Case studies of Community and human rights impacts of Renewable energy companies, and a ranking of multinationals in Ag/Food, Apparel and Mining

renewable energy investor briefing coverAn April 2017 report from the London-based advocacy group,  Business and Human Rights Resource Centre asks,  “What adverse impacts can renewable energy projects have on communities around the world?”   Renewable Energy investor briefing: Managing risks & responsibilities for impacts on local communities  (April 2017) is directed at financial and investment professionals who are considering investment in renewable energy projects- in this report, comprised of wind and small-to-medium hydro, but excluding solar .  It starts from the premise that Just Transition principles are essential, then explains the international human rights responsibilities of companies.  The report also provides examples of the kinds of questions that should be asked in shareholder meetings and before investment decisions are made, and gives examples of best practice policies – for example, inclusion of community benefits agreements.  One of the main issues it discusses is the right to free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples, which is an ongoing topic monitored by the BHRC.

The report provides case studies, including  six positive examples, including: the Ixtepec community-owned wind project in Mexico; the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm in South Africa; and  a cluster of wind projects in Jämtland, Sweden, for which OECD guidelines are being used in negotiations between the company and affected Indigenous people.  The full suite of case studies is presented in a searchable database which allows searching by company name, issue, country, and more.  There are no Canadian projects included in the 2017 report, although a profile of Ontario Power Generation  is available as part of the Centre’s ongoing database  of human rights in the energy sector  .

In March 2017, the Centre also launched an updated and expanded  Corporate Human Rights Benchmark website , which ranked 98 of the world’s largest publicly traded companies, from the  Agriculture, Apparel, and Extractive industries. The Benchmark is intended to drive a “race to the top” and is directed at business, government, and “ to empower civil society, workers, communities, customers, and the media with better public information to reward, encourage, and promote human rights advances by companies and make well-informed choices about which companies to engage with.”  A 50 page summary report is here .  There are six thematic measurement categories, including “ Company Performance: Human Rights Practices”  which  includes rankings related to living wage, freedom of association and right to bargain collectively, health and safety, amongst others.

How the B.C. Insulators Union fights climate change and promotes green awareness in the construction industry

The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change research project has released two  papers relating to the built environment, and more specifically, the accomplishments of one labour union in British Columbia to  promote major climate change improvements in the construction industry.  Evaluating the Impact of the BC Insulators’ Union Campaign to Promote Improved Mechanical Insulation Standards in BC’s Construction Industry   (April 2016) described the campaign by  BC Insulators union Local 118 to encourage municipalities in B.C. to require higher insulation standards in their building requirements and procurement contract tenders.  To do this, the union “funded independent, technical research papers, commissioned best practice manuals with detailed guidelines on installing MI and initiated an extensive and carefully organized public education campaign to pressure industry and government to raise standards. It approached municipalities, building contractors, government officials, property developers, industry professionals and trade organizations to alert them to the importance of reducing the energy footprint of buildings. It pressured governments to raise MI standards in procurement of new and refurbished buildings and implement tougher requirements in their building codes. And it introduced climate change literacy into the curriculum of the apprenticeship system it oversees.”

insulalater2-365x365The climate literacy curriculum is the subject of a new report released in April 2017: Promoting Climate Literacy in British Columbia’s Apprenticeship System: Evaluating One Union’s Efforts to Overcome Attitudinal Barriers to Low Carbon Construction   describes  the ‘Green Awareness’ course the union provides as part of the apprenticeship training for  all mechanical insulation trades workers in British Columbia. The two-module course was introduced in 2011 and is taught over the course of the first two years of the four-year program.  After conducting a review of the ‘Green Awareness’ course content, the research team performed qualitative interviews with a cohort of 2nd and 4th year apprentices to determine how effective the training had been.   These findings indicate the need for further refinements in the content and delivery of the ‘Green Awareness’ course material. The authors conclude that incorporating climate change-related course content into the training process is an important step in fostering climate literacy within the industry and should be encouraged in other trades. They caution, however, that its degree of impact will be limited unless more sweeping changes are made to the organization and culture of the construction industry itself.

Both papers were authored by John Calvert and Corinne Tallon.  The evaluation of the climate literacy program was presented at the International Labour Process Conference (ILPC), Sheffield, United Kingdom, April 4 – 6, 2017.

bcinsulaors118-logo

 

Ontario’s Climate Action Plan: beyond job creation to job quality for building trades workers

solar-panel-house_4A report released on April 19th aims to contribute to a strong, future-proofed green jobs strategy for Ontario.  Building An Ontario Green Job Strategy: Ensuring the Climate Change Action Plan creates good Jobs where they are needed most  focuses on the building sector provisions within Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan (June 2016)  – which are estimated at 28 – 31% of the budget allocations of the Action Plan.

Building an Ontario Green Job Strategy states:  “Ontario’s investment of C$1.91 billion to $2.73 billion in retooling buildings, as outlined in the Climate Change Action Plan of 2016 , could create between 24,500 to 32,900 green jobs over the five-year funding plan with a further 16,800 to 24,000 jobs created from the reinvestments of energy cost savings into the economy.”  Job creation forecasts were calculated using  three  job multipliers, including that from the 2012 report by Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Analysis of Job Creation and Energy Costs Savings , published  by the Institute for Market Transformation and the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts.

Beyond the evidence of the job creation potential of energy efficiency investments, the report also makes significant recommendations to ensure job quality.  Amongst the recommendations for the provincial government: Conduct a high-carbon jobs census and low-carbon skills survey so that workforce planning will work from an accurate base; make use of existing training programs and facilities; push for rigorous standards (specifically, run a pilot project of a Canadian Building Performance Institute, modelled after the U.S. BPI, to oversee credentialling and certification for trades), and consider an Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard; investigate support for domestic industries (avoiding any WTO sanctions by following  a Sustainable Energy Trade Agreement model); work to implement carbon border adjustments to avoid carbon leakage ; and design programs to stand the test of time and changes to the governing party.

Building an Ontario Green Job Strategy recognizes that the Ontario Climate Change Action Plan included language about Just Transition, but it recommends strengthening and clarifying that language.  It also holds up two models for  tendering and procurement processes:  Community Benefits Agreements (CBA), which ensure that infrastructure investments result in social and economic benefits to the community and citizens of the  immediate neighbourhood –  with a case study of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project in Toronto,  and High Road Agreements,  where contractors are assessed against an established set of sustainable contracting standards and community benefits- with a  case study of a  Portland Oregon retrofit project.

The report was written by Glave Communications for the Clean Economy Alliance , Environmental Defence, and Blue Green Canada , “with the participation of the United Steelworkers, UNIFOR, Clean Energy Canada, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the Labour Education Centre, the Columbia Institute, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Ontario Sustainability, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, and Evergreen.”

 

How Trump’s budget will rob coal workers and communities of federal aid for transition and retraining

An April Issue Brief from the Center for American Progress examines the Trump actions to date and concludes that “The Trump Budget Cuts Hit Coal Communities and Workers Where It Hurts”  . In a concise, well-documented overview, the paper explains the widely-accepted facts about the decline of the coal industry – that it is caused not by over-reaching environmental regulation, but by market forces and declining productivity, especially in the Appalachian coal mines. But the thrust of the report is to estimate in detail how the Trump budget proposed for 2018  would eliminate $1.13 billion in federal funding for  7 of the 12 Obama-era programs, undoing the current  efforts to diversify the economies of coal mining communities and provide workforce training.

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama launched the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization, or POWER, Initiative, which funded efforts by  12 federal agencies to align, scale up, and target federal economic and workforce development assistance to coal communities and coal economy workers . Coordinated by the Department of Commerce, the Initiative included the Appalachian Regional Commission, which had been established in 1965 to invest in economic and workforce opportunities  in Appalachia, and the National Dislocated Worker Grants program, part of the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, which channeled funding to state workforce development agencies to provide employment and training services.   The CAP issue paper was co-authored by Jason Walsh,  who  was a senior policy adviser in the White House under President Obama, involved in the design and coordination of the POWER Initiative.

A new report from Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy asks “Can Coal make a Comeback?”    and with detailed statistics and  discussion of coal in the context of the global energy industry, answers the question as “No”.   The paper concludes with some examples of local economic diversification  programs, stating: “There is a lot the federal government can do to help accelerate locally driven economic diversification efforts… But this all requires a clear-eyed assessment of the outlook for the coal industry and a commitment to put sustainable solutions ahead of politically expedient talking points.”

The Columbia paper also calls for the federal government to help provide retirement and healthcare security by passing the Miners’ Protection Act  .  But an April 19 article in the New York TimesRetired Miners Lament Trump’s Silence on Imperiled Health Plan”(April 19)  describes the uncertainty for the miners and the political horsetrading in Congress – part of the government funding showdown due April 30.  The fates and possibly the lives of more than 20,000 retired miners rests on extending federal funding to the health benefits fund, depleted by coal industry bankruptcies . For the best explanation  see “ Mine wars: The struggle for coal miners’ health care and pension benefits comes to a head”  in The Conversation,  published April 26 and updated April 30th with the news that Congress  had extended health care benefits until May 5. This will be the latest of several extensions, without a resolution to the issue.

In addition to the economic analysis of the Columbia University report, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis ( IEEFA) published a brief on April 21, “U.S. Coal Phase-out, Blow by Blow: Plant Closings and the Likely Corresponding Effect on Specific Companies and Mines”—  which “focuses on how the scheduled closures, conversions or curtailments of 46 coal-fired generating units at 25 electricity plants in 16 states stand to affect the U.S coal-mining industry through 2018, including the loss of nearly 30 million tons of coal demand.”   It does not estimate job losses or community impacts.

Architects speak out for climate change mitigation and public advocacy

On April 17, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued a press release , announcing  eight principles governing how architects can mitigate climate change,  and urging the U.S.  government “to protect policies designed to conserve energy and reduce carbon in the built environment”.  An excerpt from the AIA statement  “Where we stand on Climate Change”  :  “ We know that carbon neutral design and construction is a growth industry. Employers from roughly 165,000 US companies doing energy efficiency work expect employment to grow 13 percent over the coming year, adding 245,000 more jobs. …. In Philadelphia alone, 77 percent of the city’s buildings need energy retrofits, supporting the creation of 23,000 jobs. …. We call on policymakers to protect financing and incentives to help communities design, build and retrofit their building stock.”

