The Clean Growth Century Initiative has launched a series of OpEd’s with a February 20 post, A New Economy and a Fair Transition for Workers authored by Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress; Robert Walker, Vice President, ESG Services and NEI Investments; and Steven Fish, Executive Director, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. They write: “Canadian workers — and not only those in the fossil fuel sector — have seen a rise in job insecurity and a decline in good-quality employment in recent years. By implementing a clean growth shift, Canada can and must improve prosperity in a broad-based way. Anything less risks a breakdown of the political conditions that lead to climate action.” The authors call for policy development that will address both climate change and economic inequality, and that involves communities, labour organizations, businesses and civil society. This statement also appears as part of the IRPP Policy Options Special Issue for February “Public Policy towards 2067“.
A new report from Smart Prosperity (formerly Sustainable Prosperity) contrasts the advantages and features of a Renewable Fuel Standard – in force federally and in five provinces – with a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, in force in Canada only in British Columbia . The discussion is timely, given that the federal government and the province of Ontario are both considering Low Carbon Fuel Standard policies. In “ How a Low Carbon Fuel Standard could reduce your GHG footprint without you even noticing”, Smart Prosperity answers “what it is” and “what it does” questions; its Policy Brief discusses the complex questions of policy design, “ particularly around regional impacts, equity concerns, cost effectiveness, and innovation impacts”. Read also the Ontario Discussion paper: Developing a modern renewal fuel standard for gasoline in Ontario . The federal government posted a clean fuel standard Backgrounder about its goals (November 2016), which include using life cycle analysis of fuel production, and extending coverage beyond transportation fuels. Other jurisdictions which use a LCFS include California, Oregon, and the state of Washington.
UPDATE: On February 23, Friends of the Earth released a discussion paper, Working Towards A Clean Fuel Strategy for Canada:Key Questions . The subtitle says a lot: How to make a Canadian Clean Fuel Strategy more than a cosmetic exercise to sanitize the image of the oil industry. Noting that Environment and Climate Change Canada has provided only vague information so far in its consideration of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Friends of the Earth states its concern that an inadequate policy could greenwash the use of fossil fuels and thus prolong their use , rather than supporting a just transition off fossil fuels and stimulating the development of alternative fuels. The discussion paper is a thorough review of past experience with biofuel and ethanol policies .
On February 15, the European Parliament adopted draft reforms of the EU’s emission trading system (ETS), the centrepiece of European emissions reduction policy – choosing the less ambitious proposal of a reduction on the cap on emissions of only 2.2% per year until at least 2024. Climate Action Network Europe’s Letter to Policymakers ahead of the vote outlined the arguments and proposals for environmentally-ambitious change, including a higher price on carbon and inclusion of the cement, aviation and shipping industries. Its reaction after the vote stated: “It is shocking that the Parliament chose to bow to the interests of polluting industries instead of protecting citizens from a catastrophic climate breakdown. The Parliament has completely failed the first test of its commitment to the Paris Agreement. The proposed reforms will keep the carbon market ineffective for a decade or more. We urge progressive EU governments to finally turn the ETS into a functioning tool and create a stimulus to ditch old models and move to green economy.” One of the three reforms urged by 31 environmental organizations in an Open Letter to the MEP’s in November 2016 had been the establishment of the Just Transition Fund for communities and regions which need support to transition away from coal. The reforms will be debated next at the Council of Environment Ministers on 28 February; the EU’s 28 governments must negotiate further to finalize the legislation.
Getting it Right: A More Energy Efficient Alberta is the final report of the government’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel , and “ a road map for creating jobs, diversifying the economy and saving Albertans money” according to the government press release on January 23 . All programs will be coordinated through the newly-created agency, Energy Efficiency Alberta ; three programs are already underway, using revenue from the Alberta carbon levy to provide incentives or rebates for energy-saving appliances and equipment, solar panels, and retrofitting . The Energy Efficiency Alberta mandate also extends to community-owned renewable energy systems and non-utility scale community energy systems; the Panel report proposes short-term and long-term financial incentives to support community wind and other renewable energy installations, along with complementary technologies such as storage and smart grid applications.
