“Making Decarbonization Work for Workers: Policies for a just transition to a zero-carbon economy” was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on January 25th. In light of the federal government’s pledge to launch a Task Force on Just Transition in 2018, this report makes a unique contribution by using census data to identify the regions in each province with the greatest reliance on fossil fuel jobs. While fossil fuel dependence is overwhelmingly concentrated in Alberta, with a few “hot spots” in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, the report identifies communities from other provinces where fossil fuel jobs represent a significant part of the local economy – for example, Bay Roberts, Newfoundland; Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; Saint John, New Brunswick; Sarnia, Ontario. The report also makes the useful distinction between “reactive” just transition policies, which are intended to minimize the harm to workers of decarbonization, and “pro-active” just transition policies, which are intended to maximize the benefits. The author argues that, if the broad goal of a just transition is to ensure an equitable, productive outcome for all workers in the zero-carbon economy, a mix of reactive and proactive elements is necessary. Thus, a national just transition strategy is required for fossil fuel-dependent communities, but workers in any industry facing job loss and retraining costs will also need support from enhanced social security programs. In addition, governments must invest in workforce development programs to ensure there are enough skilled workers to fill the new jobs which will be created by the zero-carbon economy.
Making Decarbonization Work for Workers is a co-publication by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program . The author is CCPA researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood.