The potential of worker ownership to finance Just Transition – and other inspiring Canadian examples

briarpatch special issueSaskatchewan’s Briarpatch magazine has published a Special Issue on Just Transition. It is a treasure trove of inspiring on-the-ground perspectives and information from Canadians working for an economic  Just Transition. 

All the articles are worth reading, but here are some highlights:

How will we pay for a Just Transition”   expresses doubt that we can rely on the usual government policies to finance meaningful transition – for example, it reviews the One Million Climate Jobs campaign of the Green Economy Network and the inadequate response by the Trudeau government.  Instead, the article provides examples of more innovative models of worker ownership and cooperation which support redistribution of wealth and financial capital. First,  The Working World, which launched in 2015 in Buenos Aires to finance employee ownership of non-extractive businesses, and now administers a “financial commons” Peer Network .  The Working World has inspired other projects, such as the Just Transition Loan Fund and Incubator and the Reinvest in Our Power projects , being launched by the U.S. Climate Justice Alliance . The article discusses the role of philanthropy, specifically the U.S. Chorus Foundation, which states that it “works for a just transition to a regenerative economy in the United States.” In Canada, a much smaller similar philanthropic initiative is the Resource Movement,  a project of Tides Canada, which gathers “ young people with wealth and class privilege working towards the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power.” 

Other articles:

Recommendations for Just Transition coal phase-out in Europe

Bela Phasing-out-coal-a-just-transition-coverPhasing out coal – a just transition approach  was released as a Working Paper by the European Trade Union Institute in April – the latest of several publications on the topic by ETUI Senior Researcher and ACW associate Béla Galgóczi . Following  a summary of the role of coal in the European economy and the current employment structure of the broader coal sector, the paper provides an up-to-date summary of energy policies and just transition policies in France, Germany, Poland and Spain, and also looks at lessons learned from past phase-out experiences in the Ruhr Valley of Germany, Hazelwood coal plant in  Australia, and ENEL, Italy.  He notes that  a clear distinction should be made between hard coal regions, like the German Ruhr or Silesia in Poland, which are strongly-industrialized regions with a high level of urbanization and  a greater economic diversity,  and brown coal regions  such as German Lusatia or the Polish Lodzkie region, which  are rural areas with low population densities and employment concentrated in the mining and energy sectors.  The paper concludes that successful just transition requires, amongst other things: specific and targeted just coal transition policies with government involvement at the central and regional level; a properly-funded, specific mine closure agency, or a specialized agency for employment transitions for several years; individualized active labour market policies and personal coaching; and active EU-level financial support.

The author has made similar arguments  in a 5-page ETUI  Policy Brief,  From Paris to Katowice: the EU needs to step up its game on climate change and set its own just transition framework  (2018), and in his detailed  report  published by the ILO in October 2018 : Just Transition Towards Environmentally Sustainable Economies  and Societies for All, previously summarized in the WCR.

Our Time launches youth Campaign for a Green New Deal in Canada

OurTime_logoOn April 17,  young people and millennials  launched  a new national campaign to work for a Green New Deal for Canada, in a “massive economic and social mobilization”.  The stated  goal of the group, Our Time,  is “to organize and mobilize a generational alliance of young and millennial voters that’s big enough and bold enough to push politicians to support a Green New Deal in the lead up to the 2019 election.”

Our Time  is supported by 350.org and launches with “hub groups” already established in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.  (A brief article by the Halifax organizer is here ).    It aims to form a national network from across different communities, causes, movements, and generations –it states clearly that older people are welcome in a supporting role.

What do we mean when we say we want a “Green New Deal for Canada?”  traces the growth of the priorities, from the Good Work Guarantee outlined in December 2018 to the policies under consideration as of March 2019. These include four pillars for a GND for Canada: “it meets the scale and urgency of the climate crisis; it creates millions of good jobs; it enshrines dignity, justice, and equity for all, ensuring climate solutions lift up all communities and reflect the reality that frontline, marginalized and Indigenous communities are bearing the brunt of fossil fuel and climate impacts; it works in service of real reconciliation — respecting the rights, title and sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples.”

The Our Time campaign has been described in “As Youth-Led Campaign Kicks Off, Poll Shows Majority of Canadians Want a Green New Deal, Too” in Common Dreams (citing a North99 poll on Canadian attitudes to Green New Deal in early  April 2019, here ).  Another recent poll, by Ipsos was reported  in  “Climate And Environment Emerge As Top Public Concerns Before Canadian, Australian Elections” in The Energy Mix (April 24) , and shows  the timeliness of the Our Time focus on political action. Ipsos reports that Canadian concern about climate change at 48%  is higher than the global average (37%), and Canadians ranked their top five policy issues as: health care, the economy, housing, taxes, and climate change (in that order).