The Getting it Right report also includes a goal of increased “capacity development”, which “can take the form of post-secondary education and training, professional development and training activities, conferences and other events” to improve energy-related skills. The report includes an appendix of the energy-related research programs in Alberta universities. Summaries of the public discussions are here ; a submissions library here constitutes an impressive collection of information about energy efficiency.
In British Columbia: a success story of a community-owned solar farm in the city of Kimberly, highlighted in Clean Energy Review. Sunmine is “ BC’s largest solar project, Canada’s largest solar tracking facility, and the first solar project in B.C. to sell power to the BC Hydro grid.” Citizens of the city approved the project in a referendum in 2011; city administrators managed the planning and financing; and the mining company Teck provided the land and infrastructure of its reclaimed Sullivan Mine Concentrator site, plus $2 million. Since it began operation in 2015, Sunmine has won numerous awards, including Community of the Year Award by Clean Energy BC in 2015, and in 2017, the Clean 50 award for outstanding contributions to clean capitalism. A short video about the Sunmine project by Green Energy Futures is here .
Public hearings by the Expert Panel on the Modernization of the National Energy Board began in Saskatoon in January and will conclude in Montreal at the end of March (the schedule is here ). With transparency and accountability a key concern about the NEB, it is surprising that no transcripts or submissions will be made available online, only government- prepared summaries . Fortunately, press reports are providing the public with some information: an important example, a report by Andrew Nikoforuk from the Vancouver hearings appeared in The Tyee on February 9, summarizing the testimony of Marc Eliesen, a former chair of Ontario and BC Hydro and a critic of the NEB since the 2014 Trans Mountain Pipeline hearings. As quoted in “Time to Reform Our ‘Captured’ National Energy Board, Says Expert” , Mr. Eliesen reiterated his earlier criticism that the NEB a “captured regulator” that no longer operates in the public interest. “The attitudinal bias that stems from a close interaction between NEB board members, NEB staff and the energy industry, means the goals and aspirations of the Alberta energy sector have become those of the board.” Eliesen recommended that all current NEB board members should be replaced by people from a broader range of expertise, not just the oil and gas industry. He also recommended that the NEB’s head office be moved from Calgary back to Ottawa. In “How to Fix the National Energy Board, Canada’s ‘Captured Regulator’” , DeSmog Blog (Feb 8) also summarized Eliesen’s testimony, as well as that of Eugene Kung, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.
Proposals for improving the discredited NEB have come from a Pembina Institute report: Good Governance in the era of low carbon: a Vision for a modernized National Energy Board . From Pembina: “significant reforms to the NEB Act, and to the operating culture and practices at the Board, are required.” The report lays out 9 essential conditions to transform energy regulation, including : “Energy regulators must be independent of bias and interferences from government and non-government stakeholders. …Energy regulators should proactively and predictably support involvement of all interested parties and the public as a fundamental component of evidence gathering, decision-making and monitoring.” Environmental Defence has also weighed in with “Six key ways to modernize energy regulation in Canada”, and has also called for the restart of the Energy East Pipeline review process to wait until new rules for the NEB are in place. (the previous Energy East Review was declared void in January 2017). The report and recommendations of the Expert Panel on Modernization of the National Energy Board is scheduled for submission to the Minister of Natural Resources by mid-May 2017.
