Impact on labour of the electrification of vehicles: new reports from Canada and Europe

In late August, the Pembina Institute released Taking Charge: How Ontario can create jobs and benefits in the electric vehicle economy,  discussing the economic and job creation potential for Canada’s main vehicle manufacturing province. The report considers manufacturing, maintenance, and the development and installation of charging infrastructure.  Its modeling estimates that, “if Ontario were to grow its EV market to account for 100% of total light-duty automobile sales as of 2035, direct, indirect and induced economic benefits associated with EV manufacturing would include over 24,200 jobs, and over $3.4 billion in GDP in 2035. In this scenario, Ontario’s EV charger and maintenance sectors can additionally benefit from nearly 23,200 jobs, and over $2.7 billion in GDP in 2035.”

The report concludes with seven policy recommendations which centre on stimulating consumer demand and encouraging private capital to invest in electric vehicles and infrastructure, and which include the establishment of an Ontario Transportation Electrification Council. Such a council is seen as a coordinating body for “the departments responsible for transportation, economic development, energy, natural resources, and environment as well as labour, training, and skills development.”

Taking Charge includes a short discussion of the impacts on labour, relying largely on the analysis by the Boston Consulting Group, published in September 2020 as Shifting Gears in Auto Manufacturing.  That report states that the labour requirements to assemble Battery Electric Vehicles and Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles are comparable — with the example of such tasks as fuel-tank installation and engine wiring shifting to battery alignment and charging-unit installation during vehicle assembly.  However, the report sees a likely shift from assembly work to parts suppliers, in the likely event that automakers choose not to manufacture batteries in-house. In that scenario, The Boston Consulting Group analysis forecasts that labour hours would be reduced by 4%.  The Pembina discussion concludes with: 

“To maximize the potential for the shift to electrification to contribute to a just transition for autoworkers, policymakers should keep in mind changes in labour and skills requirements within the value chain, as well as the importance of keeping as much of the EV supply chain within the province as possible.”

In Europe:  The new Fit for 55 legislative proposals introduced on July 14, if approved,  will mandate that vehicles’ average emissions are reduced by 55 percent in 2030 and 100 percent in 2035. Several publications have followed, including: a Clean Energy Wire Fact Sheet,  “How many jobs are at risk from the shift to electric vehicles?”, which concludes that there is greater risk of job loss amongst the supply chain manufacturers than at the big assemblers such as VW Group (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat brands), Stellantis (Fiat, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel/Vauxhall), the Renault Group, BMW and Daimler (Mercedes).  

Trade magazine Automotive Logistics published “Electrifying Europe: EU ‘Fit for 55’ legislation will transform the automotive supply chain” on August  23(restricted access), emphasizing that the new policy would “completely transform” the industry.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) published  Making the transition to zero-emission mobility: Enabling factors for alternatively-powered cars and vans in the European Union , a thorough analysis of the entire supply chain.   And following  an “auto summit” in August, involving industry, unions, and senior German government officials including Chancellor Angela Merkel, the details of a  “future fund” of one billion euros by 2025 were revealed, as summarized in “Billions in taxes for e-mobility” (Aug. 18). Despite this support for the manufacturers, concerns remain regarding the capacity of charging infrastructure – summarized in “The loading chaos remains even after the car summit: More electric cars, too few charging stations” (Aug. 20).

Canada can achieve net-zero electricity by 2035: Jaccard and Griffin

A new report by energy economists Mark Jaccard and Brad Griffin asserts that it is possible for Canada to achieve net-zero electricity by 2035, and describes and models how this can be achieved within the challenging jurisdictional structure.   A Zero-Emissions Canadian Electricity System by 2035 focuses on zero-emission policies that the federal government has the authority to implement, chiefly through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which has allowed the federal government to establish an industrial output-based pricing system. However, the report recognizes that the electricity sector is primarily a matter of provincial jurisdiction, resulting in wide variations which are described in a summary of the status and key features for each province.  The report models two different future scenarios, both of which assume substantial growth of solar, wind, and other renewables; the  growth of energy storage capacity; and continued resistance to interprovincial grid development. However, one scenario assumes continued use of fossil-fuel electricity generation with carbon capture and storage in Alberta and Saskatchewan, along with the development of large hydro in Atlantic Canada.  In terms of cost, the authors state that the scenario allowing for fossil fuel generation will be cheaper in the short-term, and more expensive in the long-term. The authors recommend that the government continue with the existing structure of federal-provincial equivalency-based carbon pricing systems, but that those agreements be monitored by Canada’s Net-Zero Advisory Body, “using the assessment expertise of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices”. (It should be noted that author Mark Jaccard is a member of the Institute’s Expert Panel on Mitigation).