Climate activism in Quebec:  An update on activism in Quebec’s social contract for the climate  comes in “Quebec’s ‘Climate Spring’ speaks to broad support for environmental action” published in iPolitics  on April 17.   “In the span of a few months, 317 Quebec municipalities, representing almost 74 per cent of the population of Quebec, have endorsed a Declaration of Climate Emergency; close to 268,000 individuals have signed a pact to individually and collectively minimize their footprint and pushing for the adoption of a climate law; and a class action on behalf of all Quebecers 35 and under has been filed against the federal government for inaction on the climate file. Thousands marched twice in the bitter cold of late 2018 to demand climate action.”  And as the WCR reported,  the greatest turnout in Canada’s  Fridays for Future demonstrations on March 15 was in Montreal, with 150,000 marchers .  The presence of the Extinction Rebellion in Quebec is reported by the Montreal Gazette in “The clock is ticking and environmentalists aren’t going to take it anymore” (April 22).  Extinction Rebellion held its first meetings in Montreal in January, held workshops on civil disobedience and on the psychological toll of climate change, and demonstrated  in Montreal on April 17.  The article also profiles Sara Montpetit, a 17-year-old student who “has emerged as Montreal’s answer to Greta Thunberg” and has been leading weekly strikes as part of the Fridays for Future movement.  Finally, the  article highlights the French-language website Chantiers de la Duc which proposes 11 action plans, related to the Citizens’ Declaration of Climate Emergency.

canada may 3 climate strikeYouth climate activism across Canada keeps growing:  WCR  covered Canadian youth climate activism for the March 15th global Fridays for Future strike here .  Some  more recent articles have appeared in advance of the Canada-wide Fridays for Future strike scheduled for May 3 :

Meet the youth climate strikers leading Canada’s Fridays for Future movement”  from Ecojustice (April 24)

Student organizers report back on March 15 climate strike” in Rabble.ca   (March 21)

2019 is the year young people rise for climate justice” in Medium  (April 9) – which  describes the Powershift: Young and Rising event in Ottawa in February 2019.

“Young people banding together to demand more action on climate change”  in the Halifax Chronicle Herald (April 22) – which includes the Halifax activities of the global youth climate group  iMatter. 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon employees use their power as shareholders to request corporate policies on climate change

Amazon employees logoIn  what a New York Times article characterizes as “ the largest employee-driven movement on climate change to take place in the influential tech industry”, almost 7,000 employees of tech giant Amazon have now signed their names to an Open Letter to Jeff Bezos and the Amazon Board of Directors, released on April 10.  The Letter states: “we ask that you adopt the climate plan shareholder resolution and release a company-wide climate plan that incorporates the principles outlined in this letter.” It then outlines a thorough list of desired actions, including:  a complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets; prioritization of climate impact when making business decisions; prioritizing the most vulnerable communities in pollution reduction initiatives related to Amazon locations; and “fair treatment of all employees during climate disruptions and extreme weather events. Unsafe or inaccessible workplaces should not be a reason to withhold pay, terminate, or otherwise penalize employees — including hourly and contract workers.”  Amazon Employees for Climate Justice provides updates at their Twitter account here.

According to an article in Gizmodo : “Employees from seemingly every background and department have signed on, from UX designers to biz dev managers to systems development engineers and beyond. A number of senior employees are on board, too—in addition to the VP, at the time of writing, I counted at least eight directors on the list. It’s part of a growing trend towards worker advocacy in the tech industry, coming on the heels of the Google Walkout for Change and the We Won’t Build It effort, also at Amazon.”  The culture of empowerment behind the Open Letter is evident in an  interview published in Gizmodo, “One of the Amazon Workers Behind the Push to Get Jeff Bezos to Address Climate Change Speaks Out”  .  Wired also describes the culture of shareholder activism in “Amazon Employees Try A New Form Of Activism, As Shareholders” .

Amazon has more than 65,000 corporate and tech employees in the United States, who are awarded shares as part of their compensation program.  In late November and early December, 2018, 16 current and former Amazon employees exercised their rights as shareholders by tabling  a shareholder resolution – which has been seen as the trigger for Amazon’s  Shipment Zero initiative,  a vision to make all Amazon shipments net-zero carbon, with 50 percent of all shipments net zero by 2030. Amazon’s response to the latest Open Letter is partly reproduced in the Gizmodo article, and states:  “We have a long history of commitment to sustainability through innovative programs such as Frustration Free PackagingShip in Own Container, our network of solar and wind farms, solar on our fulfillment center rooftopsinvestments in the circular economy with the Closed Loop Fund, and numerous other initiatives happening every day by teams across Amazon. In operations alone, we have over 200 scientists, engineers, and product designers dedicated exclusively to inventing new ways to leverage our scale for the good of customers and the planet. We have a long term commitment to powering our global infrastructure using 100% renewable energy.” Amazon’s corporate website details all its sustainability efforts   – and  on April 8th, just before the Open Letter was published, a press release announced 3 new wind energy projects, to augment the current level of 50% renewable energy power for the Automated Web Services part of the business.