A whiff of the bias that so many have noted at the NEB continues, in one of the “related documents” provided at the Expert Panel website: the Interim Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, titled Pipelines for Oil: Protecting our Economy, Respecting our Environment (Dec. 2016). It begins: “Petroleum pipelines, like highways, railways and power line corridors, are long established in Canada. They are instrumental to the quality of life and the standard of living we enjoy in Canada today. Pipelines have no equal when it comes to the safe, reliable and cost-efficient movement of petroleum over long distances. They are critically important to the creation of wealth in Canada and their use and development are in the public interest and the greater good of all Canadians.” It pronounces on the concepts of social license, the public good, confidence in the regulatory process, then proposes an oil transportation strategy which includes pipelines and tankers. From the conclusion: “The Committee believes that new pipelines will act as a lifeline to the Canadian economy, which has been hard hit in the oil and gas sector. Pipelines to the east and west coasts will ensure that Canadian oil producers get the full value of this resource on world markets, reduce refineries’ dependence on oil imports and improve public safety. The Committee has made recommendations to Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Committee believes that these recommendations will help form a strategy to improve public confidence and break the paralysis preventing the construction of pipelines in Canada.”
A sold-out conference on February 11 in the U.K. brought trade unionists and environmental and human rights groups together to consider the plight of climate refugees. “Climate Refugees – The Climate Crisis and Population Displacement: Building a Trade Union and Civil Society Response” was led by the UK’s Campaign Against Climate Change and Friends of the Earth UK , and supported by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) , Fire Brigades Union, Unite, Unison, National Union of Teachers, and others. The existential threat of natural disasters (including the fires at Fort McMurray in Alberta) was cited, and delegates were told that in the past six years over 140 million people have been displaced through climate-related disasters – one person every second.
The goal of the conference was “to dispel myths about refugees, debate the need for the need for a global response based on justice and solidarity including the need for legal protection for those being displaced by the climate crisis, and discuss how we can build a powerful movement that can demand stronger government leadership on this fundamental issue.” The Conference agenda is here , and includes a sign-up opportunity for those who want to be updated on related news ; a summary of some presentations is here .
The Labourers International Union of North America (LiUNA) , under the leadership of Terry Sullivan in the U.S., is known for its support of the recent Trump-government decisions to proceed with the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline . Taking a greener position, on February 6, the pension fund of LiUNA in Canada committed to provide $200-million in investment funding for NRStor, a Canadian energy storage company, which among other projects, plans to market the Tesla Powerwall in Canada. See the NStor press release or a Globe and Mail article (Feb. 6) which quotes LiUNA international vice-president Joe Mancinelli: “We believe energy storage is a key enabler of our future energy system, and welcome the opportunity to invest capital into low-carbon assets on behalf of our pension fund.” The LiUNA Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada is a multi-employer fund with $5.7-billion in assets under management.
Wind installations in Canada have grown by 18% in the last 4 years, according to the latest statistics released in February by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). There are now 285 wind farms, made up of 6,288 wind turbines in Canada, representing about $1.5 billion in investment. Most wind projects are in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. The greatest growth occurred in Nova Scotia in 2016, mostly driven by the province’s community feed-in tariff program. An article by the UBC Sauder School of Business summarizes the results with emphasis on British Columbia: “B.C. Lags during banner year for wind power” .
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) also released new statistics, on Feb. 9, showing that wind has surpassed hydropower dams to become the largest source of renewable electric capacity in the U.S., and the fourth largest overall. Texas is the undisputed leader in wind energy, with 25% of the national capacity and nearly 25% of the jobs – including at 40 wind manufacturing facilities in the state. The industry report points out that “Of the $13.8 billion invested by the U.S. wind industry last year, $10.5 billion was invested in low-income counties”, making rural and Rust Belt America among the greatest beneficiaries of wind power development.
The European industry body, WindEurope, released its latest statistical report on February 9th, showing “The cost of wind power continues to plummet, and this is particularly the case for the European offshore sector, which has met and exceeded its 2020 price targets by a substantial margin, and five years early. ” In “Off-shore wind moves in to energy’s mainstream”, the New York Times provides an overview, mostly of Europe, and observes, “Offshore wind still represents only a tenth of new generation in the sector, …but investment in the industry nearly tripled in the five years to 2015.”
Finally, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) published its annual statistics report in the first week of February; the 4-page statistical overview is here . It reveals that China is leading the way in installed wind power (34.7% of global installed power) , followed well behind by the United States ( 16.9%) , Germany (10.3%), and India (5.9%) . Canada ranks 7th with 2.4% of global installed capacity.