The AIA’s Energy Leadership Group had also recently issued a commentary  which summarizes and updates their long history of attention to sustainability.  “As stewards of the built environment, architects and our collaborators must be leaders in providing a powerful response to climate change. In order to achieve carbon neutral design as standard practice by 2030, we need to urgently shift our practices to apply passive design techniques, energy efficiency measures, embodied carbon reduction strategies, and renewable energy in all of our projects. By implementing these techniques, architects provide our clients with increased value, through benefits to human health and productivity, energy cost savings and resilience.

Architects must also expand our roles beyond design practice, by engaging in public policy to ensure the design, preservation, and construction of sustainable communities and high-performance buildings. This requires our active participation and leadership in the development, evaluation, and use of codes, standards, evidence-based rating systems and financial mechanisms.”

green bibliotechque

Bibliotheque du Boise, Montreal, from the RAIC website

Most recently in Canada, in August 2016,  the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada ( RAIC)  joined with 11 other organizations in an Open Letter to the federal government,  with recommendations for a national plan for improving the energy efficiency of Canada’s buildings.

Illustrating what is possible in sustainable designs, the Bibliothèque du Boisé in suburban Montreal was announced  as the winner of the 2017 Green Building Award, given by the  RAIC and the Canada Green Building Council.   The annual award recognizes outstanding achievement in buildings that are environmentally responsible and promote the health and wellbeing of users.   The building’s sustainability strategies include “an innovative integration of mechanical systems: a passive heating system uses the heat accumulated in a glass prism for redistribution through a geothermal loop. Low-flow ventilation through the floors reduces the number of ducts required. The building relies mostly on natural light, combined with task lighting, for energy savings: 75 percent of the library’s floor area receives natural light. The project emphasized the use of certified wood, low-emitting materials, and recycled or regional materials.”

EU Industry pledges no new coal plants as Australians mobilize to fight the giant Adani coal project

The Union of the Electricity Industry (EURELECTRIC), representing 3500 companies across Europe, released a statement on April 5, pledging that no new coal-fired plants will be built in the EU after 2020.   “The European electricity sector believes that achieving the decarbonisation objectives agreed in the Paris Agreement is essential to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the global economy. EURELECTRIC’s members are committed to delivering a carbon neutral power supply in Europe by 2050, and to ensuring a competitively priced and reliable electricity supply throughout the integrated European energy market.” Poland and Greece remain outside the agreement, and apparently outside the mainstream.

The Guardian calls the EU position   a “death knell for coal”,    and in a separate piece, summarizes the decline of coal-fired electricity around the world.  “Coal in ‘freefall’ as new power plants dive by two-thirds”  (March 22)    quotes a new report by Greenpeace  , Sierra Club USA,  and Coalswarm   :  Boom and Bust 2017: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline.   Its findings show a 62 percent drop in new construction starts, and an 85 percent decline in new Chinese coal plant permits. A senior Greenpeace official states: “2016 marked a veritable turning point”.  “China all but stopped new coal projects after astonishing clean energy growth has made new coal-fired power plants redundant, with all additional power needs covered from non-fossil sources since 2013. Closures of old coal plants drove major emission reductions especially in the U.S. and UK, while Belgium and Ontario became entirely coal-free and three G8 countries announced deadlines for coal phase-outs.”

Stop-Adani-LogoYet in Australia, environmentalists are waging an epic environmental battle against a giant, $16.5-billion coal mine adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, proposed by Indian energy conglomerate Adani. Government supporters, including the Prime Minister and politicians in Queensland, have argued that the mine would bring jobs and would not increase GHG emissions globally because Australian coal is cleaner than any other that India would be able to source from other countries; see an article in Climate Home for the rebuttal to that.  Voices in opposition include Bob Brown, a former Green Party leader, who states  : “This is the environmental issue of our times and, for one, the Great Barrier Reef is at stake. The Adani corporation’s dirty coalmine is an impending disaster with effects which will reach far beyond Australia.”  Or read:   “It’s either Adani or the Great Barrier Reef – are we willing to fight for a Wonder of the World?”   in The Guardian.   Thirteen community groups, claiming to represent 1.5 million Australians have joined the Stop Adani Alliance since its launch in March, and the Australian Conservation Foundation is behind another high-powered campaign . For context, see “The coal war: Inside the fight against Adani’s plans to build Australia’s biggest coal mine” from the Sydney Morning Herald.   For a catalogue of “the ten most-absurd things about the Adani mine ” , see “Australia’s Climate bomb: the senselessness of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine”    in The Conversation (April 12).

UPDATE:  An April 24 analysis  of the bleak prospects of the Carmichael Mine proposed by Adani for Australia  “Adani: Remote Prospect: Carmichael Status Update 2017”  .