New York City announces its Green New Deal – including innovative building efficiency requirements and job creation

In a press release on April 22 , New York Mayor  Bill de Blasio announced  “New York City’s Green New Deal, a bold and audacious plan to attack global warming on all fronts….The City is going after the largest source of emissions in New York by mandating that all large existing buildings cut their emissions – a global first. In addition, the Administration will convert government operations to 100 percent clean electricity, implement a plan to ban inefficient all-glass buildings that waste energy and reduce vehicle emissions.”  The full range of Green New Deal policies are laid out in OneNYC 2050: Building a Strong and Fair City,  which commits to carbon neutrality by 2050, and 100% clean electricity. The full One NYC strategic plan is comprised of 9 volumes, including Volume 3: An Inclusive Economy , which acknowledges the shifting, precarious labour market and envisions green jobs in a fairer,  more equitable environment.

new york skyscraper

Photo by Anthony Quintano, from Flickr

A global first – Energy Efficiency mandates for existing buildings:  The Climate Mobilization Act, passed by New York City Council on April 18,  lays out the “global first” of regulation of the energy efficiency of existing buildings.  Officially called  Introduction 1253-C (unofficially called the “Dirty Buildings Bill”), 1253-C  governs approximately 50,000 existing large and mid-sized buildings- those over 25,000 sq feet-  which are estimated to account for 50% of building emissions. The bill categorizes these buildings by size and use (with exemptions for non-profits, hospitals, religious buildings, rent-controlled housing and low-rise  residential buildings ) and sets emissions caps for each category.  Buildings which exceed their caps will be subject to substantial fines, beginning in 2024. The goal is to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

Seen as historic and innovative, the energy efficiency provisions have been highlighted and summarized in many outlets: “New York City Sets Ambitious Climate Rules for Its Biggest Emitters: Buildings” in Inside Climate News ; “Big Buildings Hurt the Climate. New York City Hopes to Change That” in the New York Times (April 17); “’A New Day in New York’: City Council Passes Sweeping Climate Bill in Common Dreams;  and best of all,  “New York City’s newly passed Green New Deal, explained” (April 23) in Resilience, (originally posted in Grist on April 18).

Job Creation in Retrofitting and Energy Efficiency:  The New York City Central Labor Council strongly supports Introduction 1253-C  and cites job creation estimates drawn from Constructing a Greener New York, Building By Building , a new report  commissioned by Climate Works for All.  The report found that 1253-C would create 23,627 direct construction jobs per year in  retrofitting, and 16,995 indirect jobs per year in building operation and maintenance, manufacturing and professional services.  The report includes a technical appendix which details how it calculated the job estimates, based on the  job multipliers developed by Robert Pollin and Jeanette Wicks-Lam at the  University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute.

The Mayor’s Green New Deal press release also states “The City, working with partners, will pursue 100 percent carbon-free electricity supply for City government operations with the building of a new connection linking New York City to zero-emission Canadian hydropower. Negotiations will begin right away, with the goal of striking a deal by the end of 2020 and powering city operations entirely with renewable sources of electricity within five years. ” The National Observer describes reaction from Quebec and Hydro Quebec in “New York City’s Green New Deal music to Quebec’s Ears” (April 23).

 

Alberta elects United Conservative Party, promising a new climate policy, and to fight for the oil and gas industry

jason kenneyCitizens of the province of Alberta woke up to a new government on April 17th, with the election of the United Conservative Party (UCP), led by Jason Kenney.  After what Macleans magazine called  The most visceral Alberta election campaign in memory and CBC called “toxic” and “divisive” , the UCP election platform , Alberta Strong and Free  will begin to unfold, based on the promise to “ fight without relent to build pipelines. We will stand up for Alberta and demand a fair deal in Canada. We will fight back against the foreign funded special interests who are trying to landlock our energy.”  Ontarians will recognize much of the same rhetoric as that of  the Doug Ford Conservative government, including  cancellation of the “job-killing carbon tax”;  an “open for business” approach  to “cut red tape”, including worker protection; and creating jobs – in Alberta’s case, oil and gas jobs.

