Canadian government announces a phase-out of “traditional” coal-fired electricity by 2030

On November 21, the federal Environment Minister announced  that the four remaining provinces with coal-fired electricity  (Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia) must  speed up the their emissions reduction targets. All traditional coal-fired units (i.e. those without carbon capture and storage)  will be required to meet a performance standard of 420 tonnes of carbon dioxide per gigawatt hour by no later than 2030, and performance standards must be developed  for new units to ensure they are built using efficient technology.  Details are set out in a Backgrounder  .  To allow for flexibility, Equivalency Agreements can be negotiated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act , and both Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan are pursuing such agreements.  Nova Scotia, which announced  on November 21 that  it would  implement a cap and trade system which would  meet or exceed the federal emissions reduction target , will be allowed to continue to use coal in high-demand winter months even after 2030, (with no  specific date set yet for full compliance) .  Saskatchewan, which relies heavily on carbon capture and sequestration technology to meet its recent emissions reduction plan, is “displeased”  about the coal phase-out plan, according to a CBC report .  Alberta has already announced its own plans   for a coal phase-out by 2030, promising  support for workers and communities.  See the “Liberals present plan to phase out coal-powered electricity by 2030” CBC (Nov. 21) for a good overview.

 What does this mean for coal workers?  Currently, coal-fired power  generated at 35 plants represents over 70% of emissions in Canada’s electricity sector, but provides  only 11% of our  electricity.  The coal industry employs approximately 42,000 direct and indirect workers.   In “Canada’s rejection of coal will clear the air but impact workers and power bills” , the CBC (Nov. 22) examines the likely higher  electricity bills in store for consumers, and  the likely job losses.  The CBC article quotes Warren Mabee, a researcher with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project and the associate director of the Queen’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy: he states that many workers in coal mines will be laid off  “while others will shift to extracting metallurgical coal, which is used in the steel-making process.”  It is important to note that the government press release explicitly promises:“ The Government of Canada will work with provinces and labour organizations to ensure workers affected by the accelerated phase-out of traditional coal power are involved in a successful transition to the low-carbon economy of the future.”

Much of the government’s motivation for its initiative comes down to the health benefits of removing pollutants of coal-fired electricity – carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury and other heavy metals .  The Pembina Institute, along with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Canadian Public Health Association   and others, released   Out with the coal, In with the new: National benefits of an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power  on November 21.  The report estimates that a  national coal phase-out by 2030 would prevent  1,008 premature deaths, 871 ER visits, and health outcomes valued at nearly $5 billion (including health and lower productivity costs) between 2015 and 2035.  The Pembina Institute reacted to the government announcement, calling it “timely” and “necessary .  Clean Energy Canada responded with  Quitting coal will drive clean growth and cut pollution.   BlueGreen Canada, which includes the United Steelworkers union, recently published the  Job Growth in Clean Energy report, which recognizes the world-wide decline of the coal industry, and states that, “if properly supported now, Alberta’s renewable energy sector will create enough jobs to absorb the coal labour force”.

How best to boost Electric vehicle sales in Canada?

In his remarks  at the launch  of  the Transportation 2030 policy in November, Minister Garneau stated  “The future of transportation will be in electric cars and vehicles using zero-emission fuels like hydrogen.”   Yet in Canada, electric vehicles are still rare, representing  only 1% of all new vehicle sales and just over 18000 cars in  total in 2015, according to the Global EV Outlook Report 2016 .  A CBC article in August 2016  reported on an internal federal government  report that recommended tax incentives and cash rebates as the best policy means to encourage Canadians to buy cars.   In November,  the  Sustainable Transportation Action Research Team  at Simon Fraser University  published   Canada’s Electric Vehicle Policy Report Card , evaluating  whether existing  provincial  policies are likely to be sufficient to  boost electric vehicle sales to the  levels needed to achieve Canada’s emissions targets.  The report provides  policy “ report cards”  for each province and concludes that  the most effective policies include a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate (as  in California and Quebec), strong and long-duration financial incentives (as in Norway and Ontario), and strong taxation on gasoline or carbon pricing.   The report also notes that municipal governments can also play a role through building regulations and public charging infrastructure deployment.

