Clean energy investment declining in Canada; and a profile of Calgary’s clean energy economy

clean energy transition takes hold coverClean Energy Canada has released the 2017 edition in its Tracking the Energy Revolution series, on March 30.   The Transition Takes Hold  analyzes clean energy markets around the world, with an emphasis on investment trends.  The report states that global clean energy investment in 2016 totalled C$348 billion, with China, the U.S. and India collectively responsible for half of that amount.  This C$348 billion global clean energy investment represents a 26% decrease from 2015; in Canada, investment fell by 53%, from C$4 billion  to C$2 billion. The decrease, for the second year in a row, sees Canada fall from 9th to 11th place in the world for clean energy investment. To provide context, the report states that Canada already derives 80% of its power from emissions-free sources, and that fact, coupled with relatively stable demand for electricity, limits the need or opportunity for new investment. The opportunities for growth clearly lie in export markets.

The Transition takes Hold provides some estimates for employment in clean energy, based mostly on the 2016 Renewable Energy and Jobs publication by the  International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).  Since Canada is not an IRENA member, the report states only that in 2015, Canada was home to 10,500 jobs in wind and 8,100 in solar PV – but no source for that information is provided.  Based on figures from the U.S. Department of Energy, the report states that  the solar industry created one out of every 50 new jobs in the U.S. in 2016,  with wind turbine technician as the country’s  fastest-growing occupation.

At the local level, and  providing a window into the growing green culture of Alberta, is Calgary Region’s Green Energy Economy: Summary Report , published by the Calgary Economic Development department.   It states that the city’s green energy economy was responsible for generating $1.78 billion in gross domestic product, and employed approximately 15,470 jobs in 2015, equal to 1.8% of all workers in the Calgary Economic Region.  The report points out that “Calgary is a well-established ‘talent hub’ of high-value added, service-oriented workers that are experienced in the energy industry”, with the suggestion that the traditional energy sector provides a talent pool for the growing green sector. For this report, the green energy economy is categorized into four sub-sectors: renewable power supply and alternative energy; energy storage and grid infrastructure; green building and energy efficiency; and green transportation, and for each sub-sector, the report provides statistics as well as “on the ground” information about existing companies , supply chains, policies and programs . Green building and energy efficiency account for the largest GDP and number of jobs.   Interesting Appendices include a SWOT analysis, and a brief comparative look at policies of other cities around the  world.   Research and analysis was conducted by The Delphi Group.

Calgary_skyline _Kevin_Cappis

Calgary Skyline by Kevin Cappis.  Creative Commons 4.0 license.

Canada’s Budget 2017: A closer look at what matters for a green economy

infrastructure from Budget 2017Canada’s federal budget statement, titled Skills, Innovation and Middle Class Jobs, was released on March 22, with a stated  commitment to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and support for already-announced climate initiatives .  Some specific allocations: $11.4 million over four years for a national coal phase-out, beginning in 2018; $17.2 million over five years for a national clean fuels standard, starting in 2017;  $5 billion to green infrastructure and an additional $5 billion for public transit infrastructure over 11 years.  Disappointingly, the Budget extends the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for another year, thus failing to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Reflecting their own particular interests, most unions issued immediate reactions:  see the Canadian Labour Congress ; Canadian Union of Public Employees ; United SteelworkersUnifor . In the Toronto Star, Paul Wells called the Budget “a list of decisions to be made later”, and most commentators remarked on the many deferred deadlines.  A March 22 blog by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood of the CCPA provides a thorough summary of the provisions relating to climate change policy,  noting that the phrase “climate change” is used 50 times, but  “when it comes to putting Canada on a pathway to deep decarbonization, Budget 2017 comes up short. Significant investments in key areas, such as public transit and clean technology, should not be dismissed out of hand, but the funds are heavily backloaded and too small given the scale and urgency of the climate challenge.”  Mertins-Kirkwood also notes that there are no direct measures to support Just Transition programs, although provisions to improve skills training , workforce development, and small changes to the Employment Insurance program may indirectly contribute to that goal.

Two thoughtful  analyses of the Budget have since been released: on March 24, the Canadian Labour Congress released its Detailed Analysis of Budget 2017, providing an overall assessment, but including a substantial consideration of provisions relating to a green economy.  CLC Highlights: “The Canada Infrastructure Bank will be resourced with $2.8 billion over five years; legislation creating the Bank is anticipated in spring 2017. In the weeks and months following the budget, the Government of Canada will work on a framework to apply a green lens and an employment-based community benefit lens to infrastructure projects, which may become part of the bilateral infrastructure agreements.”  Regarding “Transition to a Green Economy”:  “In Budget 2017, investments in 2017-18 and 2018-19 under the $2 billion Low-Carbon Economy Fund …are scaled back and re-allocated for future years. Budget 2017 offers $2 billion for a Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, administered through Infrastructure Canada. The budget allocates $220 million to reduce the reliance of rural and remote communities on diesel fuel, and to support the use of more sustainable, renewable power solutions. An array of investments are made in order to support the development of the clean tech industry in Canada. In 2016, Canada joined other G-20 countries in re-committing to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies by 2025. The budget contains two modest proposals to scale back fossil fuel subsidies, but no specific concrete commitments are made to comply with the 2025 deadline.  Budget 2017 provides funds to accelerate the coal phase-out in Alberta, but it is unclear whether there will be funding to deal with the impacts on workers and communities. There is no explicit mention in Budget 2017 of just transition measures, or the government’s proposed just transition task force.”