The CBC analysis of the election outlines further implications for the rest of Canada in  ” Jason Kenney won big — and the Ottawa-Alberta relationship is about to get unruly” , which highlights Kenney’s  combative style, his antipathy to the current Liberal government of Justin Trudeau,  and his close connections with the federal Conservative party (having served in Stephen Harper’s government).  The National Observer, on the morning after, sums up what to expect: “Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives issue warning to Suzuki Foundation after winning Alberta majority” , which also touches on what progressives can expect:  ”… the premier-designate delivered a warning to environmentalists, accusing them of being funded by foreign interests who are trying to shut down the Alberta oil and gas industry. He pledged to launch a public inquiry into their activities, singling out several charitable organizations including the David Suzuki Foundation  and the Tides Foundation …”

From Alberta: Calgary Herald election coverage  is triumphant, including Columnist Chris Varcoe with “Expectations are high as Kenney gives voice to Alberta’s angst“; Lucia Corbella with  “Kenney the Ironman performs miracle on the Prairies”In“Jason Kenney’s united right wins big, dashing NDP dreams of a Rachel Notley repeat“, David Staples from the Edmonton Journal acknowledges that growing the oil industry  is “a difficult, complex, multi-dimensional battle” but  “when it comes to oil and gas policy Alberta hasn’t been this united in a generation.”  The majority of his Opinion piece discusses “the malignant force that helped to divide us, the “Tar Sands campaign” which saw tens of millions in funding coming from U.S. foundations dedicated to demonizing the oilsands and landlocking Alberta oil.” He calls on the NDP to support the UCP plan for a public inquiry into “foreign interference” and  states that the NDP, the federal Liberals, and groups such as the Pembina Institute and Greenpeace are tarnished by association with that “Tar Sands Campaign”.

Union voices were strong in the Alberta Election:  The  Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) was extremely active in support of the NDP, with a “Next Alberta” campaign built around the AFL  12 Point Plan.  With a very pragmatic orientation, the Plan makes no mention of “Just Transition” or coal phase-out, and emissions reduction is proposed in these terms:  “Reduce carbon emissions, as much as possible, from each barrel of oil produced in Alberta so, we can continue to access markets with increasingly stringent emission standards. ..Our goal should be to make sure that Alberta is last heavy oil producer standing in an increasingly carbon constrained world.”  The AFL also commissioned a report by Hugh Mackenzie: The Employment Impact of Election Promises: Analysis of budgetary scenarios of UCP and NDP platforms , which concluded:  “Under the Notley budget plan, 5500 jobs would be lost. Under the Kenny budget plan between 58,000-85,000 jobs would be lost – more than were lost in the recession of 2015-16.” President of the AFL, Gil McGowan, discussed the report in an Opinion Piece,  “How NOT to fix Alberta’s hurting jobs economy in The Tyee.

Unifor, the union which represents thousands of workers at oil producers Suncor, Imperial, Husky and Shell, also mounted  an active Unifor Votes campaign which acknowledges that “in oil and gas, our biggest customer has become our biggest competitor”.  Unifor calls for policies for  “Next Generation Energy Jobs” to invest in new pipeline infrastructure ;  diversify and upgrade in the oil and gas sector and ” Use our resource wealth as a springboard to the future.”

Stepping back, here are some of the  articles which appeared during the election campaign, and which summarize the environmental and economic issues:  “Eleven Ignored Issues that Albertans Should Think about Before They Vote” (April 12), by  Andrew Nikoforuk, outlining :  the risks of global oil price volatility; the need for economic diversification; the growing fiscal pressure on oil-producing states; the cost of climate change; the need to promote a leaner and more local economy as opposed to the boom-and-bust one; Alberta’s failure to collect its fair share of profits from bitumen production; and, hanging over them all, the risk of economic collapse.”  In  “Analysis: Alberta Misses Out On Grown-Up Conversation About Fossil Transition” ,  Mitchell Beer of The Energy Mix compiles the statements from Nikoforuk, as well as economists Mark Jaccard, Vaclav Smil,  and columnist Gary Mason, concluding with: “ Smart, resourceful, and tech-enabled a place as it is, “too many in Alberta want to believe that a new pipeline will fix all that ails the province,” Mason writes . “That’s a fantasy, one that even the political leaders running to govern the province understand (but won’t admit publicly).” And several blogs from the Parkland Institute examine the implications for workers, including “UCP Platform will drive down wages”  .

Just Transition guidebook includes case studies, methods of measuring employment impacts

real-people-change-Called both a strategy document and a guidebook, Real People Real Change: Strategies for Just Energy Transitions  was officially launched at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue event on April 10, although published by The  International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)  in December 2018.  The IISD  says “it is intended to support governments of both developed and developing countries in their efforts to make energy transitions just. It brings together political and communications strategies for a just transition, building on research and case studies of energy transitions that have happened or that are happening in Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Poland and Ukraine.”  The report highlights what it calls  “a common “4C” framework that has been critical to several successful transitions: understanding the local context; identifying champions that can drive transition with various groups; making the case through transparent and effective stakeholder engagement; and developing complementary policies that support those who will be directly impacted by transition.

The report also includes Annex 1: Quantitative approaches for estimating
employment impacts, which provides a brief overview and critical analysis of the unique challenges of measuring the transition pathway through its stages.