SOLAR INDUSTRY: According to the 2017 edition of the Solar Jobs Census released by the Solar Foundation on February 7, more than 51,000 solar industry jobs were added in the U.S. in 2016 – bringing the total number of Americans working in the industry to 260,000. A Bloomberg News summary of the report , “U.S. Solar Industry clamors for workers as employment climbs by 25% “, quotes the Executive Director of the Solar Foundation : “Solar manufacturing, installation, and operation now “employ more [Americans] than Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple combined…These are well-paying, family-sustaining jobs with low barriers to entry, with average wages at US$26 per hour for solar installation.”
The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is also bullish on the industry in its 4th Quarter “US Solar Market Insight” report , conducted by GTM Research and the SEIA. It shows a record-breaking number of solar installations in 2015, so that the U.S. now hosts more than 1.3 million solar photovoltaic installations with enough capacity to power 8.3 million households. The report states: “While U.S. solar grew across all segments, what stands out is the double digit gigawatt boom in utility-scale solar, primarily due to solar’s cost competitiveness with natural gas alternatives.”
For a comprehensive overview of employment statistics for all sectors of the renewable energy industry, see the Jobs in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet, released by the Environmental and Energy Institute (Washington, D.C.) in February. The Fact Sheet compiles statistics from many sources, though it relies heavily on the U.S. Department of Energy report, U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) (January 2017), and the Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review (2016) from International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) .
In a new discussion paper released in January by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED), authors Sean Sweeney and John Treat argue that momentum has not really shifted away from fossil fuels, and the optimistic, “green growth” narrative is overstated. Analysing a wide range of major data sources about the global energy system, the authors conclude that optimism in a clean energy revolution is “misplaced, misleading, and disarming. It must therefore be rejected, and replaced with a more sober perspective that draws hope and confidence not from a selective and self-deceiving interpretation of the data, but from the rising global movement for climate justice and energy democracy, armed with clear programmatic goals and a firm commitment to achieve them.”
The authors of Energy Transition: Are we winning? give credit to unions and activists for their demands to extend public control and social ownership to power generation, and for opening up a global debate about the need for just transition measures. However, they call for the union movement to address its “ambition deficit” towards the deep restructuring of the global economy required for ambitious deployment of renewable energy. Energy systems controlled by ordinary people in partnership with well-run and accountable public agencies are needed to truly move the world away from fossil fuels.
In British Columbia: On February 2, with a provincial election approaching in the Spring, the Leader of the B.C. New Democratic Party announced a new Clean Growth Climate Action plan , based on “The core principle that we must mitigate financial impacts of the federal government’s carbon pricing increases on low and middle income families, which the Plan proposes to provide relief for 80% of B.C. families.” … After family rebates are paid, the plan proposes to “invest the remaining carbon tax revenues in good jobs building public transit, expanding clean and green technology industries, and building energy efficient construction in every B.C. community.” A complete summary, along with reaction from environmental experts, appears in “BC NDP climate plan ‘shows real action,’ say environmentalists” in the National Observer (Feb. 3). Reaction from the Pembina Institute : “We are pleased to see the commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Premier’s Climate Leadership Team… — in particular, the pledge to adopt the proposed 2030 target and sector-by-sector targets for emissions. ”
In Ontario: On February 3, Ontario announced the success of an $800 million green bond issue with a maturity date of January 27, 2023. This is the third issue of Green Bonds by the province- the first, in 2014, financed the Eglinton Crosstown LRT; proceeds from the third issue will go “to help build clean transportation and environmentally friendly infrastructure projects in communities across the province.” For an overview of the province’s Green Bond program, see the Ministry of Finance website. Annual newsletters summarize progress and provide details of the first two issues: 2015 edition and the 2016 newsletter released in December 2016.
Ontario also announced tweaks to the payment caps of its Electric Vehicle Incentive program on February 1, and pledged to continue annual reviews of the program (next in Fall 2017). The EVIP provides incentives of $6,000 to $14,000 to support the purchase or lease of eligible battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive Program provides up to an additional $1,000 to EVIP recipients toward the purchase and installation of fast-charging equipment for the home or workplace.