On  March 27, the Pembina Institute released  Budget 2017: Ready, set implement  which offers its reaction and further suggestions on three issues.  Acknowledging the scale of investment and the importance of consultation, particularly with First Nations, Pembina declares, ” in our view, it’s not unreasonable that the $2 billion Low Carbon Economy Fund has been altered to extend over five years.”   Regarding “Next steps on the National Carbon Price”, Pembina applauds the details provided re the  national carbon price backstop — “set to begin at $10 per tonne of carbon pollution in 2018, and to escalate by $10 per year until 2022.”  Pembina also highlights the announcement of a federal government consultation paper with technical details of the national carbon price, promised in 2017. It urges that the national carbon benchmark price be linked to inflation, be subject to a review in 2020, and that the government design a fair and transparent framework for that review well in advance.

Finally, in “Accelerating decarbonization of goods movement”, Pembina notes the Budget’s commitments to new clean fuel standards and heavy-duty truck retrofit regulations, as well as the allocation of $2 billion over 11 years in a new National Trade Corridors Fund to address congestion and inefficiencies in rail and highway corridors, especially  around the Greater Toronto Area . They re-state their proposal for  North America’s first low-carbon highway between Windsor and Quebec City, based on  building out an “alternative fuelling infrastructure — like electric vehicle fast-charging, compressed natural gas or hydrogen stations — for personal and commercial transportation along the route.”

 

 

 

 

 

Reaction from Canada, California as Trump attacks Obama fuel emissions standards

solar-power-1020194_1920The rest of the world is driving towards new technologies, but U.S. state governments are rolling back EV incentives   and  on March 15,  Donald Trump took the U.S. a further  step away from reducing  transportation emissions.  Following pressure from U.S. auto companies, and in the name of creating American jobs and reviving American manufacturing,  the White House announced that the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will re-open the evaluation of the  Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards for light-duty vehicles manufactured in 2022- 2025 .  Never mind that the EPA, in the waning days of the Obama presidency in January 2017, had already issued its official  Determination  to leave the standards in place, stating that they  “are projected to reduce oil consumption by 50 billion gallons and to save U.S. consumers nearly $92 billion in fuel cost over the lifetime of MY2022-2025 vehicles”, with minimal employment impacts.  The New York Times   compiles some of the U.S. reaction to the announcement, quoting Harvard’s Robert Stavins, who states that rolling back the Obama-level regulations would make it  impossible for the United States to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.   A sample of  U.S. concerns appear in:   “Trump Fuel economy rollback would kill jobs and cost each car-buyer $1650 per year “ by Joe Romm in  Think Progress ; DeSmog BlogTrump Takes Aim at Fuel Efficiency Requirements, Prompting Concern US Automakers Will Lag on Innovation”   ; and the Detroit Free Press,  reporting on a lead-up Trump speech in Ypsilanti, Michigan ,  “Trump visit puts UAW politics in crosshairs”  http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/2017/03/14/trump-visit-puts-uaw-politics-crosshairs/99165906/    (March 14). The Detroit Free Press  states that autoworkers were bused in to the Trump event by their employers, with Fiat Chrysler and General Motors offering their workers a day’s pay as well.  No immediate reaction to the announcement came from the United Autoworkers union, although  the DFP article states: “UAW President Dennis Williams has repeatedly said he disagrees with Trump on health care, immigration, the environment and most other major issues. But Williams supports Trump’s desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) …..”

In Canada, where Unifor represents autoworkers,  president Jerry Dias spoke out  in “ Auto workers union takes aim at Trump’s examination of fuel standards ” in the Globe and Mail (March 16), and in a CTV News report . He  states that “ he would fight any attempt to roll back environmentally friendly regulations in the auto industry following Trump’s announcement”. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change was in Washington on March 15th,  meeting with EPA head Scott Pruitt, but her reaction was guarded and diplomatic,  as reported in “As Trump eyes reprieve for gas guzzlers, Canada looks to China  ”  in the National Observer and in “Trump targets fuel-efficiency standards” in the Globe and Mail  (March 16).  Traditionally, Canadian  fuel emissions standards have been harmonized with the U.S. , as a result of the strongly integrated auto industry.  For example, at the end of February, Canada released  its proposed regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, and according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, Canada continued to follow the  U.S. model.  Similarly,  Ontario announced a Memorandum of Understanding on auto manufacturing with the state of  Michigan on March 13, pledging cooperation on regulatory standards as well as technology  and supply chain management.

Harmonization will be more difficult after Trump’s announcement on March 15, just as Canada and Ontario are reviewing their own revisions to fuel emissions regulation . Ontario reacted to the Trump  announcement with a  pledge to continue to cooperate with California and Quebec in the Western Climate Initiative – read “Ontario plans to team up with California against Trump on climate change” in the National Observer (March 16). California won the right to set its own fuel emission standards in the 1970’s, and today, fifteen other states voluntarily follow  California’s tougher standards, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and the New York metropolitan area – translating into more than 40% of the U.S. population.  “The Coming Clean-Air war between Trump and California” in The Atlantic surveys this  latest conflict between California and the Trump administration .  A press release from Governor Gerry Brown called the fuel standards  announcement  “a cynical ploy” that puts politics ahead of science, and pledged that California will fight it in court.

