Kinder Morgan Pipeline approval: a new chapter in the struggle against pipelines

On November 29, the government of Canada announced  the highly anticipated decision   to approve the expansion of  two pipeline projects:   Line 3 (with 37 conditions) and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project (with 157 conditions). The Northern Gateway project was finally, officially dismissed.

Reaction, focused on Kinder Morgan,  was swift and strong and very critical on many grounds: economic, environmental, and as a betrayal of the rights of First Nations.  The Globe and Mail summarized reaction and quoted a Stand.earth representative that the decision “signals the beginning of a new phase in the struggle against pipelines” – which will include protests, the courts, and the ballot box.  And immediately, on December 1, a rally to support the Dakota Access Pipeline protests expanded to include Kinder Morgan protest, with over 1000 people on the streets of Victoria, B.C., according to the National Observer.  See also “Trudeau’s pipeline approvals spark protests” , which quotes the president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers: “”You can either be serious about climate change, or you can expand the tarsands. But you cannot do both.”  Others have written with the same message: UBC Professor Kathryn Harrison in the Globe and Mail   ; Simon Donner  in  “Blowing the Budget on Pipelines”  (Nov. 30) in Policy Options;  Seth Klein and Shannon Daub of the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis (CCPA) in a Policy Note article, “The New Climate Denialism“;  Tzeporah Berman, “Pipelines of Paris: Can Canada have its cake and eat it too? “. David Hughes’June 2016 report, Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep Its Climate Change Commitments? is again being widely cited.

The same message comes from a a Dec. 13 article, “ With Oil Sands Ambitions on a Collision Course With Climate Change, Exxon Still Stepping on the Gas”  by Inside Climate News (the Pulitizer Prize winning news organization whose reporting has sparked the current U.S. investigations into Exxon).  This highly detailed historical look at Imperial Oil investments and operations in Canada (complete with photos of Murray Westgate), concludes by noting the recent pipelines approvals, and states:  “Canadian officials, who have committed the nation to emissions cuts, continue to promote growth, even though environmentalists say the two are incompatible….Politicans are not being honest with Canadians.”

orcas-against-vancouver-skylineOpposition in the courts – with seven cases already underway – is being led by First Nations.  In an OpEd in the Globe and Mail, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs wrote: “ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to protect the health and safety of Canadians or uphold his government’s vaunted new relationship with First Peoples when he announced approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.”  He stated that there are  more than 10,000 “Coastal Protectors”   who are ready “to do what needs to be done to stop Kinder Morgan”. This is in addition to  the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion  formed  by 50 First Nations and tribes from all over Canada  and the Northern U.S. in in September 2016 – now over 100 –   to work together to stop all proposed tar sands pipeline , tanker and rail projects in their respective territorial lands and waters. And see  DeSmog blog,  “ Federal Liberals Approval of Kinder Morgan Is Final Nail in the Coffin of ‘Reconciliation’ . For a first-person account of First Nations reactions and mobilization, see “Field notes: A week of pipeline action and cross-Canada solidarity” from West Coast Environmental Law.

From Greenpeace :  “With this announcement, Prime Minister Trudeau has broken his climate commitments, broken his commitments to Indigenous rights, and has declared war on B.C. If Prime Minister Trudeau wanted to bring Standing Rock-like protests to Canada, he succeeded.”    Similarly, Common Dreams published  “Kinder Morgan Pipeline Might Be Canada’s DAPL ” (Dec. 4) , and  from ThinkProgress  , ” The next Standing Rock: Fossil fuel battles loom across North America“.

Representing reaction from ground zero, British Columbia:  The B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives blogged: “Trudeau disappoints a generation, betrays rights and title of Indigenous people with Kinder Morgan decision” .  Andrew Nikoforuk wrote in  The Tyee , “Kinder Morgan Approval Insults Democracy, Science and Economic Logic”   (Nov. 30) , that the decision “put his government on a collision course with First Nations and British Columbia’s coastal communities.” Robyn Allan, quoted by Nikoforuk, states:  “Trudeau has out-trumped Stephen Harper.”