The 5th Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD) included a side event,  Shifting to Below 2°C Economies: Strategies for just energy transitions, summarized here.  Amongst the speakers:  Hassan Yusseff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre.

Canadian banks still investing in yesterday’s economy – fossil fuels

offshore oil rigBanking on Climate Change – Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2019 , the 10th annual report by BankTrack and a coalition of advocacy groups, has been expanded to include coal and gas investors, as well as oil, as it ranks and exposes the  investment practices of 33 of the world’s largest banks. The newly-released report for this year reveals that $1.9 trillion has been invested in these fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement, with the four biggest investors  all U.S. banks – JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America. But Canadian banks rank high: RBC ranks fifth, TD ranks 8th, Scotiabank ranks 9th, and Bank of Montreal ranks 15th.  Among those investing in tar sands oil : “five of the top six tar sands bankers between 2016 and 2018 are Canadian, with RBC and TD by far the two worst.”

In addition to the investment tallies, the report  analyzes the banks’ performance on human rights, particularly Indigenous rights, as it relates to the impacts of specific fossil fuel projects, and climate change in general.  The report also describes key themes, such as tar sands investment, Arctic oil, and fracking.

In response to the Banking on Climate Change report, SumofUs has mounted an online petition It’s time for TD, RBC and Scotiabank stop funding climate chaos.    An Opinion piece in The Tyee,  “How Citizens can stop the big five ” calls for a citizens strike on Canadian banks – particularly by young people and future mortgage investors, and points out the alternatives: credit unions, non-bank mortgage brokers, and ethical investment funds, (such as Genus Capital of Vancouver ).  But while individual Canadians can make ethical choices, that doesn’t seem to be the path of our public pension plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which manages $356.1 billion of our savings.  On March 19, Reuters reported that the CPPIB  will invest $1.34 billion to obtain a 35% share in  a $3.8 billion joint venture with U.S. energy firm Williams to finance gas pipeline assets in the Marcellus and Utica shale basins.

Investment attitudes are shifting away from fossils:  The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund continues to lead the way: In March, it announced it would divest almost $8 billion in investments in 134 companies that explore for oil and gas; in April, it  announced it will  invest in renewable energy projects that are not listed on stock markets – a huge marekt and a significant signal to the investment community, as described in   “Historic breakthrough’: Norway’s giant oil fund dives into renewables” in The Guardian (April 5) .

In Canada, with the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance   scheduled to report shortly, the Bank of Canada announced on March 27 that it has joined the  Central Banks’ and Supervisors’ Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), an international body established in December 2017 to promote best practices in climate risk management for the financial sector.  (This is despite the fact that Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz discussed the vulnerabilities and risks in Canada’s financial system in his year-end progress report in December  2018   – without ever mentioning climate change. )  In the U.S., on March 25, the head of the  Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco released Climate Change and the Federal Reserve  , which states: “In this century, three key forces are transforming the economy: a demographic shift toward an older population, rapid advances in technology, and climate change.”  A discussion of both these developments appears in “Bank of Canada commits to probing climate liabilities” in The National Observer (March 27) .

And if we needed more proof that coal is a dying industry:  The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis released Over 100 Global Financial Institutions Are Exiting Coal, With More to Come  in February, drawing on the ongoing and growing  list of banks which have stopped investing in new coal development, as maintained by BankTrack.   The detailed IEEFA report states that “34 coal divestment/restriction policy announcements have been made by globally significant financial institutions since the start of 2018. In the first nine weeks of 2019, there have been five new announcements of banks and insurers divesting from coal. Global capital is fleeing the thermal coal sector.”  Proof: global mining giant Glencore announced on February 20 that it would cap its coal production at current levels in  “Furthering Our Commitment to the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy. “

English language version of Germany’s Coal Transition Report now available, with independent analysis of employment impacts

The final report of the German Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment (Coal Exit Commission) was delivered in January 2019, and is now available in an English language version.  The Clean Energy Wire  is a German news service written in English, and updates the implementation of the Report’s recommendations.  For example, an article from April 4 states that Germany’s federal government and coal mining states have agreed on a programme worth 260 million euros to provide fast support to regions affected by the coal exit – a first step in the estimated 40 billion euros  needed over the next 20 years.  On April 8, it published  “Mining union wants more efforts to unleash energy transition’s job potentials” , providing an English language  summary of German statements by the leader of IG BCE.