New U.S. medical consortium forms to bring the message mainstream: climate change is harming our health

Eleven medical societies in the United States, representing over 400,000 medical practitioners, have joined together to form The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health .  Their launch document  on March 15  was  Medical Alert! Climate Change is harming our health , directed at the general public to sound the alarm that climate change health impacts are here and now.

The report gives only a nod to the threats in the workplace, given its goal to reach a general audience. It warns that “anyone can be harmed by extreme heat, but some people face greater risk. For example, outdoor workers, student athletes, city dwellers, and people who lack air conditioning (or who lose it during an extended power outage) face greater risk because they are more exposed to extreme heat. People with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and those who work or play outside, are especially vulnerable to extreme heat.. ..”  The report also touches on the other major health-related impacts, such as spread of infectious diseases borne by ticks and mosquitos, air pollution,  effects of forest fires, polluted air and food, mental health burden, etc.

The Consortium  states that “most physicians are aware of the adverse health effects of climate change and feel a responsibility to inform the public, patients and policymakers about them. A majority of survey respondents report they are already seeing health harms from climate change among their own patients – most commonly in the form of increased cardiorespiratory disease (related to air quality and heat), more severe and longer lasting allergy symptoms, and injuries attributed to extreme weather.”

The goal of the consortium is to educate,  and to advocate for reduced fossil fuel consumption and increased clean energy.  Their website offers a library of publications    related to the growing literature on climate change and health. The website  also compiles resources from their member societies, such as the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics,  about how to green medical workplaces.   In this, they join a number of existing associations such as Practice Greenhealth   and Healthcare without Harm, an international organization with Canadian membership.

In Canada, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment , which was established in 1994,   shares a similar mission for policy advocacy, and maintains an active blog  and Facebook presence.  The Canadian Medical Association has a number of policy and position documents on environmental impacts on health; their most recent policy statement on Climate change and Health  was issued in 2010, yet still seems remarkably relevant.

 

B.C. Cleantech start-up companies show dramatic growth and a confident future

BC cleantech coverIn mid-March, the B.C. Cleantech CEO Alliance released British Columbia Cleantech: Status Report 2016 , the result of a survey conducted by consultants KPMG in Fall 2016.   The new Status Report  shows “dramatic growth” since the previous report in 2011, supporting the Alliance branding of B.C. cleantech as “the next pillar of the Canadian economy”.

Between 2011 and 2016,  “the number of Cleantech companies is up 35% to 273, the number of BC-based employees is up 20% to 8,560, average wages have increased by 24% to $84,000 and the amount of equity raised is also up 25% to $6 billion.” The sector employs highly trained workers, such as engineers, designers, and sales and marketing professionals, resulting in that high average salary. 91% of companies are located in the Greater Vancouver area.

The survey respondents were only those early-stage companies whose primary purpose is developing new technologies – respondents were distributed as follows:  20%  energy generation; 16%   transportation; 12 % Building efficiency; 12% Resource recovery and waste management; 11% industrial efficiency; 11% water and waste water; 7% transmission and storage; 4% sustainable agriculture,  and a miscellaneous 7% remainder. Given the early stage of these companies, the key focus in the survey was on the sources of finance and the business climate for entrepreneurs. Results show that there is a heavy reliance on federal and provincial government incentive programs – for example, 75% of respondent companies had applied to the Scientific research and experimental development (SR&ED) program and over half had applied to the federal Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP).

How will Canada’s 2017 Budget support the environment and green job creation?

The shocking budget cuts proposed   by  the Trump administration on March 16  will make it easier for  Canada’s Finance Minister  to shine when the Canadian  Budget for 2017  is unveiled  on March 22.  Once made public, the Budget document will be available here .   Amongst the “10 Things Unions are looking for in Budget 2017” , released by the Canadian Labour Congress on March 15,   #6 is “Green Job Creation”. Mirroring the language of the Clean Growth Century initiative, the CLC states: “Canada needs to envision the next hundred years as a Clean Growth Century, and we know it can be done in a way that is economically and socially responsible, without leaving behind workers and their communities. Budget 2017 should kick off ambitious programs to expand renewable energy generation, support home and building retrofits and dramatically increase the scale and quality of public transit in Canada.” Many other proposals  were outlined in the CLC’s Submission to the House of Commons Finance Committee in the pre-Budget consultations , including:  green bonds; expanded access to Labour Market Development Assistance programs  and skills development for workers in the oil and gas, mining, steel production, and manufacturing industries; and renewable energy policies to improve access to renewable energy and facilitate local, renewable energy projects  and reduce dependency on diesel in remote and First Nations communities.