Toronto’s Greenprint advocates a network of union environmental advocates

In the newly –published Greenprint for Greater Toronto  written by President John Cartwright, the Metro Toronto and York District Labour Council provides a concise and comprehensive overview of  what has been done and what needs to be done to answer climate challenges, with specific examples from Toronto.  The report recognizes that workplaces contribute significant greenhouse gas emissions, and though there are many examples of dramatic workplace improvements around energy use, waste reduction and green procurement in the workplace, there remains much to do.  “The Labour Council is proposing to establish a network of environmental advocates to power the climate change agenda both within workplaces and in society as a whole.”  Environmental representatives “would function in much the same manner as health and safety reps do under current Ontario legislation”, and based on existing models in Canada and Britain, could be involved in “waste audits; supply chain reviews; reviews of the movement of materials; identifying ways to re-use excess energy or heat; suggesting improvements around staff commuting.”   The Greenprint document was promised, and many of the ideas sketched out, in an earlier  Labour Council document:  Labour and Climate Change Statement , January 7th, 2016 : The road did not end in Paris, but goes through it.   To see collective agreement language already achieved to form workplace environment committees and representatives in Canada, go to the ACW database here  . To see British examples, see Go Green at Work: A handbook for union green representatives, published by the Trades Union Congress in 2010 .

Decision approaches for the Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline Expansion

kmpipeline_tanker_route_salish_sea_map_smallThe Liberal government announced a national Ocean Protection Plan  on November 8, investing $1.5  billion over five years,  “to ensure that our coasts are protected in a modern and advanced way that ensures environmental sustainability, safe and responsible commercial use, and collaboration with coastal and Indigenous communities.” Although one of  the goals is “restoring and protecting the marine ecosystems and habitats”, the main thrust appears to emphasize commercial shipping,  maritime traffic, and improved response to tanker oil spills.   A sample of reaction:  An Editorial from the  National Observer “’Ocean protection’ is now code for oilsands pipelines and tanker traffic ” (Nov. 8); “No tanker ban in Trudeau’s $1.5-Billion Coastal Protection Plan”  in The Tyee ; and though Equiterre’s press release strikes a constructive tone, it links the Plan directly to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and subsequent tanker traffic.  As  Chantal Hebert wrote in the Toronto Star,  “it is obvious to everyone following along that he (Prime Minister Trudeau)  was getting some framing in place before green-lighting Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline expansion”.

The Report from the Ministerial Panel for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project  was presented to Natural Resources Minister Carr in early November, the Panel having been appointed by the Minister  in May 2016  to quell  public outrage over the National Energy Board  process. From the Report introduction: “The panel’s mandate was not to test or build social licence for the project. It was to identify what might have been missed in the original review. Appropriate to the panel’s mandate, therefore, this report does not contain specific recommendations. Rather, it provides an overview of input, a reflection of public concern about changing circumstances, and a synthesis of major issues “.   Nevertheless, the panelists managed to say that the Kinder Morgan project “cannot proceed without a serious reassessment of its impacts on climate change commitments, indigenous rights and marine mammal safety. ”   DeSmog blog summarizes the report and commends the Panel .

Others  dispute that the pipeline is even needed, on economic grounds – see Climate Action Network   or Robyn Allan in “Opinion: Premier Notley relies on fiction to push Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion”  in the National Observer (Nov. 14)  . From Vancouver-based   Conversations for Responsible Economic Development  (CRED),  self-described as “fiercely pro-business and pro-economic development” : “It’s crucial that the federal government reject the KM pipeline and instead support sectors in BC that create family-sustaining jobs, make significant tax contributions, insulate the regional economy from boom-and-bust cycles, and promote economic growth compatible with Canada’s national climate commitment.”  See the full CRED report,  What’s Fuelling Our Economy: Is Kinder Morgan’s Proposed Pipeline Inconsistent with New Economic Trends and Realities?