Two Marches in April: for Climate action and Science-Based Policy

In releasing its  most recent working paper , the Labor Network for Sustainablity (LNS) states : “On the eve of the second Peoples’ Climate March, we offer this as a contribution to the conversation that we must continue in earnest and move us to bold, decisive and immediate action.”  Comments are invited, as is participation in Labor Contingent of the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. on April 29.  According to 350.org,  , more than 100,000 people have already RSVP’ed for the Washington March alone, as of April 13.   See information about the March in Toronto or Vancouver.

The LNS paper, Jobs for Climate and Justice: A Worker alternative to the Trump Agenda , describes  a Jobs for Climate and Justice Plan – a four-part strategy to defeat  the Trump ideas,  and develop  a climate-safe and worker-friendly economy.  Author Jeremy Brecher states that “protecting the climate requires a massive and emergency mobilization” comparable to the industrial transformation of World War 2.   The paper suggests ideas to create new climate-friendly jobs and protect the workers and communities who are threatened by climate change, and while most of these have appeared in earlier LNS publications , the sheer number of positive, concrete examples of worker  initiatives across the U.S. makes this an inspiring document .

According to an article in Common Dreams, “The Fights to Protect Science, People and Planet Are Inherently Connected” (April 6)   .  A  blog post from Legal Planet,  “The War on Science continues”  also makes clear how the Trump administration disregard for science is impacting climate change research, and how closely intertwined the two issues are.  So on April 22,  Earth Day, watch for or join the March for Science “the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments”. “….. We are advocating for evidence-based policy-making, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science.”

ScientistsThe main Science March is set for  Washington D.C., but there are sister marches around the world, including in 18 cities across Canada . The Canadian organizers, Ottawa-based  Evidence for Democracy , state: “The politicization of science, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted”.  This is not just an American issue.  Canadians remember the muzzled scientists of the Harper era, and can see current examples  – Evidence for Democracy published a report on April 6, Oversight at Risk: The state of government science in British Columbia   – the first of several planned surveys of provincial government scientists . Some results:  32 per cent said they cannot speak to the media about their research; 49 per cent think said political interference reduces their department’s ability to create policies and programs based on scientific evidence.

 

B.C. Election 2017: focusing on energy and the environment amid all those scandals

Flag_of_British_Columbia.svgThe sitting Liberal government of British Columbia, led by Premier Christy Clark, is facing an election on May 9, amid allegations of corruption  – most recently, in  “How Teck Resources benefits from being the largest BC Liberal donor”  from West Coast Environmental Law (April 6).  The Energy Mix reports  that  the Supreme Court of B.C. will begin a review of the government’s ties to Kinder Morgan,  the company behind the Trans Mountain pipeline, on May 3rd .  There are also wider, older  allegations of “cash for access” and donation scandals – for examples, see  the Dogwood Institute reports .

The election is full of contentious issues –  follow “ B.C. in the Balance”, a special series of election reports by The Tyee , or  DeSmog Canada ,  or the CBC Vancouver website for ongoing coverage.  Context is provided by a  CCPA-BC Policy Note (April 4), which summarizes the results of a recent survey of B.C. residents’ concerns: affordable housing and the cost of living (26%), the environment (24%), and  jobs and the economy (15%).

For a climate change-related viewpoint, West Coast Environmental Law has published a comparison of the climate change-related elements of the platforms of the three parties, and a scorecard .

The Liberal party platform, released on April 10, states: “ To keep B.C.’s economy strong and growing, today’s BC Liberals will get Site C built – employing thousands, and guaranteeing a 100-year supply of clean, affordable, reliable power. And the platform outlines key actions to strengthen forestry, secure new mining investments, and grow B.C.’s energy sector, including LNG.”    The Pembina Institute reaction speaks for most environmentalists in opposing the government’s continuing focus on LNG development:  “The platform released today continues … doubling down on an LNG industry that would be responsible for 20 million tonnes of B.C.’s carbon pollution in 2050. B.C.’s legislated 2050 target for carbon pollution is 13 million tonnes. Clearly, LNG is not a climate solution.”

Irene Lanzinger, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour  and member of Green Jobs BC  is critical of the Liberal record on green jobs, in  an April 13 article in The Tyee  , and points to the Green Jobs BC priorities for green job growth: clean energy, transit, building retrofits and forestry.

The Green Party platform   includes a statement on Building the New Economy,  and the platform on climate leadership . The Green Platform is most notable for its pledge to increase B.C.’s carbon tax by $10 per tonne per year, reaching $50 per tonne by 2021. (as recommended by the shelved 2016 Climate Leadership Plan ).  David Suzuki praises the Green platform but states:  “Missing from this announcement are details of a funding framework for public transit infrastructure investment and a firm commitment to expand the use of low-impact renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and tidal power to achieve the province’s energy needs.”  According to West Coast Environmental Law, neither the Green nor NDP platform makes any statement about fossil fuel subsidies.

The NDP platform is here , and was welcomed by the Pembina Institute on its release:      “We are pleased to see the commitment to implementing the recommendations of the premier’s Climate Leadership Team, which plot a course to significantly reduce B.C.’s carbon pollution — in particular, the pledge to adopt the proposed 2030 target and sector-by-sector targets for emissions.”

Canadian GHG emissions decreased by 2.2% from 2005, according to the latest report to UNFCCC

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) posted the National Inventory Reports of greenhouse gas emissions from most countries of the world in the second week of April 2017, including   Canada’s National Inventory Report 1990–2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.   The full 3-part report, available only at the UNFCC website, is an exhaustive inventory emissions of GHG’s, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride, reported for the country and for each province and territory.  Statistics are given for five economic sectors, as defined and required by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) :  Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use, Agriculture, Waste, and Land Use, and Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).  An Executive Summary is posted at Environment and Climate Change Canada, and includes statistics using Canadian economic sector definitions.

A few  highlights:  In 2013; Canada represented approximately 1.6% of total global GHG emissions. Canada remains one of the highest per capita emitters, although that is decreasing since 2005 and was the lowest yet in 2015,  at 20.1 tons.  In 2015, Canada’s GHG emissions were 722 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – a net decrease of  2.2% from 2005 .  The Energy Sector ( as defined by IPCC, consisting of Stationary Combustion Sources, Transport, and Fugitive Sources) emitted 81% of Canada’s total GHG emissions;  Agriculture emitted  8%; Industrial Processes  and Product Use emitted 7%; the  Waste Sector emitted 3%.

Using Canadian economic sector definitions, our Oil and Gas sector showed a 20% increase in emissions from 2005 to 2015; Transportation increased by  6% in that time.

Nationally, we posted a 31% decrease in emissions associated with electricity production. The permanent closure of all coal generating stations in the province of Ontario by 2014 was the determinant factor.

emissions by province 2015

From:  National Inventory Report 1990 – 2015 Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada; Figure S-9 Emissions by Province in 2005, 2010, and 2015

 

 

Cap-and-Trade proposals for Nova Scotia – and beyond?

A discussion paper released in early March by the government of Nova Scotia proposes the structure of a cap-and-trade system for the province, as required by the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change .  Nova Scotia is a reluctant participant in the national carbon pricing regime of the Framework, having walked out of one of the federal-provincial meetings on the topic in October 2016.

The Discussion paper, Nova Scotia Cap and Trade Program Design Options , proposes a plan which covers only those sectors required by the Framework, and grants free allocations to them, including Nova Scotia Power and the suppliers of fossil fuel. Sectors not included represent about 10% of emissions, and would be allowed to sell offsets into the system.  Fugitive emissions will not be included.  As stated in the Discussion paper, the system will not align itself with any other provinces. Yet, days after the release, and in apparent contradiction to the Discussion paper, the CBC reported that the Premier is still in discussion with the provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island about a regional system : see “Welcome to join: Atlantic cap and trade system explored” .

An excellent summary of the features and failings of the plan appears in a post from the  Environmental Law blog from Dalhousie University.  It states that the proposed plan    seems designed to meet the minimum GHG emission reductions obligations under the Pan-Canadian Framework, while also minimizing any impact on Nova Scotia’s economy. “We are clearly far from getting our C&T system right. To do so, would take time, careful analysis and a public dialogue on priorities and values rather than starting assumptions that all we care about is trying to preserve the status quo for as long as we can.” Unfortunately, the deadline for public submissions was March 31, less than a month after the release.

Political Manipulation Could Derail Nova Scotia’s Cap and Trade System”  in the Halifax Examiner is also highly critical. Author Brendan Haley decries the lack of time and opportunity for public input, and states that political expediency seems to be motivating the design of the carbon pricing system .  The Ecology Action Centre also has concerns over the proposed system   – their position paper is here .

 

 

 

 

Reports re environmental regulation arrive to positive response – next up in May: the Expert Panel on modernizing the National Energy Board

The Government of Canada launched four reviews of government environmental and regulatory processes in June 2016, and recently, the appointed Expert Panels have begun to deliver their reports.  The Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans  was released on February 24   – to a welcoming review by West Coast Environmental Law:  “We are pleased that the Committee has listened – to First Nations, to conservation and community groups, to scientists and concerned citizens across the country – and has recommended reinstating the Fisheries Act’s key prohibition on habitat alteration, disruption and disturbance .

Canada 2017 expert panel report building-common-ground-pdfThe Report of the Expert Panel on Environmental Assessment was released on April 5, and is open for public comment – only until May 5 at www.letstalkea.ca/.  The report, Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada   incorporates a fundamental idea in its title:   what is now “environmental assessment” should become “impact assessment”.  The Panel recommends that:  an Impact Assessment Commission should be established as an independent, arm’s length government agency, “with a broad leadership mandate to conduct project, region-based and strategic-level assessments.  …. The Commission would also be mandated to generate its own independent science so that assessments are evidence-based and agency-led… and the Panel should commit to  ensuring that the projects are not developed without the early involvement of potentially affected Indigenous peoples and the public. ”

One  of the first responses to the Expert Panel comes from Chris Toellofson at the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL) , who states: “the Panel deserves kudos for both for its ambitious commitment to process, and the innovative and balanced way it has charted the law reform road ahead.” The article continues with a thorough summary and analysis of the report, including: “Our biggest concern with the Report is that it has mainly focused on procedures, values and governance – and has therefore not engaged with some of the substantive legal tests that must be embedded in a federal assessment law to give it real traction. For example, the Report does not address the need for assessments to include “worst case scenario” modeling, and only briefly touches on the need for “alternatives” assessment. These legal requirements, as our experience in the Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan, and Pacific NorthWest LNG reviews underscore, can be of critical importance, both scientifically and legally.”

WCEL env assessment summit coverWest Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) also responded positively though briefly, calling the report “not perfect but a step in the right direction”, and calling on the government to translate the recommendations into law quickly.  WCEL had convened a Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit meeting in Ottawa in May 2016, attended by approximately 30 of Canada’s leading environmental assessment experts, academics, lawyers and practitioners.  The summary of those discussions  was published in August 2016, and offers a context for any review of the recommendations of the government`s Expert Panel report.

Next up in May:  the Report of the Expert Panel regarding the Modernization of the National Energy Board , scheduled to be delivered to the Minister of Natural Resources on or around May 15, 2017.   Anticipating that release,  Ecojustice published a blog,  Modernizing the National Energy Board : Let’s get it right  on April 4, which states : “Today, the NEB is riddled with systemic failures. Some of the most glaring problems include, no flexible timelines for reviews, lack of inclusive public participation, and limitations on public hearings such as no cross-examination and no meaningful consideration of climate change impacts…The NEB, as we’ve come to know it, is dominated by industry insiders and conventional industry perspectives. As a result, it fails to objectively evaluate the need for, and the consequences of, new oil and gas projects. As we transition to a decarbonized energy system in which we are less likely to build new oil and gas infrastructure, the NEB’s role — chiefly concerned with regulating oil and gas and in particular interprovincial and international pipelines — should diminish. In other words, the NEB should get out of the business of environmental assessment….  The NEB’s function should be limited to technical matters traditionally within its regulatory expertise (related to pipeline safety, for instance). It could also turn its attention to technical plans for decommissioning and remediating energy infrastructure, such as pipelines, that are redundant in a decarbonizing economy.”

How the government’s new procurement program could cut emissions and grow clean tech jobs

One of the commitments stated in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change was to “modernize procurement practices, adopt clean energy and technologies, and prioritize opportunities to help Canadian businesses grow, demonstrate new technologies and create jobs.” In Budget 2017, the government announced measures to support technological innovation;  the section entitled ” A Nation of Innovators”  includes the allocation  of $50 million to launch Innovative Solutions Canada , a procurement program modelled on the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research program .  On April 7, Clean Energy Canada stepped up on this issue with a policy primer to suggest best practices from around the world:   The Power of Procurement: How the government can drive growth, cut carbon and create jobs

The Power of Procurement cites a 2016 OECD report which states that in Canada, the procurement of goods and services by the federal government alone accounts for approximately 13% of Canada’s GDP.  With Canada`s current Green Procurement Policy  established in 2006, and with our clean tech export market share declining, Canada has a lot of catching up to do.  The Clean Energy Canada report offers five Best Practices for consideration as the federal government  fleshes out its new Innovative Solutions Canada program .   Included in the Best Practices: a focus on low-carbon as a  clearly defined parameter in decisions; lifecycle costing which includes the purchase price, installation cost, operating costs, maintenance and upgrade costs, and residual value; target-setting for specific outcomes;  and support for commercialization and exporting capability for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), which dominate Canada’s cleantech sector.

 

 

Is Europe on track to meet its Paris commitments? Is Canada?

Carbon Market Watch released a policy briefing report in March which found that only Sweden, Germany and France are making successful efforts towards meeting their Paris Agreement targets.   EU Climate Leader Board: Where Countries Stand On The Effort Sharing Regulation – Europe’s Largest Climate Tool  ranked the EU nations  for their actions towards meeting the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), currently under negotiation  to set binding 2021-2030 national emission reduction targets for sectors not covered in the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), including transport, buildings, agriculture and waste.    “Only three member states on track to meet Paris goals“, appeared  in the EurActiv newsletter, summarizing  the report and pointing  to many failings by member nations, including some “who exploited loopholes in United Nations forestry rules to pocket carbon credits worth €600 million”.   The National Observer noted the Climate Market Watch report in “Here`s How Europe ranks in the race against climate change” ,  and  asks “Where does that leave Canada?” .  As part of its own answer, the article  cites a report in The National Post newspaper on March 30: “Secret briefing says up to $300-per-tonne federal carbon tax by 2050 required to meet climate targets” . The article is based on a briefing note to the Minister of  Environment and Climate Change in November 2015, obtained through a Freedom of Information request.  The briefing note tells the Minister that in order to meet Canada’s 2030 emissions targets, a carbon price of $100 per tonne would need to be in place by 2020, with a price as high as $300 per tonne by 2050. The current national price for those provinces who agreed to the the Pan-Canadian Framework is $10 per tonne, rising to $50 per tonne by 2022.

Another  answer to the question, “where does that leave Canada?”  might  be the report released by Environment and Climate Change Canada: Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Progress Towards Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target , which shows that Canada could be emitting at least 30% more GHG emissions than promised by 2030.  The report, however, is based on the policies in place as of November, 2016 –  before the current Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.  The government is downplaying its own report, calling it only a set of “plausible outcomes”, rather than a forecast.