Green Budget Coalition cover 2017The Green Budget Coalition  represents sixteen of Canada’s largest environmental and conservation organizations.  Their Submission regarding the 2017 Budget (November 2016)  includes economic proposals  – including an end to fossil fuel subsidies, and a carbon tax set at a realistic level based on the Social Cost of Carbon.  With their strong, green focus, the Green Budget Coalition also includes specific proposals regarding conservation issues – freshwater resources, oceans and fisheries, habitat protection, and air quality.  One specific, unique proposal relating to air quality – because of  the link between radon and lung cancer, a federal income tax credit for individuals and small-scale landlords of 15 percent of the cost of radon mitigation work. Each recommendation is written by an expert member of the coalition, with specific, costed proposals and an indication of the federal government department needed to take the lead on action.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is well-known for its  Alternative Budget,  CCPA alternative budget 2017which takes a broader approach to the  inequalities of the economy . Some of its main recommendations in the 2017 edition:  a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, indexed to inflation; a national pharmacare program; improved access to child care; elimination of post-secondary education tuition; and  investment  in First Nations housing, water, infrastructure and education.   The full report is titled High Stakes, Clear Choices.  Proposals relating to Just Transition are mainly outlined in the section on Employment Insurance (page 60) , which frames it as  “a major opportunity to move unemployed, underemployed, and low-paid workers into better jobs as a part of a strategic response to meeting our climate change targets. We can expand access to EI training programs with a focus on labour adjustment and transition. That way, Canadian workers could benefit from the transition to a green economy by accessing new, green jobs created by public investment programs and sector strategies.” Other (costed) proposals  regarding the environment and climate change (page 63) : an end to federal fossil fuel subsidies; reinstatement of  energy efficiency incentive programs;   assessment of the environmental impact of energy, tar sands, mining developments;  and reinstatement of water programs at Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Despite strong Strategy, Vancouver needs fuel-switching policies to meet its ambitious renewable energy goals for 2050

English_Bay,_Vancouver,_BC

English Bay, Vancouver B.C.  Creative Commons License, originally posted to Flickkr by JamesZ_Flickr

Vancouver is a green policy leader amongst Canadian municipalities, but on March 14, a new report from researchers at Simon Fraser University Energy and Materials Research Group  asks  Can Cities Really Make a Difference? Case Study of Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy  .  The report focuses on the building and transportation policies of the Renewable City Strategy , using CIMS, a hybrid energy-economy model which incorporates elements of consumer choice.  Applauding Vancouver  for its leadership to date, the authors conclude that current policies are likely to achieve only a 30 percent reduction on projected 2050 emissions, and fail to meet the Strategy’s target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, an 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions  on 2007 levels.

The report calls for stronger, politically-challenging “fuel-switching” for buildings and vehicles as the necessary next stage in emissions reduction.  Amongst the specific actions suggested:  No fossil fuel heating installations after 2030 for all new build residential buildings – instead, electric-powered heat pumps, solar hot water, electric thermal heat, or other zero emissions equipment.  For vehicles, a gradual reduction of parking allocations for gasoline or diesel, starting  in 2025, with  no spaces  remaining on city land for conventional cars by 2040 .  Businesses would have to demonstrate exclusive use of renewably-powered fleet vehicles to qualify for a  business license after 2030.   Read the press release from Simon Fraser   for an excellent summary; also the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, one of the sponsors of the research  here .    As for  the Globe and Mail summary  , report co-author Marc Jaccard has tweeted that it “misses my main point”, that municipal government needs the support of other government levels.

Ontario Teachers Pension Plan invests in clean technology

The  Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan acknowledges that “ Climate change risks have global impacts that affect multiple sectors and companies. On the other hand, climate change will also present new investment opportunities, such as innovative technologies.”  The embodiment of that approach came with the  OTPP announcement  on March 9 that it has partnered with Anbaric, a developer of clean energy transmission and microgrid projects from Wakefield Massachusetts.  According to the Boston Globe newspaper  , Ontario Teachers  will invest $75 million  initially to gain a 40 percent stake in Anbaric, creating a new management company, called Anbaric Development Partners  . Potential exists to invest a further $2 billion in clean energy projects.   The OTPP press release  states,  “Ontario Teachers’ investment in Anbaric creates an attractive launching pad for generating innovative energy jobs and boosting local economies while replacing our deteriorating and outdated fossil fuel-oriented grid with new and sustainable energy alternatives. This includes sophisticated high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission technology and microgrid projects that will bring renewables online with greater efficiency.” The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan controlled $171.4 billion in net assets at December 31, 2015 on behalf of  the province’s 316,000 current and retired teachers.

As a sophisticated, global investor, it has examined the risks of climate change, and in Fall of 2016, published  Climate Change: Separating the real risks for investors from the noise   , which, like the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board ,   seems to acknowledge the reality and complexity of climate risk, while rejecting divestment of fossil fuel assets.  The report states that “Investors need a toolbox of solutions to help manage physical and regulatory risks across their portfolios, both in the short and longer term. Portfolio carbon footprints are only one tool, and they have limitations. Divestment should be the outcome of a well informed and thoughtful investment process, rather than a wholesale approach to a single sector. “   And further  –  “ Engagement with policy makers and companies provides investors with key pieces of information and could be the impetus for governments and companies to be more proactive in climate change mitigation or adaptation. “

Just Transition proposals for Australia’s Coal Industry workers

Flag_of_Australia.svgOutside of the United States, it seems that there is general recognition that the coal industry is in decline, and that this demands a planned response to transition both the energy mix and the communities and workers.  The Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in Paris, for example, is coordinating a Coal Transitions Project, bringing together researchers from Australia, South Africa, Germany, Poland, India and China, to publish reports examining past experiences in the six countries in March 2017, culminating with a global report and a consideration of the future of coal by 2018.

