use of the hydrochlorofluorocarbons ( HFC’s)  in air conditioners and refrigerators,  is expected to lead to the reduction of the equivalent of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and “is the single largest contribution the world has made towards keeping  the global temperature rise ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius”, according to the UNEP Press release about the agreement.   The 197 countries which had previously been party to the Montreal Protocol reached a compromise, under which developed countries will start to phase down HFC’s by 2019.  The deadline for some developing countries to  freeze their HFC’s consumption levels is 2024, and some  of the world’s hottest countries (India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) will have the most lenient deadlines, to freeze HFC use by 2028 and reduce it to about 15 percent of 2025 levels by 2047.  Read the New York Times report here ,  or the National Observer report here  , and for background, an August NYT article, “How bad is your air conditioner for the planet?“.  For a legal perspective, see “Cutting HFC’s under the Montreal Protocol – A few thoughts” from the Legal Planet blog of UCLA Berkeley.

The Kigali agreement is  seen as a powerful positive symbol: “It is a clear statement by all world leaders that the green transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable.”  But though it is seen as a much stronger commitment than the Paris Agreement, it also  requires ratification by two-thirds of the parties to come into force, and may not be “unstoppable”.    According to Climate Central, ” American experts on international environmental law say ratifying the new HFC agreement would almost certainly require a two-thirds vote from the Senate”. In other words, even more is now riding on the U.S. election on November 8.   A Globe and Mail article on October 16  expanded on the brief government press release ,  quoting the Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister, who pledged: “Ottawa will adopt regulations to reduce the use of the chemicals in the coming years. The government will provide rules and incentives for the destruction of existing HFCs.”

The Youth of Norway are suing for their constitutional climate rights

The government of Norway and thirteen oil companies are being sued  by Greenpeace International and a Norwegian youth alliance called Nature and Youth, who are challenging the government’s decision to allow oil exploration in the Barents Sea.  The suit argues that further oil exploration violates  threatens Norway’s commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement and violates the constitutional right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations.  Two  Greenpeace blogs emphasize that this is meant to be an historic case, protecting the final frontier of the Arctic, and also exercising the  people-power of a new generation stepping up to hold governments accountable to their climate promises. Read “This is the People vs. Arctic Oil”  and  “Why we are taking Arctic Oil to Court” , which appeals to the global community for support.  (Note: the Greenpeace Canada also maintains an Arctic campaign  but the website doesn’t reflect the Norwegian case yet).   An article in Common Dreams,    “Norwegian Youth Taking Government to Court Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Arctic Drilling”   explains the case fully and makes the links with the U.S. case brought by James Hansen and  Our Children’s Trust  .  The groundbreaking federal lawsuit by Our Children’s Trust, having been challenged repeatedly by the fossil fuel industry,  is under review by a U.S. District Court Judge, who heard oral arguments on September 13 . A decision is expected by  mid-November, at which time the case will head to trial, or go to appeal.  Our Children’s Trust is the subject of an October article in Fusion: “Generational Injustice:  Inside the Legal Movement  suing for Climate Justice Now”   .

Is the Dakota Access Pipeline the next Keystone Pipeline battle within U.S. Labour?

“Standing Rock Solid with the  Frackers: Are the Trades Putting Labor’s Head in the Gas Oven? is a new article by Sean Sweeney,  examining the divisions in the U.S. labour movement over the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The  article , originally published in New Labor Forum and re-posted and updated on the website of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy on October  14 , describes the pro-pipeline statements of the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) , and, like Jeremy Brecher’s article  on the same issue , Sweeney sees NABTU as the driving force behind the AFL-CIO’s energy positions.  Likening the current dispute to the internal division over the Keystone XL Pipeline, Sweeney states that  “The DAPL fight suggests that the split in labor is deepening.” Sweeney pays particular attention to (and promises a future article about ) the Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA)’s  Clean Power Progress campaign,  launched in June 2016 to support natural gas as a clean, bridging fuel – with the  glaring omission of any mention of  the emissions of fracking.   The article concludes: “For now, having waged a successful putsch, NABTU is the voice of the AFL-CIO regarding a big chunk of labor’s energy policy. The Federation’s reputation is now so low that it seems to be no longer concerned about ‘reputational damage.’ By linking arms with Standing Rock Sioux, progressive labor is keeping alive the best traditions of labor environmentalism pioneered by Tony Mazzocchi and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers in the 1970s.”