The deliberately-executed distraction and turmoil of President Trump’s policies in the U.S. threaten and weary us all, at the same time that well-planned resistance is most necessary. Long-time activist Frances Fox-Piven wrote in The Nation in January, before the Inauguration, “Throw sand in the gears of everything”, reflecting on past resistance movements in U.S. history, including civil rights and the Vietnam War. She asks, “ So how do resistance movements win—if they win—in the face of an unrelentingly hostile regime? The answer, I think, is that by blocking or sabotaging the policy initiatives of the regime, resistance movements can create or deepen elite and electoral cleavages”. Fox Piven puts strong hope in the actions of state and local governments, as well as citizen action. She also points to the defining protest which finally turned government policy on the Vietnam War: soldiers refused to followed orders.
In “Where’s the best place to resist Trump? At Work” ( Washington Post ,Jan. 31; re-posted to Portside) the authors argue that “ From solidarity strikes to slowdowns and sit-ins, workplace revolt is a key strategy in opposing the new administration”. Describing some of the early anti-Trump protests, they state: “These actions are indispensable, and may form the seeds of a new movement, but people should not ignore one of the most powerful means of resistance and protest that they have: their roles as workers.” Federal workers are not the only ones with the power to resist and disrupt, though federal workers are leading the way with courageous initiatives such as information leaks and alternative Twitter accounts. The longshoremen in Oakland, California for example, declined to report for work on Inauguration Day : see “Want to Stop Trump? Take a Page From These Dockworkers, and Stop Work” in In These Times (Jan. 23). Or read “Some New York Taxi Drivers Are Striking In Protest Of Trump’s Refugee Ban” in Buzzfeed (Jan. 29).
Resistance by federal workers is described in “In Show of Internal Dissent, Federal Workers Rising Up Against Trump” a February 1 article from Common Dreams. Another ongoing, public form are the many “rogue” Twitter accounts, started by the National Parks Service ,and now including very active accounts at alt_EPA (with over 300,000 followers), alt_Interior , alt_NOAA , alt_DOL , and more. Ironically, they form a goldmine of activist information. But beware of trolling accounts and imposter accounts.
Other web sources to follow U.S. developments, especially those related to climate change and environmental regulations, are: Climate Central ; Common Dreams ; Democracy Now: Donald Trump Coverage ; Inside Climate News; Think Progress ; and 350.org . Also notable, Deregulation Tracker , where the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law (Columbia Law School) is monitoring changes to legislation and regulations, and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative , which is monitoring, documenting, and analyzing changes to approximately 25,000 federal websites using proprietary software that allows them to track changes to the language and code. Climate Central published “The EPA Has Started to Remove Obama-era Information” (Feb. 2) based on the EDGI monitoring.
Expect the Unexpected: The Disruptive Power of Low-carbon Technology is a new report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative. The report models energy demand by combining up-to-date solar PV and electric vehicle cost projections with climate policies based on the UNFCC Nationally Determined Contributions statements. The results are contrasted with the current “Business as Usual” scenarios of the major fossil fuel companies, and demonstrate how Big Oil underestimates the impact of solar and EV technologies. Expect the Unexpected forecasts peak oil and gas by 2020, with electric vehicles accounting for over two-thirds of the road transport market by 2050, and states that Solar PV “could supply 23% of global power generation in 2040 and 29% by 2050, entirely phasing out coal and leaving natural gas with just a 1% market share.”
The report and addresses the question, “What contribution can accelerated solar PV and EV penetration make to achieving a 2°C target?” It provides various scenarios, but concludes that decarbonisation of heavy industry (specifically iron and steel, cement, chemcials) will also be required and essential. On this front, the report states that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is unlikely to be financially viable in power generation, but “ In non-power sectors such as heavy industry, however, CCS is likely to have a much more important role because there are currently few viable low-carbon alternatives for achieving deep decarbonisation. Furthermore, if CO2 can be utilised in other industrial processes, this added value will serve to improve the viability of CCS.”