The report was commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation, in collaboration with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, the Ecology Action Centre and the Pembina Institute.  A summary by Mark Jaccard appears in his blog .

Recommendations for increased climate action by federal and provincial governments

Pembina Institute and the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University published All Hands on Deck: An assessment of provincial, territorial and federal readiness to deliver a safe climate on July 24.  Although completed before the election call, the report is a timely and helpful assessment of where we stand, what our ambitions should be,  and reminds us that GHG emissions reduction is not up to the federal government alone. The report examines each province, territory and the federal government on 24 indicators across 11 categories, and concludes, in summary:

“The approach to climate action in Canada is piecemeal. It also lacks accountability for governments who promise climate action but don’t have timelines or policies to match the urgency of the situation. Despite the fast-approaching 2030 target, 95% of emissions generated in Canada are not covered by either a provincial or territorial 2030 target or climate plans independently verified to deliver on the 2030 target. No jurisdiction has developed pathways to describe how net-zero can be achieved.”  

The report states that Canada’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have dropped by only 1% between 2005 and 2019, and forecasts a national emissions reduction of 36% below 2005 levels by 2030, even accounting for the measures announced in A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy plan, released in Dec. 2020.  Despite the major impact of economy-wide carbon pricing and the phase-out of coal-fired electricity, emissions from other sources,  particularly from  transportation and oil and gas production, have increased since 2005.  

Taken in an international context, Canada has the third highest per capita emissions among the 36 OECD countries (approximately 1.6 times the OECD average), and was the second highest per capita emitter amongst the G7 countries in 2018. Perhaps most troubling, Canada is not moving fast enough to change – it has one of the lowest percentage reductions in GHG emissions per capita between 2005 and 2018.  The All Hands on Deck report offers specific recommendations for improvement for each province, as well as the following sixteen objectives that all jurisdictions should act on, listed below:   

1. Set higher emissions reduction targets and shrinking carbon budgets. Governments prepared to deliver on climate promises will: 

  • Commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 and model a pathway to achieve that goal
  • Commit to a 2030 target aligned with Canada’s historic contribution and ability to mitigate climate change
  • Translate targets into carbon budgets.

2. Make governments accountable. Accountability requires that federal, provincial and territorial governments:

  • Create an independent accountability body, and mandate independent evaluation and advice to the legislature, not the government of the day
  • Legislate targets and carbon budgets for regular, short-term milestones between 2021 and 2050
  • Mandate a requirement that climate mitigation plans, including actions to achieve legislated milestones, adaptation plans and evaluations, are tabled in their respective legislatures.

3. Prioritize reconciliation and equity. To begin the process of building reconciliation and equity into climate policy, governments need to:

  • Pass legislation committing to full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Commit to monitoring, publicly reporting on, and mitigating the impacts of climate change and climate change policy on Indigenous Peoples and their rights
  • Commit to monitoring, publicly reporting on, and mitigating the gendered, socio-economic and racial impacts of climate change and climate change policy.

4. Set economy-wide sectoral budgets and map net-zero pathways. In nearly every province and territory, either oil and gas or transportation (or both) are the largest source of emissions. As such, governments need to:

  • Set economy-wide sectoral budgets and strategies at national, provincial, and territorial levels
  • Prioritize emissions reductions in the highest-emitting sectors
  • Decarbonize electricity by 2035.