Further updates on the DAPL front:  Protests and arrests  continue as recently as October 22.   But in what is seen as a victory victory for freedom of the press,  on October 18  a judge dismissed trespassing and riot charges against reporter Amy Goodman, the  reporter for Democracy Now whose video ignited support for  the Standing Rock  Sioux Nation protest.   Read the transcript of Amy Goodman’s reaction here   , and complete Democracy Now coverage of the DAPL protests here . For a summary of the judge’s decision,  see the New York Times report  .

How can I make a difference?

Some inspirational excerpts from Bill McKibben’s  recent blog, The Question I get asked the Most,  in which he argues that “What can I do to make a difference?” is the wrong question … ” Because if individual action can’t alter the momentum of global warming, movements may still do the trick. Movements are how people organize themselves to gain power—enough power, in this case, to perhaps overcome the financial might of the fossil fuel industry…. So when people ask me what can I do, I know say the same thing every time: The most important thing an individual can do is not be an individual. Join together—that’s why we have movements like 350.org or Green for All, like BlackLivesMatter or Occupy. If there’s not a fight where you live, find people to support, from Standing Rock to the Pacific islands. Job one is to organize and jobs two and three.  And if you have some time left over after that, then by all means make sure your lightbulbs are all LEDs and your kale comes from close to home.”

And for  some practical examples:   the Good Anthropocene  website has posted 100 stories about “practical, community-based initiatives that enhance people’s health and well-being, while at the same time protecting their environment and benefiting the climate.”   These existing initiatives that are not widespread or well-known , which the site calls  ‘seeds’,  include:  Social change through “Social Ecology” in Montreal  and Idle no more: Indigenous activists call for peaceful revolution .  Good Anthropecene has been compiled by academics from  Montreal, Stockholm, and Stellenbosch, South Africa .

Habitat protection, supply management key concerns in review of Canada’s Fisheries Act

Canada’s Fisheries Act, last amended by the Conservative government in 2012, now clearly needs review.  Sustaining Canada’s Major Fish Stocks , a highly critical audit of the management and conservation activities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was released by the Commissioner on Environment and Sustainable Development on October 4.  The response by  New Brunswick EcoAction  states, “Several of the gaps and failings identified in the report can be addressed by a commitment to modernizing the Fisheries Act …. In other developed fishing nations, the fisheries legislation includes provisions for stock rebuilding and targets and timelines to guide this work. Canada’s Fisheries Act has none of this, not even references to the precautionary or ecosystem approaches to fisheries management – which have been enshrined in international law for over 20 years.”  The CBC  summary of the report was blunt:  Another cod-like collapse possible . Keith Sullivan, President of Fish Food and Allied Workers union (Unifor) appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans at the end of September,  explaining the union’s position about the competitive need for quality more than quantity, in order for the cod fishing industry to rebound. At present, 32  union harvesters are part of a research project to determine the best new techniques required to achieve this.

The Standing Committee has also been holding hearings into the Wild Atlantic Salmon . Advocacy group  EcoJustice has launched a court case challenging  the approval of genetically modified salmon  in Prince Edward Island under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act , and a separate case against the Minister of Fisheries regarding B.C.’s salmon . West Coast Environment Law  has recently written about the threat to salmon habitat from the approval of the Pacific North West LNG project in B.C. , with a full brief,  Scaling up the Fisheries Act , which argues for changes to the legislation to identify and protect essential fish habitat .

On October 18, the federal government announced a public consultation as part of the government’s review of the Fisheries Act, part  of the larger  Review of Environmental and Regulatory Processes .  The Let’s Talk Fish Habitat website  provides information and an opportunity to submit ideas.

Canada Pension Plan: improved benefits, but still exposed to fossil fuel risk

Welcome as it is that the federal government announced improvements in the Canada Pension Plan on October 4, it would be even more welcome to know that the CPP Invesment Board (CPPIB)  was not risking our future pensions by remaining invested in the  fossil fuel industry.  Friends of the Earth  Canada has launched a new campaign, Time to Climate Risk-proof the CPP,  which reveals that approximately 22% of the Canadian portfolio is invested in  fossil fuel producers or pipeline companies, including coal.  The Friends of the Earth campaign includes an online site called Pension Power , enabling ordinary Canadians to query their pension fund managers.  It also calls on the CPPIB to sign onto the Montreal Pledge, and  the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition (PDC), two United Nations Environmental Program initiatives that encourage institutional investors to decarbonize their portfolios and disclose risky assets.  Anything less ignores the now-apparent decline of the fossil fuel industry and the shift to a low carbon world,  and thus fails the fiduciary responsibility of institutional investors – to protect assets against risk.

Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) has published studies on the need for responsible investment;  Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Suncor Energy and NEI Investments published Unburnable Carbon and Stranded Assets : What investors need to know   in January 2015, and  Canada’s Marc Carney,  in his high profile role as Governor of the Bank of England and Chair of the international Financial Stability Board,  has been a world leader in warning about the dangers of stranded assets since 2015 .  How can the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have missed the message that other Canadians are so well aware of?

Further reading:   For an overview of the international literature, see Divestment and Stranded Assets in the Low-carbon Transition from the OECD (Oct. 2015)  or more recently: Unconventional Risks: The Growing Uncertainty of Oil Investments in July 2016;  Shorting the Climate ( from the Rainforest Alliance Network, BankTrack, Sierra Club and Oil Change International);  “New York City Pension Funds begin to craft a Fossil Fuel Divestment Path others can Follow”  (July 2016),  and  “Fiduciary responsibility and climate change”    in Corporate Knights (Aug. 30).

Ontario’s energy landscape is changing: with access to Quebec hydro power, a consultation to update its Long Term Energy Plan, and beginning of the massive Darlington Nuclear Plant Refurbishment

Ontario and Quebec announced the conclusion of 7 agreements on October 21, including  one will allow the two provinces to trade electricity, energy capacity and energy storage, and another to build more than 200 new high-speed charging stations for electric vehicles along the Highway 401 corridor by the end of March 2017. Ontario will be able to purchase  electricity from Hydro Quebec from 2017 – 2023  – thus reducing costs to consumers and GhG emissions. See the CBC summary here.

On October 13, Ontario announced that it is seeking public input to help develop the province’s next Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) .  The Environmental Registry notice includes most information, including  the Discussion Guide, Planning Ontario’s Energy Future . The Registry also acts as a portal to receive written submissions until December 16, 2016 .  Other technical documents and the 2013  version of the Long-Term Energy Plan are posted here ; detailed information about the public meetings throughout the province in October and November is here .  Also related to the energy file:  the announcement  on October 19  of the Ontario Rebate for Electricity Consumers Act, 2016, which promises to  reduce electricity bills by 8 per cent (more for rural consumers) as of January 2017.

And the October 14 announcement that the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant Refurbishment project has begun, at a projected cost of $12.8 billion, to be completed by 2026. (The decision  had been announced in January 2016) .  Ontario Power Generation (OPG) commissioned and funded an analysis of the economic impact of the continued operation of Darlington, from 2017 to 2055 ; the report, conducted by the Conference Board of Canada,  is available here .  Regarding job creation, the report estimates  “The combined impact of the refurbishment and continued operation of Darlington Station is projected to increase employment by 704,000 person-years between 2010 and 2055.” See the OPG website  dedicated to the Darlington Refubishment here. 