One such low-carbon alternative for cement production – albeit one which is still in development – is reported in a recent article by University of Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions . Based on the premise that most of the CO2 produced in cement manufacture is not in the kiln-heating process, but rather by the chemical reaction of turning limestone into quicklime, researchers at McGill University in Montreal have developed a building product called Carbicrete, which replaces Portland cement with steel slag (a waste product) as its main binding agent. Read details in “Solving the Thorny problem of Cement Emissions” (Feb. 1).
Use this link to view The Expect the Unexpected main report, a technical report, and an interactive dashboard allowing readers to manipulate elements of climate policy, technology price, and energy demand are available here.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources delivered its report on The Future of Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry in September 2016; see the WCR coverage from September here. On January 19, the Government released its Official Response to the Committee Report, with this introductory statement: “It is clear to our Government that in order for the energy sector to continue to be a driver of prosperity and play a part in meeting global demand for energy, resource development must go hand in hand with the environmental and social demands of Canadians.” Not surprising then, that when Donald Trump opened the door for construction of the Keystone Pipeline on January 24, Justin Trudeau and his cabinet members welcomed the news .
Yet author Marc Lee reinforces what others have stated in his January 25 article in CCPA Policy Notes. “Canada can’t have it both ways on environment” demonstrates that “the amount of fossil fuel removed from Canadian soil that ends up in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide—has grown dramatically. ” Although not technically “counted” in our own emissions reporting under the Paris Agreement, the emissions from Canada’s fossil fuel exports, counted in the countries where they are burned, is greater than Canada’s total GHG emissions within the country. Lee goes on: “Based on our share of global fossil fuel reserves, Canada could continue to extract carbon at current levels for between 11 and 24 years at most (the smaller the carbon budget, the less the damages from climate change). This means a planned, gradual wind-down of these industries needs to begin immediately.”
Marc Lee’s article summarizes a more complete report he authored for the Corporate Mapping Project, jointly led by the University of Victoria, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute. Extracted Carbon: Re-examining Canada’s contribution to climate change through fossil fuel exports updates a 2011 CCPA report, Peddling GHGs: What is the Carbon Footprint of Canada’s Fossil Fuel Exports? in the context of the Paris Agreement and Canada’s contribution to the global carbon budget. It concludes that “Plans to further grow Canada’s exports of fossil fuels are thus contradictory to the spirit and intentions of the Paris Agreement. Growing our exports could only happen if some other producing countries agreed to keep their fossil fuel reserves in the ground. The problem with new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, like Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants and bitumen pipelines, is that they lock us in to a high-emissions trajectory for several decades to come, giving up on the 1.5 to 2°C limits of Paris.” It follows that “Canadian climate policy must consider supply-side measures such as rejecting new fossil fuel infrastructure and new leases for exploration and drilling, increasing royalties, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.”
Acting on a December 2016 Executive Order of Governor Gerry Brown, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment released the first in a series of reports which will examine the impact of the state’s climate change programs on communities designated as “disadvantaged”. The February report, Tracking and Evaluation of Benefits and Impacts of Greenhouse Gas Limits in Disadvantaged Communities: Initial Report measuring the effects of the Air Resources Board’s Cap-and-Trade Program, which regulates greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities and other sources. The report is largely based on 2014 emissions data, and warns that “limited data does not yet allow for comprehensive analysis of the impacts of Cap-and-Trade on disadvantaged communities”. Initial findings however, are that major industrial facilities are disproportionately located in disadvantaged communities; there is a moderate correlation between GHG and other air pollutants, with refineries showing the strongest correlation. California maintains a planning and enforcement tool, CalEnviroScreen, the “ first comprehensive, statewide environmental health screening tool” in the U.S. In late January, California Air Resources Board announced the appointment of its first Assistant Executive Officer for Environmental Justice, with a mandate to ensure that environmental justice and tribal concerns are considered in air pollution policy-making and decision- making.
OPTrust administers the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU ) Pension Plan, with almost 87,000 members and retirees. On January 31, it became a leader in Canadian pension plan administration by releasing two documents: Climate Change: Delivering on Disclosure, a position paper, and OPTrust: Portfolio Climate Risk Assessment, a report by Mercer consultants, which provides an assessment and analysis of the fund’s climate risk exposure . The OPTrust press release states: “For pension funds, climate change presents a number of complex and long-term risks. In Canada alone, pension funds manage well over $1.5 trillion in assets, which brings a real responsibility to collectively seek innovative approaches to modeling carbon exposure and its impact across portfolios.” The position paper, Delivering on Disclosure, includes a call for collaboration amongst other financial actors to develop standardized measures for carbon disclosure. It is noteworthy that OPTrust is governed by a 10-member Board of Trustees, five of whom are appointed by the union, OPSEU, and five by the employer, the Government of Ontario.
In a February 2 press release affecting the pension plans of New York’s public employees, teachers, firefighters and police, the Office of the Controller of New York City announced: “the Trustees of the New York City Pension Funds … will conduct the first-ever carbon footprint analysis of their portfolios and determine how to best manage their investments with an eye toward climate change. In the 21st century, companies must transition to a low-carbon economy, and a failure to adapt to the realities of global warming could present potential investment risks.” The New York City pension system has been a leader in addressing climate change risks, including an initiative called the Boardroom Accountability Project , which began in 2014 to give investors the ability to ensure boards are diverse and “climate-competent”.
On this point, a January 2017 report from Vancouver-based Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) found that “… companies in Canada’s most carbon-intensive sectors are not demonstrating ‘climate competency’ in the boardroom.” The report, Taking Climate on Board: Are Canadian energy and utilities company boards equipped to address climate change? urges greater transparency from boards at publicly-traded corporations, stating “Investors need boards to demonstrate that they are “climate-competent” – that they understand and prioritize climate change risks to long-term value, including the physical, legal, reputational, stranded asset and regulatory risks related to climate change.” The report is based on a review of the public disclosures from 52 companies across Canada’s energy and utilities sectors, using 3 measures: board skills and experience, oversight, and risk disclosure. It concludes that “more companies are starting to talk about climate change in their reporting, but only three boards disclosed any expertise amongst their members on the issue, and no board included climate change knowledge in its board competency matrix.” The full report is here. (On another note, SHARE has walked the walk by filing shareholder resolutions with Enbridge Inc., and met with TD Bank regarding their environmental and social aspects of their investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline. See “The Dakota Access Pipeline and Indigenous Rights.” )
Following on the January 2017 report US Energy and Employment from the U.S. Department of Energy, more evidence of the healthy growth of the clean energy industry comes in a report by the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps and Meister consultants. Now Hiring: The Growth of America’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Jobs compiles the latest statistics from diverse sources, and concludes that “sustainability” accounts for an estimated 4.5 million jobs (up from 3.4 million in 2011) in the U.S. in 2015. Sustainability jobs are defined as those in energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as waste reduction, natural resources conservation and environmental education, vehicle manufacturing, public sector, and corporate sustainability jobs. Statistics drill down to wages and working conditions – for example, average wages for energy efficiency jobs are almost $5,000 above the national median, and wages for solar workers are above the national median of $17.04 per hour. Comparing clean energy with the fossil fuel industry, the report states that the 1.4 million jobs in energy efficiency construction and installation alone is more than double the number of workers in fossil fuel mining, extraction and electric power generation combined. Now Hiring states that for every $1 million invested in building retrofits and industrial efficiency, 8 direct or indirect jobs are created; in comparison, 3 are created by a comparable investment in the fossil fuel industry. This final comparison of job multiplier effect is based on “Green versus brown: Comparing the employment impacts of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and fossil fuels using an input-output model” by Heidi Garrett Pelletier at PERI, and appears in the February 2017 issue of Economic Modelling.