5. Plan for a decline in oil and gas. The federal government, and governments in fossil fuel-producing provinces and territories, need to:

  • Create transition plans for the oil and gas sector that are based on net-zero pathways and include comprehensive strategies to ensure a just and inclusive transition.

6. Accelerate the push to decarbonize transportation. Governments need to:

  • Mandate 100% zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales by 2035 and provide incentives for purchase and infrastructure
  • Develop decarbonization strategies for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and goods movement
  • Develop and fund public transit and active transportation strategies.

Canada’s Strategy for Greening Government needs improvement, and Canada Post sets unambitious targets

Although the federal government is directly responsible for only  0.3% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions (mostly through its buildings and fleet operations), it also has the potential to act as a model for emissions reductions by other governments and corporations. Yet surprisingly, federal government emissions have risen by 11% since 2015 (after falling between 2005 and 2015), according to Leading the Way? A critical assessment of the federal Greening Government Strategy, released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in early August.

The report describes and critiques how the Green Government Strategy works. It identifies three main problem areas: 1. The Strategy doesn’t include the biggest public emitters, such as the Department of National Defence, nor federal Crown corporations like Canada Post, Via Rail and Canada Development Investment Corporation; 2. there is a lack of urgency and specificity in the Strategy itself; and 3. there is  inadequate support for the public service to administer the Strategy, and to manage its own workplace operations.  The report states: “Public service unions have a role to play in pushing for these sorts of changes to reduce workplace emissions, including through the appointment of workplace green stewards and the inclusion of green clauses in collective bargaining.”

Canada Post, one of the Crown Corporations mentioned in the Leading the Way report, released its Net Zero 2050 Roadmap on August 6, setting goals to:

  • “reduce scope 1 (direct) and scope 2 GHG emissions (from the generation of purchased electricity) by 30 per cent by 2030, measured against 2019 levels;
  • use 100 per cent renewable electricity in its facilities by 2030; and
  • engage with top suppliers and Canada Post’s subsidiaries so that 67% of suppliers (by spend) and all subsidiaries adopt a science-based target by 2025.”

In reaction to the Net Zero Roadmap, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a press release, “Canada Post’s Unambitious Emissions Targets Disappoint CUPW” , which highlights that the newly-released Roadmap calls only for 220 electric vehicles in a fleet of over 14,000. CUPW offers more details about its goals for electrifying the fleet in its Brief to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on Bill C-12 in May, and sets out its broader climate change proposals in its updated Delivering Community Power plan.

Regarding the Canada Post delivery fleet: The Canada Post Sustainability Report of 2020 reports statistics which reveal that Canada Post has favoured hybrid vehicles, with  more than 353 new hybrid electric vehicles added in 2020, bringing  the total number of “alternative propulsion vehicles” in the fleet to 854, or 6.5%.   Canada Post pledges to use other means to reduce delivery emissions, for example by using telematics to optimize routing, to use electric trikes for last-mile delivery (see a CBC story re the Montreal pilot here), and by piloting electric vehicle charging stations for employees at mail processing plants in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, and at the Ottawa head office.  Canada Post is also a member of the Pembina Institute’s Urban Delivery Solutions Initiative (USDI), a network which also includes environmental agencies and courier companies, to research emissions reduction in freight delivery.

Industrial policy in Europe and new “Fit for 55” proposals

For a fair and effective industrial climate transition is a working paper newly published by the European Trade Union Institute, evaluating the support mechanisms for heavy industry (such as steel, cement and chemicals) over the past twenty years. Looking specifically at Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, the paper describes and evaluates policies related to the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), energy tariffs, and other taxes and subsidies at the national level. The authors conclude that the policies have largely been defensive and insufficiently ambitious, and have had negative distributional effects. They call for a more cooperative approach across EU national jurisdictions, and highlight some “best case” current practices, particularly from the Netherlands. Finally, the paper makes specific suggestions for future transition roadmaps which incorporate a “polluter pays” approach, and which incorporate an environmental and social evaluation of all subsidies, tax breaks and other support mechanisms.

The ETUI working paper was completed before the European Commission announced its  ‘Fit for 55’ package on July 14 –   proposals for legislative reforms to reduce emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 . Fit for 55 includes comprehensive and controversial proposals which must survive negotiation and debate before becoming law, but offer  reforms to the Renewable Energy Directive, the Energy Taxation Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive, and the European ETS, including a carbon border adjustment mechanism.  Also included: a circular economy action plan, an EU biodiversity strategy, and agricultural reform.  The Guardian offers an Explainer here; the Washington Post calls the scope of the proposals “unparalleled”, and highlights for example the transportation proposals, which  mandate reducing new vehicles’ average emissions by 55 percent in 2030 and 100 percent in 2035, which “amounts to an outright ban of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 ….”.  

Environmental racism in Nova Scotia and calls for changes to Canadian climate change policy

“Environmental Racism and Climate Change: Determinants of Health in Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian Communities”  was published in July by the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. Author  Ingrid Waldron, HOPE Chair in Peace and Health at McMaster University, presents case studies of several communities, based on her nine-year research and advocacy ENRICH project at Dalhousie University.  The article links to the ENRICH Project Map, which locates polluting industries in Nova Scotia, showing the proximity of waste incinerators, waste dumps, thermal generating stations, and pulp and paper mills near Mi’kmaw and African communities. Specific communities described in some detail include historic sites such as the Sydney tar ponds and Africville, as well as lesser-known examples and more current disputes, such as Boat Harbour and the Alton Gas dispute near Shubenacadie.  

These are examples of environmental racism, “the idea that marginalized and racialized communities disproportionately live where they are affected by pollution, contamination, and the impacts of climate change, due to inequitable and unjust policies that are a result of historic and ongoing racism and colonialism.”   Such locations, combined with such “structural determinants” of health as income and employment, come together to make residents more susceptible and sensitive to climate change impacts, and Waldron concludes the article with recommendations for policies to achieve “health equity”.  These include: environmental justice legislation focused on eliminating differential exposure to, and unequal protection from, environmental harms, (such as Bill C-230, the private member’s bill by Lenore Zann). Waldron also states: “ health equity impact assessment must be incorporated into the environmental assessment and approval process to examine and address the cumulative health impacts of environmental racism in Indigenous and Black communities that are outcomes of long-standing social, economic, political, and environmental inequities.”  More broadly, her accompanying blog, states : “To be effective, climate policy must focus on undoing the structural inequities that lead to power imbalances within society and, consequently, differential exposure to climate devastation.”

Global heating, health, earnings, and environmental justice

Most Canadians experienced global heating directly this summer – and in British Columbia, the chief coroner attributed  570 of the 815 sudden deaths during the June extreme heat event to the record-breaking temperatures, as reported by the CBC.   July 2021 was Earth’s hottest month ever recorded, NOAA finds”  (Washington Post, Aug. 13) states that the combined land and ocean-surface temperature in July was 1.67 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, with North America  2.77 F above average. The IPCC Report released in August includes long-term temperature trends in its overview of the physical impacts of climate change, and makes dire forecasts for the future.

Health, earnings, and environmental justice

Two new medical articles on the theme of heat and health appeared in the prestigious journal The Lancet, and are summarized in  Extreme heat-caused deaths have jumped 74% in the last 30 yearsin  Axios in August.   

Examining the economic impacts on workers, in mid-August the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released  Too hot to work: Assessing the Threats Climate Change Poses to Outdoor Workers. The UCS report is summarized in  “If we ignore climate change, it will be hell on outdoor workers”  in HuffPost, re-posted by the National Observer on August 24. One of its unique findings: a forecast that  between now and 2065, (assuming no action to reduce global emissions), the exposure to hazardous levels of heat will quadruple, resulting in a potential loss of 10 percent or more of earnings annually for more than 7.1 million US workers.  Economy-wide, this translates into up to $55.4 billion of earnings at risk annually. In Health Costs of Climate Change , published by the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices published in June 2021, the estimate for Canada was that the labour productivity impact of higher temperatures is projected as “a loss of 128 million work hours annually by the end of century—the equivalent of 62,000 full-time equivalent workers, at a cost of almost $15 billion.”   