 

Provisions for Clean energy and Oil and gas development in Quebec’s Bill 106

Bill 106, An Act to implement the 2030 Energy Policy and to amend various legislative provisions, passed into law in the Quebec National Assembly in a special session on Saturday Dec. 10.  The Bill establishes Transition energetique Quebec (TEQ),an agency to “support, stimulate and promote energy transition, innovation and efficiency and to coordinate the implementation of all of the programs and measures necessary to achieve the energy targets defined by the Government “.   In addition to the clean energy provisions, Bill 106 also introduces new measures concerning the distribution of “renewable natural gas”, and enacts the Petroleum Resources Act, whose purpose is to “to govern the development of petroleum resources while ensuring the safety of persons and property, environmental protection, and optimal recovery of the resource, in compliance with the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the Government.” The Bill establishes a licence and authorization system for the production and storage of oil,  including a requirement for a guarantee to cover the costs of well closure and site restoration.    The Globe and Mail report, “Quebec paves way for oil, gas exploration with new energy plan”  (Dec. 11) highlights opposition by environmental and citizen groups, and states that the provisions regarding oil and gas could  potentially allow for fracking.

Environmental Psychology: Motivating behaviour change and coping with the fear of climate change

A new environmental psychology study released in December concludes that the most effective programs to encourage climate-friendly behaviour such as reducing energy consumption are those in which financial incentives (rebates, or cheaper prices) are paired with appeals to personal identity and values.  The authors of  Social Mobilization: How to Encourage Action on Climate Change  review  four decades of  psychological research and find  strong empirical support for employing a number of strategies : providing tailored information, soliciting commitment (e.g. pledges), recruiting leaders from within social networks, giving feedback,  and using a variety of other social influence strategies .  This report highlights several successful large-scale programs as models – mostly by utility companies in the United States .  The study was financed and published by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), University of Victoria.  A related, longer report by one of the authors, Reuven Sussman, was  published in October 2016 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  Behavior change programs: Status and impact  is here  (registration required, free).

Another recent study of found that the moral values of compassion and fairness influenced an individual’s willingness to take personal action to mitigate the effects of climate change.  The authors, from Cornell University, showed that participants who were younger, more liberal, and reported greater belief in climate change, also showed increased willingness to act on climate change.  Ingroup loyalty and authority were not supported as important predictor variables. However, the authors state  :   “Our finding that willingness to take action on climate change was related to moral values embraced by both liberals and conservatives suggests that it is too simplistic to use political ideology alone to predict support for climate change action. ”  The full article, “Which Moral Foundations Predict Willingness to Make Lifestyle Changes to Avert Climate Change in the USA?”  appeared in  PLOSOne in October 2016, and was summarized by the Huffington Post in “ Why some people take action on climate change – and others don’t” (November).

Environmental psychology is also turning attention to the growing mental health issues caused by climate change.  The  first-ever International Conference on Building Personal and Psychosocial Resilience for Climate Change was held on November 3-4, 2016 in Washington D.C.  .  Climate Progress reports on the conference  in  “How to stay sane in the face of climate change” ,   and quotes psychiatrist Lise van Susteren: “before people let their fear turn to hopelessness …  it’s critical to tell them that there are actionable things they can do, in their everyday life …. — measuring your own carbon footprint, putting solar panels on your own home, or paying for carbon offsets to counteract your own travel — can help a person take their fear and transfer that energy into positive action.  And that in turn can help mitigate the mental trauma of the reality of climate change.”   Climate Progress also quotes consultant Bob Doppelt, who told the conference  “Psychological traumas of more frequent storms, floods, and fires associated with climate change, as well as toxic stresses — long term heat waves and droughts, food shortages, involuntary migration, loss of community and breakdown of culture — are eroding personal protective systems, amplifying preexisting mental health problems and creating new mental health issues.” Doppelt has recently published Transformational Resilience: How Building Human Resilience to Climate Disruption Can Safeguard Society and Increase Wellbeing .