The Wuppertal Institute commented on the Commission’s findings and made its own recommendations in Assessment of the Results of the Commission on Structural Change  . The report commends the Commission for finding a consensus path forward amidst very strong competing interests, but looking ahead, it calls for  public education and acceptance, as well as policy tools “to push ahead vigorously with the expansion of renewable energies, to create the necessary framework conditions with the expansion of the electricity grid and to implement a holistic approach to the energy transition which, above all, takes the potential of energy efficiency into account to a much greater extent than before. ”

coal miner germanyAlso in the wake of the Coal Exit Commission report, researchers at the German Institute for Economic Research , the Wuppertal Institute  and the Ecologic Institute released a detailed joint report explaining why the coal phase-out is needed and how it can become a success. It also provides facts and figures on the German coal industry, including a list of all large coal plants . The summary press release is here .  Phasing Out Coal in the German Energy Sector:  Interdependencies, Challenges And Potential Solutions  argues that the benefits of phasing out coal exceed the costs and will province  new economic opportunities, with jobs in demand-management, storage, “power-to-x applications”, and efficiency technologies. Of particular interest is Section 4 of the report,  which includes statistics and discussion of employment effects.  Approximately 18,500 persons are employed directly in lignite-fired power plants and lignite mining, with another 4,000 to 8,000 in coal-fired power plants. The report finds that, by 2030, approximately  two thirds of the direct employees would be eligible for normal retirement, and another 10% would be eligible for early retirement schemes at the age of 55.   For younger employees, some jobs will be created in dismantling power plants and for remediation. For others who will need to find new jobs, the report holds up the example of Vattenfall in Berlin, where trainees under a rotation scheme can learn different skills in various functions . The report acknowledges that the wage level in the lignite industry is far higher than comparable new employment. It also discusses the availability of   EU, German Government and Federal State funds to finance structural change in the lignite regions.  EU support includes policy support under the Platform for Coal Regions in Transition,  established in December 2017, as well as EU funds.

 

 

 

Alberta election on April 16: economy and the environment face a better future with an NDP win

The Alberta provincial election takes place on April 16  – in an atmosphere of economic anxiety, as summarized by “Albertans prepare to elect a government in a climate of deep anxiety” and “No pedal to floor: Experts say no government can bring back Alberta bitumen boom” .   And Macleans sums up election coverage in “The most visceral Alberta election campaign in memory” .

AFL-Final-logoGiven the radically different policies and futures at stake, the Alberta Federation of Labour has been active in this election campaign, with a “Next Alberta” campaign and an information rich website.   Most recently, the AFL commissioned and released a report by Hugh Mackenzie: The Employment Impact of Election Promises: Analysis of budgetary scenarios of UCP and NDP platforms . The report compares the economic and employment impacts over the next four years of the fiscal scenarios implied by the strategy of the Rachel Notley NDP government, as set out in its 2018 Budget, and the election platform  of Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party (UCP), Getting Alberta Back to Work .  Mackenzie’s conclusion:  “Under the Notley budget plan, 5500 jobs would be lost. Under the Kenny budget plan between 58,000-85,000 jobs would be lost – more than were lost in the recession of 2015-16.”

President of the AFL, Gil McGowan, discusses the report in an Opinion Piece,  “How NOT to fix Alberta’s hurting jobs economy”  in The Tyee.   He states: “The UCP plan, which hollows out government revenue with a large corporate tax cut, requires more than $7 billion in annual program spending to be cut by the fourth year of the UCP’s plan, in order to meet their goal of eliminating the deficit by 2023. The fiscal strategy proposed by Jason Kenney would cut employment in Alberta by nearly 60,000 over a four-year period, with 27,700 job losses in the public sector and 30,600 job losses in the private sector.

The UCP’s stated longer-term objective of reducing Alberta’s per capita public services investment to the level in B.C. would push job losses even higher, to a total of nearly 85,000.

Looking at the likely bottom-line impacts, it is clear that the point of the UCP’s fiscal strategy is not to address the deficit or debt, since the UCP’s stated debt load after four years of $86 billion is not far off from the NDP projection of $95 billion. The big difference between the NDP and the UCP is that the NDP will spend on people, while the UCP will spend on tax breaks for corporations.”

From an  environmental perspective, The Narwhal has published thoughtful discussions of the issues at stake in the Alberta election: “Notley vs. Kenney on how to deal with Alberta’s 167,000 inactive and abandoned oil and gas wells”  (April 3) and “Eight environmental issues at stake in the Alberta election (that are not pipelines)”   (April 11) – including reclamation and oil and gas liabilities, carbon taxes, methane regulation, energy efficiency, and the oilsands emissions cap.

Another substantial discussion  comes from the Pembina Institute blog, Climate policy is economic policy: party platforms must address climate action ,which  states, “Both parties need to commit to more to protect the current and future interests of Albertans, and prepare the province for a 21st-century economy. ”  The Pembina outlined its preferred vision in March,   Energy Policy Leadership in Alberta.

 

Amnesty International campaign calls for better mining, manufacture, and disposal of electric vehicle batteries

golf electricWhile the Nordic EV Summit   in March 2019 showcased progress on the adoption of electric vehicles, Amnesty International used that backdrop to  issue a challenge to leaders in the electric vehicle industry –  to produce the world’s first completely ethical battery, free of human rights abuses within its supply chain, within five years.