Too Hot to Work counts farm labourers and construction workers, but also truck drivers, delivery and postal workers, firefighters, police, and forestry workers as outdoor workers. Given that  Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino workers disproportionately comprise many U.S. outdoor occupations, the report highlights the environmental justice aspects of extreme heat . This  environmental justice aspect has been described anecdotally by many articles over the summer – notably, in the poignant text and photos of “Postcard From Thermal: Surviving the Climate Gap in Eastern Coachella Valley” (ProPublica, Aug. 17) , which contrasts the living conditions of the wealthy in California, living relatively unaffected, and the real suffering of the mainly immigrant workers who live close by and work on the farms and as service workers.

Climate crisis a key issue in Canada’s election campaign

Apparently prompted by a desire to strengthen his political power, Prime Minister Trudeau called a federal election, to be held on  September 20.  Following this summer of heat, drought and wildfires, the climate emergency is top of mind for voters –  for example, 46% of Canadians ranked climate change as one of their top three issues of concern in the election, in an Abacus Data poll commissioned by the Professional Institute of the Public Service and The Broadbent Institute, summarized here. Two leadership debates are planned, on September 8 (French language) and September 9 (English language).   But as reported by The Tyee, four elders of Canada’s climate community sent an open letter to the head of the Leaders Debate Commission, calling for a special Climate Emergency Leadership Debate as well – described in  “Suzuki, Atwood, Ondaatje, Lewis Call for Emergency Leaders Debate on Climate”  (Aug. 18, The Tyee) . 

The full platform statements of the major parties, as of August 25, are here: Liberal;  Conservative, (with the climate plan, Secure the Environment ,in a separate document);  New Democratic Party , (with specific climate action commitments here, plus on Aug. 23 Leader Jagmeet Singh pledged to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies “once and for all”);  and the Green Party , whose proposals are not gathered in one document, but who have made a clear statement on Just Transition  .

The National Observer offers an Explainer summarizing the climate platform proposals of each of the main federal parties, here , and Shawn McCarthy contrasts the Liberal and Conservative platforms in “Climate crisis remains wedge issue on campaign trail ” ( Corporate Knights, Aug. 23). More analysis will no doubt follow – watch the National Observer Special section of the election here; sign up here for The Tyee election newsletter, The Run; follow the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Election coverage and commentary at https://www.policyalternatives.ca/Election44 ; or the Council of Canadians coverage here. New indie newsletter The Breach  also offers election coverage, including “Wielding the balance of power” , analysing the historical record of minority governments in Canada.

What are the demands and proposals from climate and labour groups? 

The Canadian Labour Congress hasn’t so far released specific statements regarding climate policies, but has spoken out against Conservative proposals which might lead to privatization of pensions and restriction to  EI (also criticized by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE),  and against O’Toole’s outreach to workers – summarized in  “O’Toole’s rhetoric cannot hide his record of hurting workers” by the CBC.

Unifor’s 2021 Election campaign is sponsoring TV and social media ads, targeting O’Toole’s Conservatives as taking Canada in the wrong direction.   

United Steelworkers have a clear statement of support for the New Democratic Party at their election website. Their support statement doesn’t mention any climate-related policies.

Public Service Alliance of Canada surveyed their membership in June, and found approximately half ranked climate change as a top concern, with a focus on what the federal government and military can do to reduce their impact. PSAC calls for a commitment “ to a diversified, green economy that supports workers and communities, serves the wellbeing of society, and drastically cuts our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) released a statement of  approval  of the  NDP transit and transportation policies.

Let’s Build Canada is a coalition of building and construction trade unions, advocating for candidates and political parties “to commit to supporting Canadian workers and well-paying, middle-class jobs.” This includes: supporting labour mobility in the construction industry; building good green jobs and a just transition for energy workers; and government programs and initiatives to support the workforce. (Coaliton members include:  International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied WorkersInternational Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT); Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART); International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron WorkersUnited Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA); and Canada’s Building Trades Unions ).