Australia’s coal production has a long and highly-political  history – summarized in  “The long-term future of Australian coal is drying up”  in The Conversation (October 2015), or “Australia’s Addiction to Coal” in the New York Times (November 14, 2016) . Amidst this highly political climate, the current government established a  Senate Inquiry into the Retirement of Coal Fired Power Stations in October 2016,  to examine “the transition from ageing, high-carbon coal generation to clean energy”  in light of the Paris Agreement commitments on emissions reductions , and the Agreement’s  provisions re just transitions. The deadline for the Inquiry’s Final Report has been extended to the end of March; an  Interim Report was released at the end of November 2016, with Chapter 4 devoted to options for managing the transition for workers and communities.   Submissions to the Senate committee are here, listed by author. Three  noteworthy examples: the Australian Psychology Association reviews the “flow-on psychosocial impacts on individuals, families and whole communities” of mass closures, but argues for the possibility of  building “vibrant, diversified, energy sustainable communities with good local jobs, and capable of lifting the prospects of all citizens”. The submission states: “Community-led transitions that identify the community’s needs and resources, involve the community in the formulation and control of change, and strengthen the local people’s capacity for action, are critically important components of planned transitions. “”  The Appalachian Transition  and Renew Appalachia are cited as models of community building.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) submitted a thorough, 30-page proposal:  Sharing the challenges and opportunities of a clean energy economy: Policy discussion paper. A Just Transition for coal-fired electricity sector workers and communities.  Amongst the recommendations: establish  a “national independent statutory authority”, named Energy Transition Australia (ETA), within the environment and energy portfolio, and reporting to the Minister and parliament.   The  ETA would be overseen by a tripartite advisory board comprised of industry, unions and government, with a mandate to  oversee a planned and orderly closure of Australia’s coal fired power stations;  “manage an industry-wide multi-employer pooling and redeployment scheme, where existing workers would have an opportunity to be redeployed to remaining power stations or low-emissions generators; and  develop a labour adjustment package to support workers obtain new decent and secure jobs, including by providing funding for workers to access job assistance support, retraining, early retirement and travel and relocation assistance.”

Finally, a submission by Professor John Wiseman  of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute lists and synthesizes many of the recommendations from recent  Just Transition publications, including   Life After Coal: Pathways to a Just and Sustainable Transition for the Latrobe Valley  (October 2016). This report by the Environment department of the province of Victoria  focuses on the four Hazelwood coal-fired power plants, scheduled to close as early as April 2017.

Union Proposals for a Just Transition for Alberta’s coal workers

The phase-out  of the Alberta’s  coal -fired electricity generation  is in the works, with regulations begun by the Harper government and continued by the current provincial government in its Climate Leadership Plan  . Approximately 3,000 workers at 18 coal-fired electricity plants and their associated mines will be affected by the end of the phase-out in 2030.  In September 2016, consultant Terry Boston submitted recommendations to the government on how to transition the electricity supply; for public consultation about transition issues for workers and communities, an  Advisory Panel on Coal Communities  was established, and is scheduled to release its report “in early Spring 2017”.

On March 3, the union-based  Coal Transition Coalition  unveiled its detailed policy recommendations for the Advisory Panel.    Getting it Right: A Just Transition Strategy for Alberta’s Coal Workers , aims  to influence discussion early on in the planning process,  to ensure that issues such as  pensions, severance, labour-retention strategies and

coal transition coalition

Coal Transition Coalition logo

economic diversification are built in from the start. Getting it Right chronicles government policies and the coal mines to be affected, then describes in detail four case study examples of coal transitions in the U.S. and the Rhuhr Valley in Germany .  These case studies form the basis of the    “Lessons learned”  section, which in turn form the basis of the recommendations.

The Coalition’s recommendations emphasize  the advantage of a long-lead time available, the importance of unique, community-led plans, and the importance of public and political acceptance of the Transition programs.  Income replacement and severance benefits are a central concern – calling for enhanced federal Employment Insurance program benefits, and a provincial pension bridging trust fund with adequate reserves to help workers just shy of retirement in 2030. The Coalition also recommends that the province conduct an audit of existing pensions and their coverage and gaps, and prepare a plan to ensure pensions are fully funded and mandated to  meet their obligations.  The report cites a separate report commissioned by the Alberta Federation of Labour, Pension And Benefit Plans In A Just Transitions Strategy For The Alberta Coal-Fired Electricity Industry (November 2016)), which is not available online.

The core recommendation is to establish an Alberta Economic Adjustment Agency , free of political interference, to develop “a just transition plan that places the interests of affected workers, their families and communities as its highest priority”.  Programs would be funded through an  Alberta Economic Adjustment Trust Fund, governed by an independent board of trustees to guard against any  political or industry interference, and financed through  contributions “on the order of $10 million to $20 million per year” leading up to 2030.   The report is silent on who will provide the funding.

The Coal Transition Coalition is led by the Alberta Federation of Labour and includes the following unions:  Canadian Energy Workers Association, CSU 52, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers,   Ironworkers Local 720 , Unifor, United Steelworkers, and United Utility Workers Association.

Just Transition policies lacking in federal and provincial climate policies in Canada

In February, the Adapting Work and Workplaces (ACW) project released three  preliminary working papers in a series  called Evaluating government plans and actions to reduce GHG emissions in Canada . The first report,  Federal progress through June 2016 (July 2016)  and the second,  Provincial and territorial progress through October 2016 (November 2016)    provide specific summaries of climate policies in their respective jurisdictions since November 2015, and in general, they conclude that  “Despite missteps, oversights and political backtracking, Canada’s climate policy has evolved to be relatively comprehensive and broadly supported”.  Significantly, the papers point out that “a large ambition gap remains between governments’ GHG targets and their actual emission reduction policies. …. the emissions-intensive production of oil and gas resources has largely escaped stringent, targeted GHG mitigation measures. Indeed, through direct and indirect subsidies, Canadian governments continue to promote oil and gas expansion despite its incompatibility with those same governments’ climate objectives.”

Just Transition policies is the focus of the third preliminary working paper in the ACW series. It  springs from the idea that just transition policy is a crucial and urgent, but under-developed, aspect of Canadian governments’ climate plans.  It characterizes “just transition” as a concept developed by the labour movement. “It is a social justice framework for facilitating the low-carbon transition in a way that minimizes negative employment impacts and ensures equitable outcomes for worker.” In defining “just transition”, the paper differentiates it from “climate justice”, stating, “A just transition is one of the goals of climate justice advocates, but the two concepts are distinct. Climate justice goes beyond workers, for example, to demand the poor are not disproportionately hurt by policies such as carbon pricing.”

The report reviews the latest climate plans published by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, discovering and describing:  1. Policies that provide income supports to laid-off workers; 2. Policies that provide skills training and re-training for the low-carbon economy, and 3. Policies that directly create new jobs, especially in the communities and regions adversely affected by climate policies.  The conclusion:  all Canadian jurisdictions “get a failing grade” on all three subjects. The paper calls for improved income support programs, since policy seems to favour training and retraining over income support in the existing federal unemployment insurance program, as well as in provincial climate policies which allow for reinvestment of carbon revenue, such as Alberta and Ontario. Workforce development policies seem to receive the most attention – while still lacking in most provinces. Finally, job creation policy is judged to be “hands-off”, with governments assuming that new investment in clean energy industries will be sufficient.

All three preliminary reports were authored by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood,  in association with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.  A final, consolidated report is anticipated by Spring 2017.

 

 

Renewable Energy legislation in Massachusetts earmarks funds for Just Transition, Environmental Justice

We are used to looking to California for leadership in climate change policy – and the Senate bill SB58, California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program  continues that reputation. Although only in rough draft form as it was introduced in February, it proposes to accelerate the target for sourcing electricity from renewable energy to 50 per cent by 2025, and 100% by 2045.  Inside Climate News has a summary of the renewable energy legislation; for a detailed view of the importance of California as a standard-bearer for climate change action, read “In the Face of a Trump Environmental Rollback, California Stands in Defiance” (Feb. 21) in Yale Environment 360.

Massachusetts is less often recognized for its leadership, despite its commitment in the  Global Warming Solutions Act, 2008 to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050 .  In addition,  An Act to transition Massachusetts to 100 per cent renewable energy  (S.1849)  was  introduced into the legislature in January 2017, requiring  the state to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2035, and phase out the use of fossil fuels across all sectors, including heating and transportation, by 2050. Advocacy group Environment Massachusetts provides a summary here . The text of the Act   calls for a  Council for Clean Energy Workforce Development, specifying that it include representatives from organized labour, as well as universities and community colleges, renewable energy businesses, occupational training organizations, economic development organizations, community development organizations, and “organizations serving Environmental Justice Populations”.   A Workforce Development Fund would also be authorized, with “At least half of the funds spent from the clean energy workforce development account on an annual basis shall be spent on programs and initiatives that primarily benefit (1) fossil fuel workers displaced in the transition to renewable energy, (2) residents of gateway municipalities …., or (3) residents of areas identified as Environmental Justice Populations under the Environmental Justice Policy of the executive office of energy and environmental affairs. “

Bank of Canada sees risks of climate change; Insurers urge end to fossil fuel subsidies

On March 2, in a speech in Montreal, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada weighed in on the economic and financial risks of climate change, and the role of the Bank (BoC) .  In Thermometer Rising—Climate Change and Canada’s Economic Future , the Deputy Governor drew on 2011 estimates from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) when he acknowledged that in Canada alone, “ in the absence of action to address global warming, we would face annual costs of between $21 billion and $43 billion by the 2050s”.   Touching on the role of carbon pricing and green finance such as green bonds, he also states: “enhanced transparency and analytical tools are also needed”  to enable investors to exploit green investment opportunities. However,   “In contrast to some other central banks, the Bank of Canada is not directly responsible for regulating banks, insurance companies and similar financial institutions. …. We do not regulate financial markets and thus do not have the mandate to establish standards of transparency and disclosure in support of green finance…. We do, however, have a broader set of responsibilities to support financial stability, including identifying, analyzing and assessing both imminent and emerging systemic risks. We bring this risk assessment into our discussions with other agencies that control the relevant policy levers.”

Private financial institutions and companies are trying to influence those policy levers – specifically, about fossil fuel subsidies. In a Public Statement addressed to the governments of G20 countries,  a group of 16  investment  and insurance companies managing more than  USD $2.8 trillion in assets states: “Subsidies and public finance supporting the production and consumption of fossil fuels are a key concern to the finance sector. They increase the risk of stranded fossil fuel assets, decrease the competitiveness of key industries, including low‐carbon businesses, and negate the carbon price signals many of us have been calling for. They are also notoriously inefficient from and economics standpoint. They create a significant burden on government budgets, perpetuate income inequality by benefiting the richest consumers while failing to meet the energy needs of those lacking energy access, and damage public health by increasing air pollution.”  The Statement then calls on the G20 governments to commit to “a clear timeline for the full and equitable phase-out by all G20 members of all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, starting with the elimination of all subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and coal production.”