 

 

 

 

Ontario investing in transit, vehicle R & D

GO transit stationOn March 31, the Government of Ontario announced  that it will invest  $13.5 billion in the GO Regional Express Rail  project – expanding the existing GO commuter rail system in the Toronto-Hamilton area by building 12 new stations and  increasing  the frequency of service. This expansion will also include  creating a “transportation hub” at  the western terminus of the Toronto subway, according to a subsequent announcement on April 3 .  The goal is to increase the number of weekly trips across the GO train network from 1,500 today to roughly 6,000 by 2025.   The federal government will also contribute more than $1.8 billion to the GO Transit Regional Express rail project, using  funds from the Harper-era  New Building Canada Fund – Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component.   A further $200 million has been committed to 312 projects across Ontario through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund  . Click here  for a list of Ontario projects. Click here for the corporate explanation of the Regional Express Rail project.

Newmarket – a bedroom community of the Toronto area – announced  on March 27 that it will be part of  the Pan-Ontario Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trial, joining another GTA suburb, Brampton, already enrolled.  Newmarket will purchase six electric powered heavy-duty transit buses – four  from New Flyer Industries of Winnipeg, Manitoba and two more from Nova Bus, of St. Eustache, Quebec. Overhead-charging stations will be designed and manufactured by Siemens and ABBGroup. The local utility,  Newmarket-TayPower Distribution Limited, will  purchase and operate an on-route charging station.  The initiative is the result of a partnership between the municipality, the utility, and the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC)  , incorporated in August 2014 to support industry-academic collaborations to develop next generation technologies for Canadian transit and transportation systems.

In another press release , the government of Ontario announced a joint partnership with the federal government and Ford Motor Company of Canada, providing Ford with a conditional grant of up to $102.4 million to establish an advanced manufacturing program at its Windsor plant. According to the press release, “the investment will create 300 new jobs at Ford operations in Ontario and protect hundreds more.”  Ford will also establish a Research and Engineering Centre in Ottawa, employing engineers and scientists  to focus on infotainment, in-vehicle modems, gateway modules, driver-assist features and autonomous vehicles.

Return of oil and gas jobs? New pipelines and new technology are essential conditions

The headline of a Calgary Herald story on March 30 warns: “ Another 8,700 oil jobs are at risk if prices drop below US$50 for a sustained period, according to new study” .  Based on a labour market study by Enform consultancy,  the Herald states that this possible job loss would follow the loss of 52,500 direct jobs between 2015 and 2016, without even taking into account the job turmoil caused by the 2017 mergers and acquisitions in the Canadian oil sands: Canadian Natural Resources and Shell  ; Cenovus Energy and Conoco Phillips; and most recently, Enbridge and Spectra Energy  .

oil sandsThe original Enform study on which the newspaper article is based provides much more detail.  Labour Market Outlook 2017 to 2021 for Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry  was prepared by PetroLMI, a Division of Enform, and was partly funded by Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives program.  It reports that the oil and gas industry directly employed an estimated 174,000 workers at the end of 2016, (down by 25 per cent from the industry peak of over 226,000 in 2014). It forecasts job growth for two different scenarios – oil prices well above or well below  US$50 per barrel from  2017- 2021 .  The “modest recovery” scenario, (prices above US $50) ìs forecast to support an annual average of 554,000 direct and indirect jobs in the next five years; the “Delayed Recovery” is forecast to support 508,000 jobs.  The report provides detailed statistics by subsectors, occupations, and regions.  The report also notes the shrinking labour pool, as workers are discouraged from remaining or entering the sector, and as older workers retire.  Although the forecast expects limited job recovery in the next two years, it concludes that the peak employment levels will not return.  “Heading towards 2021 and beyond, accessing world markets via new pipelines will be critical for full job recovery. Equally important will be investing in technology, innovation and a highly-skilled and technical workforce to sustain the productivity and efficiency gains achieved in the last few years. These things will be critical if the industry is to compete globally and make a transition through carbon regulations.”  See the full suite of forecasts for the oil and gas industry, including the LNG industry, here .

 

 

Opposition to Trump’s Executive Order targeting the Clean Power Plan

The Labor Network for Sustainability in the U.S.  released a new paper,  “Trump’s Energy Plan: A Brighter Future for America’s Workers? , which urges the labour movement to “unwrap the package” and examine the proposals in Trump’s America First Energy Policy , released on the first day after his  Inauguration.  LNS reviews and refutes the major planks in that policy, including the “bring back the coal industry” claim, and states, “Our hard-hit coal miners and communities deserve a plan that will enable them to find decent livelihoods in the future, not one that lures them with illusions that it will bring the coal industry back.”  LNS has previously published its plan,  The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs, Saving Money , written by Synapse Economics .

trumphardhatThe most recent installment of the America First Energy Policy was released on March 28: the  Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth , replete with the illusory promise to bring back coal jobs.  Summaries and explanations are easy to find: from the Office of the White House Press Secretary ;  the Brookings Institute  ;  “The Giant Trump Order is Here. What it is, what it does”  in The Atlantic; “Trump just gutted U.S. policies to fight climate change”  from Think Progress . Dismay and outrage is also widespread, summed up by Vox :“This is it. The battle over the future of US climate policy is officially underway”.  Even the mainstream Washington Post brings out the battle imagery in its headlines:   “The standoff between Trump and green groups just boiled into war” (March 30)  ,  and “The assault on climate science is evil, and evil must be fought”   (March 31).