It is not news that the mining of  cobalt and lithium, the two key minerals in batteries, has been linked to human rights abuses, environmental pollution, ecosystem destruction and indigenous rights violations.   Amnesty was amongst the first to document the child labour and human rights abuses with a report This is what we die for   in 2016,  updated in  2017 by an article,  “The Dark Side of Electric Cars: Exploitative Labor Practices”.  More recently, “Indigenous people’s livelihoods at risk in scramble for lithium, the new white goldappeared in The Ethical Corporation  (April 9), describing the human rights situation in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, which hold 60% of the world’s lithium reserves. The environmental impacts of deep-sea mining are also of concern.

In addition to the mining of raw materials, battery manufacturing has a high carbon footprint, with most of the current manufacturing concentrated in China, South Korea and Japan, where electricity generation remains dependent on coal and other polluting sources of power.

Finally, the issue of electronic waste, including batteries, has been the subject of several  reports:  From  the International Labour Organization :  in 2012,  Global Impact of E-waste: Addressing the Challenge and more recently,  Decent work in the management of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) , an Issues paper produced for a Global Dialogue Forum on Decent Work in the Management of Electrical and Electronic Waste in April 2019.  The 2019  report provides estimates of the workforce involved in some countries – led by China, with an estimated 690,000 workers in 2007, followed by up to 100,000 in Nigeria , followed by 60,000 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  The report deals mainly with occupational health and safety issues and includes an overview of international  e-waste regulation, as well as case studies of  the U.S., Argentina, China, India, Japan, Nigeria.  Similar discussions appear in  A New Circular Vision for Electronics Time for a Global Reboot , released by the E-waste Coalition at the 2019 World Economic Forum, and in a blog, Dead Batteries deserve a Second Life published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development on April 9.evcobalt-lithium-V2_1-supply-chain

Clearly, there are labour and environmental problems related to lithium-ion batteries and the green vehicles and electronic devices they power.  Recognizing  all these concerns, the new Amnesty International campaign is calling for:  improvement in human rights practices in mining, and  a prohibition on commercial deep-sea mining; disclosure and accounting for carbon in manufacturing, and for legal protection and enforcement of workplace rights such as health, equality and non-discrimination; finally for products to be designed and regulated to encourage re-use and penalize waste, with prevention of  illegal or dangerous export and dumping of batteries.

Canadian government funds new Climate Change research network

Environment and Climate Change Canada announced a new consortium on April 9, to be called the Pan-Canadian Expert Collaboration, and to be chaired by Blair Feltmate , Head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.  The Collaboration brings together fifteen Canadian research institutes, to provide independent, informed advice to policy-makers, mainly on the issues of clean energy, carbon pricing and adaptation.  The researchers were chosen after an extensive competition, begun in October 2018, and the project will be eligible to receive up to $20 million over five years – assuming the Liberal government remains in power in Ottawa after the 2019 election.

The real nitty-gritty about the goals of the initiative are contained in the Discussion Paper  issued to solicit interest in the competition . The briefer government  Backgrounder  on April 9  sets out the goals of the Collaboration, and lists the fifteen research organizations chosen to participate.  The goals: “provide credible and authoritative advice to Canadians and their governments; develop and provide independent and expert-driven analysis to help Canada move toward clean growth in all sectors and regions of the country; develop advice and analysis spanning climate change mitigation, adaptation, and clean growth; set its own agenda and operate independently from government; and fill existing information gaps and help translate research into useful information for policy decision-making.”

The membership:

canada's changing climate coverSo far, the media have taken little notice of the group, despite the fact that it was announced only a week after the release  of the landmark and alarming  government report, Canada’s Changing Climate, which showed that Canada is warming at twice the global rate.  As  of April 10, the only item published comes from The National Observer, “Skeptical of Trudeau’s carbon pricing? There’s an institute for that” (April 9) , which  focuses on the reaction from Ontario’s Ford government – attempting to brand the group as elite academics with no understanding of the costs of climate change policies.

B.C.’s Energy Step Code estimated to generate 1,700 jobs by 2032 while improving energy efficiency

BCenergySTEP_Logo_NavThe B.C. Energy Step Code, enacted in April 2017, is a voluntary standard  which outlines an incremental approach to achieving more energy-efficient buildings in the province of British Columbia, over and above  the requirements of the B.C. Building Code. According to a report released  on March 7 by the Vancouver Economic Commission, the Energy Step Code has created a local market of $3.3 billion for green building products and the potential to create over 1,700 manufacturing and installation jobs between 2019–2032.