Protests and legal action against the Kinder Morgan project have been going on for years – see our previous WCR coverage here –  but they are intensifying with the upcoming December 19 deadline for a government decision.  In October, 99 protestors were arrested on Parliament Hill, and  British Columbia’s former Premier Mike Harcourt warned in a November interview   that an approval could result in “a  Clayoquot or North Dakota type of insurrection”. A November 17 event hosted by Leadnow.ca  also makes the link: “From Standing Rock to Burnaby Mountain: Can Direct Action Stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline?”.   On November 16,  the Canadian Youth Delegation at COP22 in Marrakech delivered a  petition with 210,000 names opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline; demonstrations and vigils are planned across Canada for November 21, coordinated by 350.org , Leadnow.ca, Greenpeace Canada   , the Council of Canadians    , the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition  and others.  The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is being framed as the acid test for the Liberal government’s environmental position.

 

 

Policy proposals for a greener Canadian economy

canadian-public-policy-42-issue-s1-coverSustainable Prosperity, based at the University of Ottawa, changed its name in October to the Smart Prosperity Institute, and in November  issued one of its first new publications:   Big Ideas for Sustainable Prosperity: Policy Innovation for Greening Growth.   This  is a Special Issue of the journal  Canadian Public Policy , and  reproduces  the papers from a two-day conference at the University of Ottawa.  Some of the papers: “Building the Green Economy ”  by Edward Barbier; “Getting the Institutions Right: Designing the Public Sector to Promote Clean Innovation” by Brendan Haley;  “Let’s Get this Transition Moving” by James Meadowcroft, and  “Accelerating the Take-Up of Climate Change Innovations”  by Ann Dale, which describes the climate innovation of 11 municipalities in B.C.).

Proposals for Alberta: Job creation and a healthier environment

A new report from the Pembina Institute, in cooperation with Blue Green Canada and the Alberta Federation of Labour, discusses the employment potential for renewables in Alberta – and concludes that investing in renewable sources of electricity and energy efficiency would generate more jobs than would be lost through the retirement of coal power. Further jobs still could be created by additional investment in community energy, and further jobs again by investing in long-term infrastructure and electricity grids. Job Growth in Clean Energy – Employment in Alberta’s emerging renewables and energy efficiency sectors   provides detailed statistics and  includes a major section on methodology; Pembina’s job estimates are higher than those of the Alberta government, partly because Pembina’s modelling includes solar energy while the government’s estimates are understood to be based on extrapolating from Alberta’s historic experience with wind. The report makes policy recommendations relevant to the Climate Leadership Plan and the current Energy Diversification Advisory Committee and encourages a speed-up of the phase-out of coal-fired electricity.  (See also a related Pembina report, Canada and Coal at COP22: Tracking the global momentum to end coal-fired power –and why Canada should lead the way ).

A worker-generated  proposal for job creation and GHG reduction is described by Andrew Nikoforuk in “A Bold Clean-Up Plan for Alberta’s Giant Oil Industry Pollution Liabilities” in   The Tyee (Nov. 4)    . The author summarizes the RAFT plan proposed by two workers from Grande Prairie, Alberta.  Reclaiming Alberta’s Future Today (RAFT)   is “a plan for the unionized abandonment, decommissioning,and reclamation of Alberta’s aging and expired fossil fuel infrastructure over the next 50 years…” The Plan begins with a proposal for an expert analysis of the state of liabilities from inactive oil and gas wells and abandoned pipelines – including analysis of the health and environmental effects, and the existing mechanisms to address the problem.

Canada at COP22: Federal Strategy to 2050, and a middle of the road position

The UN COP22 meetings began in Marakkesh on November 7, and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President on November 8 threatened to derail progress.  Yet as the Climate Change News stated on Nov. 18:  “ An oasis of climate commitment in a desert of Trump panic, the UN talks made steady progress on putting the Paris Agreement into action” .  For COP22 coverage, the most complete compilation of day by day events, side events, and documents is at the IISD website ; see also the official COP22 website ; or the news compilations of The Guardian  newspaper , Climate Home , or Democracy Now . There is  even a compilation of the almost 1 million tweets from delegates at Marakkesh .

In the end, on November 18, 111 signatories representing 77.22 percent of carbon emissions had ratified the Paris Agreement, (including Australia  and the U.K. ). The parties issued the Marrakech Action Proclamation    stating, “Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate, and we have an urgent duty to respond. … We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority” and “full implementation” of the Paris Agreement.

What did Canada do at Marrakesh?  Canada’s stated Priorities for COP22 included promoting carbon pricing, linkages of carbon market policies, sub-national carbon market efforts , as well as “mobilizing private sector investment and innovation to accelerate the adoption of clean technology”.  According to an November 14 article in the National Observer, “Delegates in Marrakech say Canada’s negotiators over the past week have been heavily focused on Article 6 of the Paris agreement, which addresses emissions trading between countries.”  On November 16, government press releases, here   and here  announced that Canada will invest nearly $1.8 billion  (as part of an already committed $2.65 billion pledge for climate finance) for  “clean technology, climate-smart agriculture, sustainable forestry, and climate-resilient infrastructure” throughout the world.

Most notably, along with the U.S., Germany, and Mexico , Canada released a mid-Century strategy to achieve an 80% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2050.   In contrast with The U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization issued by the White House ,  Canada’s Mid-Century Long-term Low Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy   “is not a blueprint for action, and it is not policy prescriptive. Rather, the report is meant to inform the conversation about how Canada can achieve a low-carbon economy.”  The document summarizes a full range of the  recent  policy documents,   and modelling analyses with  various scenarios towards deep emissions reductions.   It also states: “Working collaboratively with Indigenous peoples by supporting their on-going implementation of climate change initiatives will be key. Consultations with Indigenous communities must respect the constitutional, legal, and international obligations that Canada has for its Indigenous peoples”,  and “ Canada will need to fundamentally transform all economic sectors, especially patterns of energy production and consumption. Over time, this requires major structural changes to the economy and the way people live, work, and consume.”

Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change hosted an  Indigenous panel at COP22.   Among the  Indigenous leaders present,  Kevin Hart, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, arrived directly from the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations, and spoke of the dangers of further development of pipelines and dams – specifically Keystone XL and the Site C dam in B.C. See “Indigenous leaders call on Canada’s Trudeau to uphold Paris deal ” in Climate Change News(Nov. 18)  and  “Canada Fought to Include Indigenous Rights in the Paris Agreement, But Will Those Rights Be Protected Back Home?” in DeSmog Blog (Nov. 16).

One  evaluation of COP22, from a Canadian point of view, comes from Climate Action Network-Canada, World looks to Canada for exceptional leadership.  “Canada played a solid, steady role at COP22. Canada should be proud of its work to maximize the impact of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, a critically important moment when countries will have a chance to assess their progress and amp up their commitments to rapid greenhouse gas reductions. Canada also made a winning case for more gender-inclusive climate policies, led the charge for an upcoming workshop to discuss economic diversification and jobs, and was one of the first countries to get the ball rolling on its long-term climate strategy.”

“Yet Canada defaulted to middle-of-the-road positions on a variety issues, including climate and adaptation financing…. the time for middle-of-the-road positioning is over….Canada is “past the point where we can trade off a new pipeline against an ambitious building efficiency standard” … “Climate change is now a zero-sum game, and there are no more trade-offs.”

And for an overall summary of developments: Mitchell Beer of Energy Mix in ” ‘Action COP’ Protects Paris Gains Against Trump But Postpones Tough Decisions on Climate Finance, Adaptation”.   The article concludes with reactions from civil society groups, including Oil Change International , which stated:  “The lessons of Marrakech are clear: Don’t look to bureaucrats or climate-denying presidents to take the lead on global climate action…Look to the people in the streets and in communities around the world. These are the people-powered movements resisting fossil fuels and building a renewable energy future, and this is the path to victory.”

Canadian youth are another source of hope:  see  “Canadian youth lay out demands for climate justice”  in the National Observer (Nov. 21), which summarizes the demands of the Canadian Youth Delegation to COP22. Among their 9 demands: A justice-based transition to a green economy, and good green jobs.