Although disguised in the language of job creation for coal miners, the Executive Order goes beyond the attack on the Clean Power Plan and coal-fired power plants  –  empowering the Cabinet to review and rollback  other Obama-era policies, including limits on methane leaks, a moratorium on federal coal leasing, and the use of the social cost of carbon to guide government actions. The Editorial Board of the New York Times sums up the scale of the attack:  “President Trump risks the Planet”  (March 28) .

The claim of “bringing back coal jobs” has been disproved repeatedly and convincingly. Typical is the press release from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis , which sees “zero employment impact” from Trump’s measures, stating,  “Market forces overwhelmingly favor natural gas-fired electricity generation and renewable energy, and the trend away from coal will continue”…. Coal is simply being outpaced. It is an industry in decline, and the fundamentals are inescapable.”  “A simple way to see why Trump’s climate order won’t bring back many coal jobs”  in Vox refers to the Department of Energy  Annual Energy Outlook 2017 , which projected that without the Clean Power Plan,  U.S. coal consumption would rebound only as far as the  historically low levels of 2015, when there were approximately 63,000 coal miners in America.  Today, there are approximately 50,000.   Compare this to the solar workforce, which created 51,000  jobs in 2016 alone – to bring the total number to 260,077 U.S. solar workers, according to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census.  Even the CEO of Murray Energy, the largest privately-owned coal company in the U.S., acknowledged in a report in The Guardian, that coal jobs are not coming back.

What the Trump Executive Order could do, according to modelling by consulting firm the Rhodium Group,  is to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emission reduction to around 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 – a far cry from the Paris Agreement pledge of 26 %, and effectively ceding climate leadership to the European Union and China.  The Sierra Club USA provides a thorough discussion of the environmental impacts in  Donald Trump Orders EPA to Unwind Clean Power Plan in Setback for “Vitally Important” Clean Air   (March 28) .    The reaction of major environmental groups such as Environmental Defence Fund, Earthjustice, and  Natural Resources Defence Council is summarized in “Environmental groups vowing to fight Trump’s Climate Actions ”   in the  National Observer (March 29).

Is there any cause for hope?  Yes, according to analysis by  Inside Climate News in  “Hundreds of Clean Energy Bills Have Been Introduced in States Nationwide This Year”  (March 27).  This provides a state-by-state summary of bipartisan clean energy legislation, stating:  “At least eight states—California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York,  Pennsylvania and Vermont—are considering legislation to dramatically boost their reliance on clean power in the coming decades. These bills specifically call for increasing the mandate to obtain electricity from sources like wind and solar, a common form of escalating quota called a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Currently,  29 states in the nation, along with Washington, D.C., have them and eight others have voluntary targets.”

Voices of Business are also challenging the Trump agenda.  In  “Climate change is real: Companies challenge Trump”  in The Guardian  (March  29) , the CEO of the We Mean Business coalition calls  the transition to a low-carbon economy “inevitable”, and the Executive Order “regrettable “.  Further, he states: “This announcement undermines policies that stimulate economic competitiveness, job creation, infrastructure investment and public health.” Similar sentiments appear in the Business Backs Low Carbon USA statement signed in November 2016 by over 1000 companies and investors. The statement  calls for the U.S. economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy, and  re-affirms “our deep commitment to addressing climate change through the implementation of the historic Paris Climate Agreement.”   The list of over 1000 companies is here  .

Finally, and giving everyone a voice: the People’s Climate March  on Washington D.C. on April 29 , organized by the coalition which emerged from the  2014 March in New York City and around the world.  The Labor Network for Sustainability will be leading a labour contingent in Washington – see their Facebook page for information , and see the People’s Climate March website for  locations of sister marches.

climate march

 

Climate change has consequences for mental health in the workplace

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance  is a report released at the end of March by the American Psychological Association, Climate for Health, and ecoAmerica. The goal is to raise public awareness of the issue and to provide “climate communicators, planners, policymakers, public health professionals, and other leaders the tools and tips needed to respond to these impacts and bolster public engagement on climate solutions.”  Although it doesn’t directly address workplace issues, much of the discussion is relevant.  For example, the report catalogues the acute mental health impacts that result from the horror and disruption of natural disasters or extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina –  depression,  disrupted social relationships, domestic violence, and heightened intergroup aggression.  The report also highlights women as being at higher risk: “because, on average, women have fewer economic resources than men, women may also be more affected, in general, by the stress and trauma of natural disasters.” (p.39).

Extreme weather and disasters focus attention, but there are also chronic impacts resulting from longer- term climate changes – the key example given is a proven increase in violence and inter-personal aggression associated with higher temperatures.   Certain occupational groups are highlighted for their high risk to climate-related anxiety, including first responders to natural disasters, but also including health care-givers, and those directly employed in natural settings – conservation officers, park rangers.

The final section of the report deals with tips to build resilience at the individual and community level.  It urges that training be provided for first responders so that they can identify and deal with appropriate compassion for the victims of natural disasters.