Darlington_Nuclear_Masthead.jpg

 

 

Carbon Pricing now covering 13% of global GHG emissions; Canadian and U.S. developments

The World Bank released  the State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2016 report on October 18,  which  measures the growing momentum of carbon markets: in 2016, 40 national jurisdictions and over 20 cities, states, and regions are putting a price on carbon, including seven out of 10 of the world’s largest economies.  About 13 percent of global GHG emissions are now covered by carbon pricing initiatives.  Drawing on new economic modelling, the report also predicts that this coverage could increase by the largest leap ever in 2017, to between 20 – 25 percent,  if the Chinese national Emissions Trading System (ETS) is implemented in 2017 as planned .

Carbon pricing in Canada continues to draw opinion and reaction, including  from Toby Sanger, a Senior Economist at CUPE and  a member of the Federal Sustainable Development Advisory Council, who reiterates a call for Just Transition and equity considerations in “How to offset the hardship of carbon pricing”  in the Ottawa Citizen (Oct. 6) . Andrew Gage at West Coast Environmental Law (Oct. 17) asks important questions about the price levels, scope, and timing of the national carbon price proposals currently under consideration  in “Will Canada’s national carbon price clean up our climate mess?” . His blog includes consideration of the impact  on B.C., and sends a message for  Saskatchewan: “So suck it up, Mr. Wall – it’s time to pay the carbon price and get on board with a national plan to deal with Canada’s climate mess”.   And a blog from Keith Brooks at Environmental Defence takes issue from an Ontario viewpoint with a recent Fraser Institute criticism of the Trudeau carbon pricing proposal in “Stupid or Just Lying? What’s up with the Fraser Institute?” (Oct. 13).

In the U.S., all eyes are on the State of Washington, where a ballot question in the November 8 election will decide whether Washington becomes the first state in the U.S. with a  carbon tax.   The Washington Carbon Emission Tax and Sales Tax Reduction question, known as Initiative 732 (I-732)  is modelled after B.C.’s carbon tax, but has divided traditional left and environmental allies, with the Alliance for Clean Jobs and Energy and the Washington District Labor Council opposed to the initiative, and the Sierra Club and others taking a “do not support” position.   For background, see the excellent overview (with links) at Ballotpedia, or “How a tax on carbon has divided Northwest climate activists” in the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 13) .

Proposals for carbon pricing designs:    A new policy brief released by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)  in Waterloo, Ontario  proposes  a carbon-fee-and-dividend (CFD) program , which has been advocated by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.  How the United States Can Do Much More on Climate and Jobs  envisions a federal program which would  collect a carbon fee from coal, oil and natural gas producers and importers, and distribute  all the revenue (after administrative costs) directly to American households in equal per capita monthly dividends.   To address fears of carbon leakage, the  program would include a border adjustment,  authorizing  a special duty on imports from countries lacking equivalent carbon pricing.   The paper concludes with arguments as to why this is the most likely- to- succeed political option.

Another U.S. discussion paper, from Resources for the Future,  Adding Quantity Certainty to a Carbon Tax, defines and discusses  the multitude of design elements for a Tax Adjustment Mechanism for Policy Pre-Commitment (TAMPP) –  which would adjust the tax rate of a carbon tax  at intermediate benchmark points if emissions reductions deviate sufficiently to threaten the long-term targets . The paper argues that the approach should be rule-based with a clear and transparent adjustment process to reduce unnecessary uncertainty for investment.

 

 

Saskatchewan backs CCS and Nuclear power in its Climate Change Plan

The White Paper on Climate Change released by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall on October 18  makes 13 recommendations in the hopes of redirecting the national conversation away from a national carbon pricing policy, as introduced by Prime Minister Trudeau on October 3. A CBC report headlined one of the proposals, to  “redeploy” $2.65 billion in federal funds for developing countries to invest in clean technologies,  but the real story is that Saskatchewan’s White Paper continues to  reject the national carbon pricing scheme, advocating instead for  innovative technology such as next-generation carbon capture and storage (CCS), and nuclear power.   The Climate Examiner from PICS provides a thorough summary of the White Paper   .  Climate Justice Saskatoon’s reaction calls for carbon pricing and technological solutions together,  and the Pembina Institute states that Premier Wall is out of step with climate reality by remaining outside the fold of provincial support for carbon pricing .