At the provincial level:  The government of British Columbia received the UNFCC’s Momentum for Change award for its revenue-neutral carbon tax – although the Pembina Institute makes it clear in an OpEd  that more is needed for B.C. to maintain its climate leadership.  From a November 18 Ontario government press release  we learn that Ontario joined the 2050 Pathway Platform , and met with delegates from Quebec and California  regarding their linked cap and trade markets ,  as well as separate meetings with Vermont and the State of Washington .  Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was reconfirmed as the North American Chair of the  States and Regions Alliance , a network of 25 jurisdictions.  Premier Jay Weatherill of South Australia was confirmed as the Asia Pacific Co-chair.

Who spoke about the issue of Just Transition at COP22?  As detailed  in another WCR post, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)   and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) carried the flag on Just Transition. Surprisingly perhaps, on the eve of the COP22 meetings, the CEO of We Mean Business , wrote A Just Transition to defeat the Populist Politicians  (Nov. 5) summing up the business point of view about Just Transition.  Some excerpts:  “as we move into a low-carbon future, a just transition is needed to ensure that the impact on local employment and economies is managed in a way that allows the obsolete jobs and sectors to be replaced by equally skilled and well-paid, low-carbon jobs. ..Blindness to unintended consequences, or a lack of adequate planning and management to ensure opportunities for local jobs and economies are maximised, could lead to public sentiment quickly turning against the effort to combat climate change.”…”We can’t think narrowly about climate as we go forward, we have to think more politically about the overall balance of jobs and wealth distribution.”….. “A resurgence of protectionism and anti-globalisation is bad for business and likely to slow down positive change. Typically, when populist governments move in that direction they prop up industries that would otherwise die out. Businesses should seek out the new opportunities, rather than ask for the hand-outs that come from government protection.”  We Mean Business, along with the BGroup, is an affiliate of the ITUC Just Transition Centre.

International Trade Union Confederation unveils a Just Transition Centre at COP22

marakkeshThe 22nd meeting of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP22) in Marrakesh Morrocco concluded on November 18, having made dogged progress despite the looming  spectre of President Donald Trump . (see “7 things you missed at COP22 while Trump hogged the headlines“).    150 trade union members from 50 countries comprised a delegation led by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).  On November 18, the ITUC released their assessment of COP22: “ Marrakech Climate Conference: Real Progress on economic diversification, transformation and just transition, but more ambition and more finance needed”   .

The  three “top line” ITUC demands  going in to the meetings can be summed up as:  greater ambition and urgency for action; commitments on climate finance, especially for vulnerable countries, and commitment to just transition for workers and communities. The summary of demands  is reproduced at the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy website and described in detail in the ITUC Frontlines Briefing: Climate Justice COP 22 Special Edition . (Note that one of the case studies in the Special Edition highlights the president of Unifor Local 707A in Fort McMurray, Alberta, who describes the union’s efforts to lobby government, to bargain for just transition provisions, and to sponsor job fairs for displaced workers.)  The union demands are  consistent with the issues  raised in Setting the Path Toward 1.5 C – A Civil Society Equity Review of Pre-2020 Ambition .  The  ITUC is a signatory to the Setting the Path document – along with dozens of other civil society groups, including  Canada Action Network,  David Suzuki Foundation, and Friends of the Earth Canada.

The ITUC Special Edition statement announced “…the ITUC and its partners are establishing a Just Transition Centre . The Centre will facilitate government, business, trade unions, communities, investors and civil society groups to collaborate in the national, industrial, workplace and community planning, agreements, technologies, investments and the necessary public policies.”  The “partners” mentioned include the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the B Team  , an international network of business executives who believe that  “the purpose of business is to become a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit” and We Mean Business,   a coalition of business, NGO and government policy organizations promoting the transition to a low-carbon economy.

As an aside:  The CEO of We Mean Business  wrote A Just Transition to defeat the populist politicians  (Nov. 5), summing up the business point of view about Just Transition.  See excerpts here.

The European Trade Union Congress, a member of ITUC, promoted five demands in its own Position Statement ,  adopted by the Executive Committee on the 26-27 October.  The ETUC demands largely mirror those of ITUC but also call for concrete action to move  the issue of Just Transition from the Preamble of the Paris Agreement, ( where it landed by compromise ) . “The COP 22 must now urge Parties to integrate just transition elements into their national contributions, notably by mandating the Subsidiary Bodies Implementation (SBI) and for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), for they define the terms of this integration.”  The ETUC urges that the ILO   Principles for a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all  provide an internationally recognized reference for governments and social partners concerning just transition.

The Canadian Labour Congress, Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux and Centrale des Syndicats Democratiques in Canada, and the American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) are ITUC affiliates.   Details, pictures, videos are posted on Twitter at #unions4climate.

Provincial Policy updates: Quebec

Electric car London 2013Quebec’s Bill 104 was passed unanimously in the National Assembly on October 26, requiring that  3.5 % of the total number of vehicles sold or leased by car manufacturers in Quebec must be zero emissions vehicles (ZEV), starting in 2018. By 2020, the standard will  rise to 15.5 %. This is a first for Canada, although 10 states in the U.S. have ZEV regulations. See the government’s detailed  press release and background information, or a Summary of Measures of Bill 104.

Provincial Policy updates: New Brunswick

On October 24, the Final Report of the Select Committee on Climate Change was tabled by the Legislative Committee.  The report,  New Brunswickers’ Response to Climate Change , is built on community consultations based on a discussion paper  from April 2016 . Amongst the recommendations of the Select Committee:  a cabinet committee devoted to climate change, as well as climate change legislation, to accomplish the following goals: GHG emissions reduction targets of 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 per cent below 2001 levels by 2050; phase out of  fossil fuel electricity generation by 2030 with a target of 60% for in-province electricity sales from renewable sources by 2030 ; energy efficiency targets for all government owned and funded facilities;  a permanent, independent provincial agency with a mandate for energy efficiency and promotion of renewable energy; a target of 5,000 electric vehicles in the province by 2020 and 20,000 by 2030, and electrifying the government vehicle fleet; focusing on industrial energy efficiency; exploring opportunities for carbon offset markets; and establishing a “made in New Brunswick”carbon pricing mechanism .

 

Provincial Policy updates: Alberta

On November 1,  Bill 25, the Oil Sands Emissions Limits Act becomes the first attempt by any oil-producing jurisdiction to put a cap – in this case, 100 megatonnes per year –  on the emissions from its fossil fuel industry.  According to a National Observer article  the Alberta oilsands currently  emit about 66 megatonnes of greenhouse gases a year, and are expected to  reach 100 megatonnes by 2030. The legislation ensures that this level is not exceeded and gives producers incentives to minimize emissions in order to increase production. The Pembina Institute reacted with tepid approval, calling the legislation a key part of Alberta’s  Climate Leadership Plan.

On November 3, the government announced that it will soon introduce a Renewable Electricity Act, which will set a target of 30 per cent of electricity sourced from renewables  by 2030, and provide the legislative framework for a Renewable Electricity Program .  Projects will be privately funded under the program, and the government forecasts that there will be at least $10.5 billion of new investment by 2030, with at least 7,200 jobs created.   Seeing the writing on the wall, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC), an industry group, has decided to allow wind, solar and other renewable energy companies to become members, according to a CBC report.    The advantages of setting a “30 by 30″target for renewables were outlined in an Open Letter to the Premier from several environmental groups and renewable energy companies in October.

Non-violent climate insurgency: people using the power of the law to protect the planet

Despite the hooplah of Paris and Marakkesh,  a new article by Jeremy Brecher argues that climate protection will never be accomplished by existing government and institutional actors.  “Climate Emergency: Global Insurgency: There is no choice but to escalate today’s campaigns against global fossil fuel infrastructure”  appeared in Common Dreams  on October 14  , and while the author commends the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, (mirrored in Canada by protests against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline) he quotes Bill McKibben that “Fighting one pipeline at a time, the industry will eventually prevail.” Brecher advocates instead what he calls a “global nonviolent constitutional insurgency”.  “A non-violent insurgency, like an armed insurgency, refuses to accept the limits on its action imposed by the powers that be. Unlike an armed insurgency, it eschews violence and instead expresses power by mobilizing people for mass nonviolent direct action….It is not formally a revolutionary movement because it does not challenge the legitimacy of the fundamental law; rather, it asserts that current officials are in violation of the very laws that they themselves claim provide the justification for their authority. Although the established courts may condemn and punish them, constitutional insurgents view their “civil disobedience” as actually obedience to law, even a form of law enforcement.”