What would be the  impact of removing fossil fuel subsidies?  The most recent estimate comes from the Overseas Development Institute and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Global Subsidies Initiative in   Zombie Energy: Climate Benefits of Ending Subsidies to Fossil Fuel Production. It concludes that if  subsidies to fossil fuel production were removed across the globe, the world’s GhG emissions would be reduced by 37 Gt of carbon dioxide  by 2050.  The authors call this “ likely a low-end estimate”, partly because it relies on what they say is  a “conservative estimate of global production subsidies in G20 countries” : $70 billion U.S. annually.   For more on this longstanding issue,  see the Global Subsidies Initiative webpage on fossil fuel subsidies.

Alberta reinvesting carbon levy revenues in clean energy programs

cropped-worksolar.jpgAlberta announced  a new Residential and Commercial Solar rebate program  on February 27, funded with $36 million from revenues from the province’s carbon levy. The government estimates that the program will stimulate up to 900 jobs in the solar sector, while reducing GHG emissions and cutting installation costs for residences by 30 per cent and  for businesses and non-profits by 25 per cent.  In combination with a December 2016  change to the  Micro-generation Regulation ,  which increased the allowable capacity of  micro-generation systems to five megawatts, the rebate program  is meant especially to encourage solar commercial  and community operations .  The Pembina Institute reaction    highlights the aspect of microgeneration and distributed energy; DeSmog Blog   gives more details and context about the overall growth of solar in Alberta. Iron and Earth , the workers’ organization promoting the transition from oil and gas to renewables, calls the announcement a “great first step” on their Facebook page   , and notes their previous call to the Alberta government for increased access to solar skills training programs.

smart-thermostatOn  Febrary 28,  the government issued an invitation for Albertans to register for a Residential No-Charge Energy Savings Program   ,  encouraging all households, regardless of income, to upgrade to more energy-efficient products, including LED lights, high efficiency shower heads, and smart thermostats. Installation and product costs will be borne by the province and financed, again, through carbon levy revenues.

Finally, on March 3, Alberta announced matched funding of $10 million from the province and the federal government for a Calgary-based Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC) .  The facility will “test breakthrough technologies that convert CO2 from harmful emissions into applications for everyday use.”  It will be owned and operated by InnoTech Alberta   , a subsidiary of Alberta Innovates; the goal is to support “Alberta-based technology developers, as well as attracting global companies and world-class researchers to the province”.  The Pembina Institute calls it “a plug and play technology sandbox”  and “an excellent way to create partnerships and accelerate our learning with respect to new technologies, in order to develop emissions solutions and create economic opportunities.” The Alberta Clean Technology Industry Alliance also approves.  The investment follows a February 13 meeting to expand and renew the Alberta – Canada Collaboratory on Clean Energy Research and Technology Memorandum of Understanding.

Fossil fuel approvals, job creation, and the gap in Canada’s emissions goals

one-million-jobs-e1407607008390 Assessing the Federal Government’s Actions on Climate Change   was released by the  Green Economy Network in February (with a 4-page Executive Summary here ) . It estimates the job creation value of four fossil fuel projects under active consideration – Petronas LNG in B.C., Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline, Enbridge Line 3, and Keystone XL Pipeline –  using figures from the proponents of those projects, and concludes that the estimated total investment of $60.3 billion would result in 380,900 direct, indirect, and induced person job years of employment over 5 years, many of which would be in the U.S.  The investment would also increase Canada’s annual GHG emissions by 89.9 megatonnes. In comparison, GEN estimates  the job creation and emissions impacts of that same $60.3 billion investment if it were directed to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and transit, as recommended in its One Million Climate Jobs Plan .  GEN concludes that the green investments would create 784,570 person job years of employment over five years while reducing annual GHG emissions by up to 190 Mt after ten years.

In its discussion of the government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change , the Green Economy Network  notes that “it is unclear how the emissions from federally approved fossil fuel infrastructure projects are factored into the PCF”.  Regarding the Pan-Canadian Framework considerations of employment and Just Transition issues , the report further states:  “Calculations for job creation from each of the proposed measures are completely absent”.  Though the term “Just Transition” gets a mention, “there are no specific measures outlined to ensure that workers and their families are supported in the transition to a low-carbon economy.”  … “The Framework also misses a significant opportunity to demonstrate how major public infrastructure projects can be designed to include Just Transition measures, including skills training and integrating mandatory requirements for contractors to sponsor apprenticeships, which will aid in increasing apprenticeship completion rates and ensure that our workers have the skills that they need.”     GEN makes recommendations to improve these deficiencies.

The Green Economy Network  represents the concerns and solutions of an alliance of approximately 25 labour unions, environment and social justice organizations in Canada.  Their signature One Million Jobs campaign is part of an international campaign which includes the U.K. and South Africa.

Ontario releases its strategy for a Circular Economy

On March 1, the government of Ontario announced the final version of its  Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy , arguing for the importance of a circular economy, given that the waste sector is responsible for 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario, yet the current recycling rate is only 25%.  The Minister of Environment and Climate Change states: “Ontario has an opportunity to reduce emissions coming from waste, decrease our reliance on virgin materials, enhance environmental protection and bring new economic growth, job opportunities and savings to consumers and taxpayers.”

What is a circular economy?  The Strategy states that it aims “to eliminate waste, not just from recycling processes, but throughout the lifecycles of products and packaging. A circular economy aims to maximize value and eliminate waste by improving the design of materials, products and business models. A circular economy goes beyond recycling. The goal is not just to design for better end-of-life recovery, but to minimize the use of raw materials and energy through a restorative system.”  Recognizing that a circular economy involves fundamental changes for producers and consumers, the Strategy document lays out a visionary goal of a 100% waste-free economy, with an interim goal for diversion of 30 per cent by 2020, 50 per cent by 2030, and 80% by 2050.

The Strategy document includes specific steps to be taken in the next 10 years, under the Waste Free Ontario Act, 2016   and its two parts, the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, and the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016.   The Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016,    established an “outcomes-based producer responsibility regime”, which makes producers environmentally accountable and financially responsible for recovering resources and reducing waste associated with their products and packaging.  It also established the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority to operate a data Registry and oversee producer performance by conducting compliance and enforcement activities. The Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016   will authorize the gradual replacement of the existing recycling programs, with changes to the Used Tired Program already underway, and consultations for a Food and Organic Waste Action Plan scheduled for 2017.

For further reading: Canadian readers will be familiar with a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2013, Closing the Loop: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Through Zero Waste in BC , and can keep up to date with the blog from Canada’s National Zero Waste Council.   International news reports are monitored at The Guardian newspaper in its  Circular Economy section.   An overview of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan is available from the European Commission website here , and see “First year verdict: how much progress has the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan made?” .  The Alliance for Circular Economy Solutions (ACES)  has a European focus, and in December 2015 published Unemployment and the circular economy, which shows how the development of the circular economy in Europe could impact the jobs market in Italy, Poland and Germany.  The Ellen MacArthur Foundation  has a global focus with a broad range, and normally releases reports at the Davos meetings of the World Economic Forum.  At the January 2017 meetings, it released the latest in a series of reports on the plastics industry: The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action 

Brexit is seen as a turning point for UK Climate Change Policy

On February 22, the new  Greener UK coalition released  a manifesto, calling on the UK government to use the Brexit process as an opportunity to restore and enhance environmental protections in the UK. The Manifesto for a Greener UK follows the release on February 14 of a  House of Lords report, Brexit: Environment and climate change.  For a discussion of the basic issues of concern, read “Brexit will be a pivotal moment for the UK’s environment” (December 2016), and read also Greener UK’s Pledge for the Environment, which has been signed by over 145 Members of Parliament  from all parties. Greener UK has also prepared a Briefing Note for Members of Parliament: The repeal bill and a greener UK: Maintaining a greener UK as the UK exits the EU.  Follow developments on the Inside Track blog, published by Green Alliance.

One of the key proposals of the February  Manifesto is that Britain should continue to show climate leadership, to co-operate with the EU on energy and climate change, and to affirm ongoing investment and deployment of clean energy infrastructure. It also calls for a new  Environment Act for England, “building on the upcoming 25 year plan with measurable milestones for environmental restoration and high standards for pollution and resource efficiency”.  Greener UK  has published policy documents supporting  each of the four  priorities of the Manifesto: Food and Farming Fisheries and Marine   ; Climate and Energy  ; and Environment and Wildlife Laws  .

Greener UK  was launched in December 2016, coordinated by Green Alliance . Greener UK consists of 13 major environmental organizations with a  combined membership of 7.9 million, and includes:  Campaign for Better Transport, ClientEarth, Campaign to Protect Rural England, E3G, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, National Trust, RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and WWF.

B.C. Municipalities urged to take fossil fuel giants to court

In January,  West Coast Environmental Law and over 50 other environmental, health, human rights, women’s rights, and faith-based organizations sent an Open Letter  to local municipalities in British Columbia, urging them  1.) to write to fossil fuel companies, demanding accountability for the climate change costs being borne by citizens , and 2.) To consider participating in a class action lawsuit against the big polluters.  As part of their new  initiative, called   Climate Law in Our Own Hands  , West Coast Environmental Law is offering legal research and support to interested local governments, as well as template letters and fossil fuel company addresses to facilitate the  letter-writing campaign.  WCEL argues that fossil fuel companies will only start working towards climate change solutions when they are held to account to pay their fair share for the damage being caused.   According to one of the Open Letter signatories, Sierra Club B.C. , “The Province of BC has estimated that Metro Vancouver Municipalities will need to spend $9.5 billion between now and 2100 to address rising sea-levels (about $100 million per year on average).”  The list could continue to add wildfires, the destruction of forests by the mountain pine beetle, drought, and extreme weather.

WCEL  is not new to this issue, but rather have been active since the 2015 landmark Urgenda case in the Netherlands , when they released their report  Taking climate justice into our own hands  , which included a draft Climate Compensation Act .  The new website,  Climate Law in Our Own Hands maintains a blog about legal actions around the world, including a November 2016  report about  420 “grannies”  in Switzerland who are working with  Greenpeace Switzerland to launch a legal challenge  against the Swiss government for inadequately addressing threats to their health and future generations from climate change.  Other high profile court cases underway include the challenge to stop Arctic drilling  by  Norweigian youth and Greenpeace in Norway ,  and the ongoing cases led by  Our Children’s Trust   against the U.S. federal and state  governments.  The federal case,  Juliana v.United States  first launched in 2015,  and most recently (November 10, 2016) has been permitted to proceed to trail, after Judge Ann Aiken issued an opinion and order denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss .  The 21 plaintiffs, mostly teenagers, are suing for the constitutional right of future generations  to live in  a healthy and safe environment.