Green Buildings Market Forecast :  Demand for Building Products, Metro Vancouver, 2019–2032 was written for “manufacturers, suppliers, investment partners and other industry professionals to help them understand and prepare for changes in building product demand and performance requirements …”  Along with a companion technical report , BC Energy Step Code Supply Chain Study – Final Report  ( March 2019), it describes the basics of the Energy Step Code, and provides regional data and demand estimates for various products such as high-performance windows, lighting, heat pumps and renewable energy systems.  Employment impacts are not the main focus, but the report also estimates the potential job creation impact to be 925 sustainable manufacturing jobs throughout B.C., as well as 770 ongoing installation jobs in Metro Vancouver.  The Market Demand Forecasting Tool which underlies the report was developed by Vancouver Economic Commission in consultation with real estate and construction industry experts over eight months in 2018; modelling for the report was done by The Delphi Group. The details of the forecasting tool are documented in Appendix One of the report.

Two related, earlier reports: 1.  Energy Step Code Training and Capacity , a consultants report from 2017, discusses the competencies required by professions (including architects and engineers) and trades, and provides an extensive inventory of training agents in the province.

The State of Vancouver’s Green Economy (June 2018) by the Vancouver Economic Commission, which states that the largest segment of jobs in Vancouver in 2016 were in the  Green Building sector, with 7,689 jobs.  The total Green Economy job count,  encompassing Green Building; Clean Tech; Green Mobility; Materials Management; and Local Food was estimated at 25,000 jobs.

The B.C. Energy Step Code launched a new website in 2019.

Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world – what should we do?

 

Canada’s Changing Climate Report (CCCR), was released on April 2, documenting the  consensus of scientific experts from the federal government and academia, about how and why Canada’s climate has changed to date, with projections for the future.  The main message is tipped by the title of the government’s press release: “Canada’s climate is warming twice as fast as global average”.  Canada’s annual temperature over land has warmed on average 1.7 degrees Celsius between 1948 and 2016 (compared with the the IPCC assessment of average global warming between 0.8 C and 1.2 C). Worse, in the Arctic, temperatures have risen by 2.3C – about three times the global average. In some parts of the Northwest Territories, temperatures have risen by between 4 C and 5 C .

 

cccr graphicLike the careful scientific style of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C  (Oct. 2018), the Canadian report offers two different scenarios, based on low and high emissions futures. The general statement about the future, however,  states: “The effects of widespread warming are already evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the near future. A warmer climate will affect the frequency and intensity of forest fires, the extent and duration of snow and ice cover, precipitation, permafrost temperatures, and other extremes of weather and climate, as well as freshwater availability, rising of sea level, and other properties of the oceans surrounding Canada.” “Scenarios with limited warming will only occur if Canada and the rest of the world reduce carbon emissions to near zero early in the second half of the century and reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases substantially.”

The report is available in English  and in French , with a 17-page Executive Summary in English   and in French .  This is the first in a series of National Assessment reports to be rolled out until 2021, including a National Issues report on climate change impacts and adaptation; a Regional Perspectives report about  impacts and adaptation in six regions, and a Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate report, assessing risks to health and to the health care system.

Are Canadians panicking? Sorry Greta, not yet anyway:  Summaries of the Changing Climate Report  include: “Canada says global carbon pollution must be reduced to ‘near zero’ to limit harsh impacts” in The National Observer ; “Environmentalists hope for action  in wake of ‘shocking and utterly unsurprising’ climate-change report”  (consisting mostly of embedded audio interviews);   CBC’s  “What you need to know about the new climate report” ; an Energy Mix summary by Mitchell Beer ; and Crawford Kilian in The Tyee, “New Climate change report should be a wake-up call”  which focuses on British Columbia.

Two Opinion Pieces may explain the lack of panic with which this report has been greeted : Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star, “Canadian politicians are obsessed with the wrong crisis”  and  Neil Macdonald at CBC “Report on devastating Canadian climate change a far bigger issue than Jody Wilson-Raybould”  .

Reaction from the Council of Canadians Blog is constructive:  “Canada is warming faster than we thought. What can we do about it?”  –urging readers to take individual action, including support for a Canadian Green New Deal.  Such political action will be necessary, according to Julie Gelfand, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, who tabled her Spring 2019 audit reports in Parliament on April 2.  The environmental audits cover the topics of aquatic invasive species, the protection of fish and their habitat from mining effluent,  and subsidies to the fossil fuels sector.   In the accompanying “Perspective” statement as she leaves her position after five years, she reflects on lessons learned and concludes: “it’s the slow action on climate change that is disturbing. Many of my reports focused on climate change from various angles. We looked at federal support for sustainable municipal infrastructure, mitigating the impacts of severe weather, marine navigation in the Canadian Arctic, environmental monitoring of oil sands, oversight of federally regulated pipelines, funding clean energy technologies, fossil fuel subsidies, and progress on reducing greenhouse gases. For decades, successive federal governments have failed to reach their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the government is not ready to adapt to a changing climate. This must change.”

commissioner gelfand graphic