Recalling the great civil disobedience campaigns of Gandhi, the American civil rights movement, and Polish Solidarity movement , Brecher points to the current “Break Free From Fossil Fuels” global campaign, begun after the Paris Agreement in 2015, as an encouraging start to the climate insurgency he advocates.   The U.S. organizers of Break Free From Fossil Fuels issued a “Public Trust Proclamation”   which summarizes the principles.  The legal actions inspired by the Urgenda case and  Our Children’s Trust in the U.S. share many of the same values, but apply them in the courts.  Brecher links these two movements in an earlier article, “A new wave of climate insurgents defines itself as law-enforcers“.   Brecher’s 2014 book,   Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival    has been updated and reissued as a free ebook , to make it as widely available as possible to those who want to understand and help halt climate change.

Note:  In Canada, the May 2016 Break Free protests were focused on the Kinder Morgan pipeline (photos still available here ).  Protests are continuing – including sit-ins in the offices of government ministers in November, as even the federal government’s Ministerial Panel Report , released on November 3, raises questions about how the pipeline fits with the government’s commitments on climate change, First Nations reconciliation, and social license for fossil fuel projects. According to Environmental Defence, rejecting Kinder Morgan and restarting the review process after reforming the National Energy Board is the only viable option for the federal government.  The government’s decision is due December 19, and is seen as a defining moment for the Trudeau government to demonstrate a clear commitment to its climate goals, rather than a compromise with energy/economics.

November 4: An historic day for climate action, but UNEP report calls for stronger IDNC targets

paris-agreement-into-force-nov-4As the Paris Climate Agreement enters legal force on November 4, 2016 , 100 Parties have ratified the agreement, representing 69.47% of the world’s emissions, according to the Paris Agreement Tracker at World Resources Institute.  Carbon Brief provides an “Explainer” of the Paris Agreement process , The Guardian summarizes the significance, and Environmental Defence sums it up with  Now comes the hard part for Canada .

To set the stage for  the world’s climate experts who are  gathering  in Marrakesh for COP22 from November 8 to 17, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)  released its annual Emissions Gap Report , the first assessment to calculate the emissions that will occur under all the pledges made in Paris.  It shows that, even under those reduction pledges, the world is heading to a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4oC this century. The UNEP underlines the urgency and seriousness in its press release: “If we don’t start taking additional action now, beginning with the upcoming climate meeting in Marrakesh, we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy. The growing numbers of climate refugees hit by hunger, poverty, illness and conflict will be a constant reminder of our failure to deliver. The science shows that we need to move much faster.”  Understandably, the Emissions Gap report generated a lot of reaction: see Inside Climate News   , and from Carbon Brief, a warning about the reliance on negative emissions which are included in most scenarios for emissions reduction.

Will Canada heed the UNEP call to countries for stronger  IDNC targets for emissions reduction at into the COP 22 meetings at Marakkesh  ?  There has been no signal of that.  On the clean energy file, however,  the Liberal government  released its Fall Economic Statement  on November 1, including plans for more transit support and a new infrastructure bank with $35 billion of public and private sector money to support green initiatives such as electricity transmission lines and energy storage capacity . Clean Energy Canada commended the government  though few details are available yet.  The National Observer report emphasizes  that lack of detail to date.  The Minister of Transportation has released the Transportation 2030 Plan  , with a section related to  greener transport.  Finally, the federal government announced   on November 2  that it will reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 (with an aspirational goal of accomplishing that by 2025). This will be done  “by strategic investments in infrastructure and vehicle fleets, green procurement, and support for clean technology”. By 2030, the government will  source 100% of the electricity for its buildings and operations from renewable energy sources.  The release also notes that a new group is being established – the Centre for Greening Government – that will track emissions centrally, coordinate efforts across government and drive results to make sure these objectives are met.  See the  Greening Government Backgrounder  here .

Prime Minister Trudeau is scheduled to meet with the provincial and territorial  leaders in early December to advance the  pan- Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Meanwhile, all eyes are also watching the federal decision on the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, also due in December.