The  Saskatchewan’s Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage project which Premier Wall  holds up as his solution is the world’s first large-scale application of carbon capture technology in a power plant, according to a profile in the Smart Prosperity newsletter (October 13).  SaskWind, a community-owned wind and solar project,  released a report in March 2015  which concluded that Boundary Dam generated losses of over of $1-billion, which Saskatchewan’s  electricity consumers must pay for.  The Boundary Dam website provides its own statistics.

EU trade unions and the transition to low carbon industry: an opportunity to create jobs

In introducing a new report on October 5, the Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said, “Most trade unions see the transition to low-carbon industry as an opportunity to create industrial growth and jobs, but many workers understandably fear widespread job losses.”  The report, Industrial regions and climate policies: towards a just transition? , summarizes the results of questionnaire sent to ETUC affiliates in 17 countries. 31 responses were received, and the report provides case studies from  seven, in the following  regions: Yorkshire and the Humber in the UK, North Rhine Westphalia in Germany, Asturias in Spain, Antwerp area in Belgium, Norbotten in Sweden, Stara Zagora in Bulgaria, and Silesia in Poland. They generally provide an overview of the low-carbon policies of unions, government policies, and union involvement with policy formation in each region.  Overall in the EU, responses indicated  trade unions were involved in the development process of a national industrial strategy  in 75% of cases, usually through tripartite bodies.   There were few responses regarding training initiatives.  In conclusion, the ETUC  calls for a socially just transition to low-carbon economy which will include consultation and participation of trade unions and employers to  manage decarbonization of industry; accelerated deployment of breakthrough low-carbon technologies; investment in skills for a socially just transition to a low-carbon economy;  attention to the social impacts of decarbonization .

This report updates the information from a 2014 report, and is the result of a two-year research project.

 

Renewable energy news: Alberta, Ontario, U.S. and International statistics show a “broad shift to clean energy” investment

As part of its Climate Leadership Plan, Alberta launched  the Alberta Indigenous Solar Program (AISP)  and the Alberta Indigenous Community Energy Program (AICEP)  on October 5.  With a total budget of  $2.5 million, the two programs are directed at First Nations and Metis communities,  to undertake pilot projects for renewable energy and energy efficiency audits.  Alberta next issued a Request for Information (RFI)   on October 6,  for procuring solar power for half of government operations , anticipating that it will  lead to Western Canada’s first solar farm.  See “Here comes the sun: Alberta Plans to establish first solar farms”   from the Edmonton Journal (Oct. 6)  and an item that appeared before the government announcement,  “Growing list of solar projects in wings as Alberta moves to replace coal”  at CBC  (Sept. 15).

In a surprising change of direction at the end of September, the Ontario government announced the cancellation of a second round of renewable energy procurement that would have added 1,000 megawatts of wind and solar power to the province’s grid. Existing FIT and MicroFIT projects will be unaffected, but the government hopes to put a lid on electricity cost increases for consumers by avoiding the costs of building infrastructure. See  the government press release ;  “ Spooked Ontario Liberals Retreat From Green Goals” from  the Energy Mix    ;  “Why did the Liberals backtrack on their renewable energy plan?” from TVO,  or  “Wind Industry shocked as Ontario halts LRP Mechanism”   in North American WindPower.

In the U.S. , the federal Department of Energy  released its National Offshore Wind Strategy  on September 9,  with a goal of generating enough electricity from offshore wind to power 23 million homes.

And from the International Energy Agency in  mid-September, the first in a new annual report series, World Energy Investment 2016,  with the stated premise that investment is “ the lifeblood of the global energy system”. Statistics show the state of investment in energy across technologies, sectors and regions around the world; they reveal a “broad shift towards cleaner energy”, with $313 billion invested in renewables in 2015. Though this is flat in dollar terms, it produced 33% more energy due to improved wind and solar technology.  A further $221 billion was invested in energy efficiency.  While oil and gas investment was still tops in 2015, it declined by 25% from 2014 and is projected to decline a further 24% in 2016.

Business and government gather at Climate Week NYC

Many publications and press statements were released to coincide with Climate Week NYC 2016, a gathering of businesses and government officials in New York City from September 19 – 26. A sampling brings some insight into business/climate thinking. For example,  General Motors  was one of several companies joining the energy campaigns of RE100 , a global initiative of companies committed to transitioning to 100% renewable power.  (A sister campaign, EP100, works with businesses committed to doubling their energy productivity) . GM’s stated goal  to  meet 100% of its electricity needs with renewable energy by 2050 includes about 350 facilities in 59 countries, including both manufacturing and non-manufacturing buildings .  The CEO is quoted as saying that GM wants to contribute to cleaner air  “while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs.”  Further, in GM Details its  100% Renewable Goal  : “Renewable energy offers more stable pricing options than traditional energy sources like fossil fuel, reducing the price volatility caused by external threats like government relations and natural disasters. Wind energy is already price competitive with traditional forms of energy and we expect the price of solar power to continue to decrease as demand grows.” Related reading: GM’s 2015 Sustainability Report and its environmental blog, GM Green .

From CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) , Embedding a carbon price into business strategy  : based on responses from over 5,000 companies, the report states that 1,200 companies either plan to or currently place an internal price on carbon.  Why?  Could be the cost of capital, as signalled in the Forward: “As public pension funds, CalSTRS and AP4 have hundreds of thousands of members and stakeholders relying on the secure retirement future that we are here to provide in perpetuity—it is absolutely critical that we take action to guard against this risk [climate change]…..“As the momentum for full disclosure in this area increases, we will not only be looking at company emissions but also analyzing how climate risk mitigation is embedded within their corporate strategies. Those companies who show investors and owners that they take this issue seriously and have a plan in place to tackle it will enjoy a lower cost of capital in the future against those that don’t.”

Consultants EY and the UN Global Compact published a report, The State of Sustainable Supply Chains,    based on interviews with 70 companies.  From the introduction: “Over the past few years, sustainability has been added to the procurement and sourcing criteria for many companies. Workforce health and safety incidents, labor disputes, geopolitical conflicts, raw materials shortages, environmental disasters and new legislation in areas such as conflict minerals and modern slavery have contributed to the growing awareness of supply chain risks among customers, consumers, investors, employees and local communities.”…. Overall, the results of the study show that by improving environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance throughout their supply chains, companies can enhance processes, save costs, increase labor productivity, uncover product innovation, achieve market differentiation and have a significant impact on society.”   This report is complemented by the website:  UN Global Compact Sustainable Supply Chains: Resources and Practices .  

In October, CDP North America released a report discussing the “paradigm shift” in the importance attributed to the “total cost of ownership”, or life cycle of products.  With examples from the U.S. military and the IT industry, it concludes that “It has become a business necessity because it saves money, smooths operations, diminishes risk in supply chains and opens new business opportunities.”  See: A paradigm shift in total cost of ownership From procurement to product innovation:How companies are hardwiring sustainability across the value chain to future-proof their business.

 

U.S. Labour Resolutions to fight climate change

The most recent e-bulletin from the  Labor Network for Sustainability in the U.S. highlights the Labor Convergence Conference which they convened in January 2016.  The Convergence website  includes a draft version of Principles , with a strong statement on environmental justice. It concludes:  “As workers and trade unionists we will either initiate change or be the victims of it. We hereby resolve to use our power to reshape the economic, political, and social system in the interests of all the world’s people who are threatened by climate change.”  Also from the Convergence conference, a statement of Goals and Strategies , with one of the first year goals to “Create a Labor Resolution on Climate Justice”. Some Convergence members have passed resolutions within their own unions: see the American Postal Workers Union resolution, “Climate Change, Jobs and Justice” , passed August 21, 2016 and the International Association of Machinists Local 1746  Climate Change Resolution  passed in September 2016.