New Brunswick arrives at First Ministers’ meeting with a new Climate Action Plan

On December 7, the government of New Brunswick released its climate action plan,  Transitioning to a Low-carbon Economy .  It pledges a “made-in-New Brunswick price on carbon and caps on GHG emissions that reflect the reality of the New Brunswick economy”; similarly, the pledge to phase out coal as a source of electricity is “respecting New Brunswick’s economic reality and considering potential financial support from the federal government”. Government operations, facilities and vehicles will become  carbon-neutral by 2030 .  The government pledges to develop working groups with First Nations to address priority actions, and include First Nations representatives on a climate change advisory committee.   Only one day previously, on December 6, New Brunswick issued a press release  reiterating the government’s support for the Energy East pipeline, on the grounds that “An estimated 4,551 direct and indirect jobs are expected during construction of the pipeline, with 321 jobs every year of operation. The potential increase to New Brunswick’s GDP is more than $3 billion.”

New study of Comprehensive Wealth shows Canada’s fossil fuel economy is unsustainable

In a pioneering report, the International Institute for Sustainable Development in December released the first national study of “comprehensive wealth”, by examining  Statistics Canada data from 1980 to 2013. The concept of comprehensive wealth goes beyond the usual wealth measure of Gross Domestic Product and also includes natural, human and social capital.  The IISD study, Comprehensive Wealth in Canada—Measuring what matters in the long run  states that natural capital is the largest component of Canada’s comprehensive wealth  at 80 per cent, but did not grow at all between 1980 and 2013.  What does this mean for Canada?  The report states:  “The need for Canada to measure and understand comprehensive wealth has never been greater. Its development model is based heavily on the exploitation of natural capital, and the country cannot sustain another 30 years of natural capital depletion. Short-term commodity price volatility and the longer-term global shift to a cleaner, knowledge-driven economy mean that future reliance on fossil fuels to underpin the country’s growth is risky. The current debate about fossil fuel projects and pipelines needs, therefore, to include a vision of transformation toward a low-carbon economy.” The IISD  cites a United Nations report which ranks Canada first among G7 nations in terms of the level of comprehensive wealth per capita  but last in terms of growth in comprehensive wealth.

Report Highlights are at the IISD website  ;   the National Observer also summarized the report in “Canada’s slipping national wealth addicted to oil and gas“.  A Commentary article by the report’s  author Robert Smith  appears as “Why Canada’s resource wealth should fuel the economy” in the Globe and Mail ROB  (Dec. 7).

C40 Summit of Mayors and cities’ climate leadership; Toronto receives its “Environmental Report Card”

The C40 Summit of Mayors held in Mexico City in early December occasioned a number of announcements and publications.  The city of Montreal has joined the growing C40 network, according to the Montreal  press release .  Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City announced that they will ban diesel cars from their centres by 2025, according to The Guardian.  A new report, Deadline 2020: How cities will get the job done   provides an analysis and a roadmap of what the 84 global C40 cities need to do to accomplish the goals of the Paris Agreement. It calls for emission reduction from an annual average of above 5 tCO2e per citizen today to around 2.9 tCO2e per citizen by 2030.  A companion report,  How U.S. Cities Will Get the Job Done highlights the nearly 2,400 individual climate actions taken by the 12 current U.S. members of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group over the past decade.  Michael Bloomberg,  former New York City mayor and President of C40, said, “Mayors don’t look at climate change as an ideological issue. They look at it as an economic and public health issue…. Regardless of the decisions of the incoming administration, U.S. mayors will continue to deliver action and lead the way.”

Toronto’s former mayor David Miller was President of C40 in 2008 – but Toronto’s recent Environmental Progress  Report    from the volunteer  Toronto Environmental Alliance    finds that “While we have seen some progress issues like toxics and waste, City Hall is still far from fulfilling their responsibilities on climate change and transportation.” In reviewing the environment-related decisions made by Toronto City Council since the election in Fall 2014, the report  notes that  the current mayor committed to the Paris Agreement, and the Council has committed  to develop a new long-term climate action plan for May 2017 with  an 80% reduction target by 2050. Neither of these actions have any funds associated with them, and the TEA urges Council to “dramatically ramp up funding”.  Toronto’s climate and energy goals, and its current Action Plan, are available here.