 

An Australian view of Just Transition and a clean energy future

A joint report of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)  and the Australian Conservation Foundations (ACF)  models three future scenarios of climate and economic policies,  and estimates that a “strong action” scenario could create one million new jobs and reduce pollution by 80 per cent by 2040.   In releasing  Jobs in a clean energy future on October 26,   the ACF stated: ” it is important to remember Australians should not have to choose between jobs and cutting pollution.”  The “strong action” policies of the report include all of : investing in renewable energy, soil carbon capture, public transport, household energy efficiency, transport infrastructure and the introduction of a price on pollution, as well as investment in industrial energy efficiency and the development of alternative fuel sources such as bio-diesel.  Almost 500,000 of the one million resulting new jobs would be in the electricity, gas and water, construction and health sectors, and employment in construction would be almost double 2015 levels.

The report calls for a Just Transition as part of this scenario, which would include: ” • an equitable sharing of responsibilities and fair distribution of the costs • consultations with relevant organisations – including trade unions, employers and communities, at national, regional and sectoral levels • the promotion of clean job opportunities and the greening of existing jobs and industries, achieved through public and private investment in low-pollution industries and appropriate educational qualifications that enhance workers’ skills• formal education, training and re-training for workers, their families and their communities• economic and employment diversification policies within sectors and communities at risk• social protection measures (active labour market policies, access to health services, social insurances, among others) • respect for and protection of human and labour rights.”

Jobs in a clean energy future is based on modelling by Australia’s National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) and  updates a 2010 report released by the ACTU and ACF:  Creating Jobs – Cutting Pollution, and Green Gold Rush from 2008.  The previous reports advocated similar policies but didn’t define or address Just Transition.

 

A Workers Plan to Transition to Renewable Energy Jobs, based on workers’ views

A Workers Climate Plan, submitted to the federal government its climate change consultations in September, was more publicly launched on November 1  at a solar panel installation training facility in Edmonton, Alberta.  The report by Iron and Earth  is much more than a publicity stunt: it offers serious policy suggestions, and also “gives voice to the workers” by reporting the results of a survey of opinions of Alberta’s energy sector workers.

The Plan is based on  four months of consultation with workers and stakeholder groups in the West, and on the analysis of the more than one thousand responses to an opinion survey conducted online from June to August 2016. These survey responses challenge the stereotype of the oil sands worker: for example, 59% of energy sector workers are actually willing to take some kind of pay cut to transition to renewable energy; 63 % of respondents  said they could shift to renewable projects “directly with some training” and another 16 % said they could shift without any need for retraining; 69% of energy sector workers agree or strongly agree that Canada should make a 100% transition to renewable energy by 2050; 71% believe climate change is the biggest threat facing the global community.

On the policy side, the Workers’ Climate Plan  focuses on the need for upskilling for the energy sector workforce; more manufacturing capacity for renewable energy in Canada; support for contractors and unions that want to transition to renewables; and the integration of renewable technologies into existing energy projects.  As well, the Plan states: “as  we advocate for a just transition of workers into the renewable energy sector, we must also uphold our obligations to First Nations by aligning our campaigns at Iron & Earth with the calls to action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

The Plan says this about the role of unions:”At Iron & Earth we think it is vital that existing energy sector unions are positioned within Canada’s developing renewable energy sector, and take a leading role in the design and implementation of Canada’s transition to renewable energy. The views of unions and associations such as IBEW, IBB, UA, Unifor, USWA, CLC, CUPE, and CAW, among others, on a wide range of issues, including sector regulations, training and employment legislation, will be key in developing a viable strategy to position existing energy sector workers in renewable energy.”

Iron and Earth  was founded in 2015 as a platform for oil sands workers to engage in renewable energy development issues, especially retraining.  From their website: “Our intention is not to shut down the oilsands, but to see they are managed more sustainably while developing our renewable energy resources more ambitiously. ” The  membership includes  workers from a variety of industrial trades, including boilermakers, electricians, pipe fitters, ironworkers, and labourers, and has spread beyond Alberta to include an East Coast chapter in Newfoundland.