New agreement to curb emissions from global aviation is welcome but weak

A landmark agreement the for the world’s aviation industry was reached on October 6  at the International Civil Aviation Organization  (ICAO) meetings in Montreal.  The global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) will apply to  the world’s international passenger and cargo flights (approximately 85% of aviation activity), requiring the airlines to buy carbon credits or fund projects that offset their greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement is voluntary from 2021 to 2026, and becomes mandatory in 2027.  A Fact Sheet from the White House  explains the nuts and bolts of the agreement. Widely hailed as a first step in  finally addressing the emissions of  the airline industry, the agreement has also been criticized for being too weak. The International Coalition on Sustainable Aviation “recognizes the agreement as a hard-fought political compromise to see that aviation contributes its fair share in the climate change fight, but critical work remains to ensure environmental integrity and broad participation….. countries sent a worrying signal by deleting key provisions for the aviation agreement that would align its ambitions with the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.”  The Coalition’s press release also contrasts the pros and cons of the agreement. See also overview at Think Progress ; and an article in Climate Home   which summarizes responses from environmentalists and the industry.  The International Council on Clean Transportation, (the folks who exposed the VW diesel scandal), point to a superior route: rather than shifting emissions around, airlines should adopt new technologies, as airplanedescribed in their September  report, Cost assessment of near- and mid-term technologies to improve new aircraft fuel efficiency  .

The large air carriers in Canada are members of the National Airlines Council of Canada, who in 2005 signed a joint industry-government Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and in 2012 partnered with the federal government in  Canada’s Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aviation. See the NACC website for details of the technological and operational measures taken to reduce emissions to date.   For Air Canada, see their Corporate Sustainability Report for 2015 here.

More proof that green buildings are better for workers

The health impact of  green workplaces was the subject of a new article,   The Impact of Working in a Green Certified Building on Cognitive Function and Health  , by researchers at the  Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and SUNY Upstate Medical University. Researchers studied 109 workers at 10 buildings and found that employees who worked in certified green buildings had higher cognitive function scores, fewer sick building symptoms and higher sleep quality scores than those working in non-certified buildings.  The research was sponsored by United Technologies.  For an overview of ongoing research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health , go to its Nature, Health and the Built Environment website . Other related information is available at the World Green Building Council’s “Better Places for People” website .

From a management point of view, an article in the Harvard Business Review, “Air Pollution making office workers less productive”  (September 29) reports on the effect of air pollution on call-center workers at Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency. The authors conclude that these office  workers are 5%–6% more productive when air pollution levels are rated as “good” (an Air Quality Index of 0–50) versus when they are rated as unhealthy (an Air Quality Index of 150–200). Productivity was measured by completed calls each day, length of breaks, and time logged in.

All this points to the importance of green building.  World Green Building Week  began on September 26, 2016 – preceded by an agreement amongst the national green building councils from 10 countries (including Canada)  to adopt zero net carbon certification programs by the end of 2017.  See the World Green Building Council press release for a description of the meetings, including the definition of “zero net carbon” (ZNC)  as advanced by the architectural network, Architecture 2030   .

Why has the Dakota Access Pipeline become a divisive issue for U.S. Labour?

Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota are continuing, according to Democracy Now on October 7.  On October 5, three U.S. federal judges heard arguments  over whether to stop the construction, but they are not expected to make a ruling for three or four months.  Meanwhile, Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability released a new post , Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor,  which asks “Why has this become a divisive issue within labor, and can it have a silver lining for a troubled labor movement?”  The article discusses the AFL-CIO’s  statement  in support of the pipeline, and points to the growing influence of the North America’s Building Trades Unions’ within the AFL-CIO through their campaign of “stealth disaffiliation”.  It also cites an “ unprecedented decision” by the Labor Coalition for Community Action,  an official constituency group of the AFL-CIO , to issue their own statement in support of the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in direct opposition to the main AFL-CIO position. The Climate Justice Alliance, an environmental justice group of 40 organizations, has also written to the AFL-CIO in an attempt to begin discussions.  Brecher’s article concludes that the allies and activist members of the AFL-CIO are exerting increasing pressure, and asks “Isn’t it time?” for a dialogue which will shift direction and build a new fossil-free infrastructure which  will also create jobs in the U.S.    For unions interested in supporting the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a sample resolution for local unions is available from the Climate Workers website.