Alberta Federation of Labour and the Conference Board agree: Refineries provide jobs

A report by the Conference Board of Canada, Is There Value In Adding Value: An Assessement of the Sturgeon Refinery,  released on December 5, evaluates the business case of the first phase of the Sturgeon Refinery in northeastern Alberta,  designed to process 78,630 barrels per day of dilbit.  The Conference Board uses macroeconomic modelling to conclude that there will be long-term positive effects of the construction and operation of the refinery, in increased GDP, government revenues, and employment opportunities. For the construction phase alone, the report estimates 75,884 person-years of total employment impacts; the operation phase is estimated to contribute 6,658 full-time jobs for the life of the refinery.   An Alberta Federation of Labour  press release  quotes  president Gil McGowan:   “This report confirms what we’ve been saying for years — that adding value to our resources through upgrading and refining makes sense for the province and for the country” .  The AFL had commissioned a report in 2014, In-Province Upgrading Economics of a Greenfield Oil Sands Refinery  , which examined  the potential economics of in-province upgrading of oil sands produced within Alberta.

Canada’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change: an important first step

first ministers.jpgOn December 9, a Communique from the First Ministers of Canada announced the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, following the commitments made in the Vancouver Declaration of March 2016 . The Framework promises that 90 percent of Canada’s energy needs will be met by clean sources by 2030, and  emphasizes carbon taxes and new investment in clean technologies.  For a general summary, see the CBC here  .  Unsurprisingly, Saskatchewan, which has been steadfastly opposed to carbon taxes, refused to sign the agreement; Manitoba, more surprisingly, also refused, and has been accused of attempting political horsetrading by linking support for the climate pact to health care budget needs.  See “Trudeau claims victory on national climate framework”  and  “Inside Christy Clark’s climate change brinksmanship”  in Maclean’s (Dec. 9 &  10) for reporting on what went on behind the closed doors of the premiers’ meeting.

There is scant reference to jobs or workers in the Pan-Canadian Framework.  A weak and unique reference to Just transition appears in this statement on page 40, in the “Section on Clean Technology, Innovation and Jobs”:  “Further development of clean technologies could create new opportunities in Canada’s resource sectors, increase the productivity and competitiveness of Canadian businesses, and create new employment opportunities, while also improving environmental performance. Canada will need to be able to access the skills and expertise of talented workers from around the world to enable Canadian businesses to succeed in the global marketplace. It will also be important to ensure a commitment to skills and training to provide Canadian workers with a just and fair transition to opportunities in Canada’s clean growth economy.” Civil society groups are only vaguely indicated in the statement:  “Governments, Indigenous Peoples, industry, and other stakeholders all have a role to play and must be engaged.”

See a dedicated website with details of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change . The Framework document is here .   The Ministers’ discussions were informed by the reports of the four Working Groups struck following the Vancouver Declaration : the Working Group Report on Carbon Pricing;    the Working Group Report on Clean Technology, Innovation and Jobs;  the Working Group Report on Specific Mitigation Opportunities ; and the Working Group Report on Adaptation and Climate Resilience .

Climate Action Network has compiled responses to the Framework  in “ Civil Society Responds to Release of Canada’s National Framework for Climate Action”;  most reactions reflect the  common theme that this is a commendable good start, but much more is required to meet our Paris commitments.  The comment from the David Suzuki Foundation was also typical:  “For a plan to be credible, it must not send mixed signals about national priorities. Responsible action on climate change means shifting from fossil fuels and diversifying the economy to ensure Canadians have good jobs today and into the future while also protecting the environment.”

The Pembina Institute says specifically:   “We applaud the first ministers’ effort made to date and expect continued collaboration and swift implementation of all recently announced climate measures. In particular, it is essential that provinces work with the federal government to adopt strengthened building codes, to implement an effective clean fuels standard, and to increase the carbon price after 2022.”

The Climate Action Network also cites specifics  in  A Canadian Accountability Mechanism ,   asserting: “Canada must adopt a more ambitious climate pledge (NDC) in 2018, by which time all countries should come up with the tougher actions they will take after 2020. …  “It’s time to break the cycle of empty target-setting in Canada. We know it’s absolutely possible to reach Canada’s current goal of reducing GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. We also know the 2030 target does not represent our fair share of addressing global climate change and that Canada needs to do more. CAN-Rac’s estimations of Canada’s fair share contribution suggests we should be reducing emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 while increasing our contribution to international climate financing to $4 billion/year by 2020.”