Canada votes to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Climate Agreement will enter into force on November 4, 2016, now that 73 nations accounting for nearly  57%  of GHG emissions have formally ratified it: most recently, India, the European Union and Canada.  According to an October 5 article in The Guardian, even if Donald Trump were to win the U.S. presidency, the U.S. would be locked into the commitment for four years at least. See also “The Paris Climate Agreement is entering into force. Now comes the hard part ” from the Washington Post (Oct. 4). Next step: the COP 22 meetings scheduled for Marrakesh, Morocco from November 7 – 18, which  will  include the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1).

In Canada,  Members of Parliament voted by a margin of 207 to 81 to approve the Paris Agreement on October 5  – see the brief  government press release, or  read  the CBC report; or  coverage at the National Observer , or the Globe and Mail .  Transcripts of the debates in the House of Commons are here,  for October 3  (Trudeau’s carbon pricing speech) , October 4 and October 5  (when the vote was held) .

Leading up to the Paris vote, in what has been called a “bombshell”, “ultimatum”, and “his government’s most consequential and surprising day to date”   , Prime Minister  Trudeau announced  the “Pan-Canadian Approach on Pricing Carbon Pollution”  in the House on October 3, requiring  that provinces implement either a carbon tax (at a  minimum price of $10 a tonne in 2018, rising each year to $50 a tonne by 2022) or a cap and trade system.  “If neither price nor cap and trade is in place by 2018, the government of Canada will implement a price in that jurisdiction” . Provinces will retain revenues from whichever system they choose to implement.

An article at the CBC   states that, “Trudeau’s pre-emptive announcement landed like a grenade”  in the midst of the the Canadian Council of Environment Ministers’  meeting in Montreal, being chaired by Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna.     Delegates from Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia walked out of the room.  For a summary of the political fight, see “Premiers draw battle lines as Trudeau seeks support for carbon-pricing plan”  in the Globe and Mail (Oct. 4). And see the Alberta government press release   of October  3,  which states , “Alberta will not be supporting this proposal absent serious concurrent progress on energy infrastructure, to ensure we have the economic means to fund these policies…..Albertans have contributed very generously for many years to national initiatives designed to help other regions address economic challenges. What we are asking for now is that our landlock be broken, in one direction or another, so that we can get back on our feet.”   A tough demand to meet, according to David Hughes’ report in June  “Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep Its Climate Change Commitments?” .

Some reactions to the federal carbon pricing announcement:  From the Canadian Labour Congress:   “The CLC applauds carbon pricing targets …. “As a next step, the CLC calls for a federal strategy to guarantee new opportunities for workers and communities impacted by the transition to a low-carbon economy.”  From the Climate Action Network ;  from the Pembina Institute  (“Pan-Canadian carbon price is big, positive news for economy and environment” );   from DeSmog Canada   (The Good, bad and the ugly)   .  Generally supportive reaction also came  from Smart Prosperity, a group composed of  twenty-two prominent business and civil society leaders (including WWF, Broadbent Institute, Clean Energy Canada, and the Pembina Institute) .   Yet Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis  nails it in  “A Reality Check on a national carbon price”  ( October  4) :    “It’s good news that Canada is starting to listen to climate science, but we are still left with a problem around the climate math”  – which requires  no new fossil fuel infrastructure.    Bill McKibben, populizer  of the term “climate math”, also panned the Trudeau announcement in the National Observer on Oct. 3.  Read McKibben’s article  “Recalculating the Climate Math: The numbers on global warming are even scarier than we thought”   in the New Republic (September 22),which updates his earlier, frequently cited piece.

A useful overview  to understand the Canadian situation: Race to the Front,  released by the Pembina Institute on September 28, with recommendations for the politicians and policy-makers  in their Fall  working meetings to finalize  a “Pan Canadian”  policy.  Race to the Front summarizes Canada’s progress at reducing carbon pollution over the last decade, evaluates trends in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and summarizes existing national and provincial  climate policy .