The Framework highlights all the right things, including: “ respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, with robust, meaningful engagement drawing on their Traditional Knowledge” , and  “the importance of ongoing collaboration”, “leveraging technology and innovation to seize export and trade opportunities for Canada, which will allow us to become a leader in the global clean growth economy”.  But it is not yet a plan: (“We have tasked our ministers and officials to implement the Framework and report back to us on progress within a year, and annually thereafter.”) Nor will it be implemented quickly: (“ Federal, provincial and territorial governments will work together to establish a review of carbon pricing, including expert assessment of stringency and effectiveness that compares carbon pricing systems across Canada, which will be completed by early 2022 to provide certainty on the path forward. An interim report will be completed in 2020, which will be reviewed and assessed by First Ministers. As an early deliverable, the review will assess approaches and best practices to address the competitiveness of emissions-intensive, trade-exposed sectors.”)    An essay by the Pembina Institute, from the Pembina Institute, “Canada is back” — on Friday, let’s hope for one more time with feeling”  (Dec. 8) anticipates what should be included, and thus   provides a yardstick by which to measure how successful the Framework agreement will be.

Community Benefits Agreement for Light Rail Transit a model for good jobs through infrastructure development

A Community Benefits Agreement for the Eglinton Crosstown  Light Rail Transit project in Toronto is expected to create around 300 jobs for youth, women and minority workers from the low income areas the project traverses.   According to an article  in the Toronto Star, local people “will receive construction and trades training through education centres set up by local unions — who are guaranteeing job placements for those who complete their skills-building programs.”   A Framework Agreement  was first struck in 2014; at that point, the Toronto Community Benefits Network  had proposed that 15 % of employee hours on the Crosstown project should go to people with employment barriers, including women, aboriginal people, racialized workers, and new Canadians.   The new project Declaration ,  finalized on December 7, 2016,   has set the bar at 10% of employee hours, but is being hailed as a precedent-setting example of the community benefits model for large scale infrastructure projects in Canada.  For the first time in North America, this agreement includes professional, administration, and technical jobs as well as skilled construction trades.   The Toronto and York District Labour Council states it best in its press release :  “A Community Benefits Agreement is powerful tool to overcome the historical underrepresentation of minorities and women in the construction industry. Jobs in the construction trades are good, well-paying jobs with benefits and a focus on safety. They can also be green jobs. Most importantly, workers have the opportunity to help build up their communities with the sense of pride, ownership and responsibility that engenders.”

A June 2015 article in WCR describes the community benefits agreement concept, cites examples in Vancouver and Los Angeles, and highlights Ontario’s  Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015.  That Ontario legislation from June 2015 requires “Infrastructure planning and investment should promote community benefits …. to improve the well-being of a community affected by the project, such as local job creation and training opportunities”.

UNFCC Report on Just Transition highlights the work of the ACW

A new technical report by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCCC) “will deepen the international community’s understanding of the need to consider the impact of climate policies on workers, and the essential role that labour unions have in combatting climate change,” according to Carla Lipsig Mummé, in a press release  at the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change (ACW) website. Professor Lipsig Mummé, ACW Project Director and Principal Investigator,  was responding to the recognition in the UNFCC report of  ACW’s unique online database of green collective agreements  from Canada,  the  UK, Australia and the U.S..  “I am delighted that our research, produced through a collaboration of academic and organized labour researchers funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, has contributed to intergovernmental climate change negotiations through the UNFCCC” she stated.

The UNFCC report, Just transition of the workforce, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs describes itself as a step-by-step, “how-to”  guide for Parties, in particular developing country Parties. It  provides a detailed description of the actions and policies of  international organizations such as the UNEP and ILO, but also catalogues the research documents of various sources, including international organizations, research institutes and advocacy groups.   It  utilizes a framework of the qualitative and quantitative impacts of climate change on jobs, and organizes its discussion of mitigation policies using the five principles of a Just Transition, established in the ILO‘s report, Guidelines for a Just Transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all (2015)  .  The contribution of the labour movement is clearly acknowledged.

At a  meeting of ACW international researchers in Vancouver in November, concerns about Just Transition for workers impacted by climate change mitigation measures were high on the agenda. Participants noted with concern that governments are skirting their obligation to assist workers in the transition to a low-carbon economy.