The Role of Work and the Labour Movement to Slow Global Warming

PrintWork in a Warming World, released by McGill Queen’s University Press on April 15, begins with the acknowledgement that the world of work – goods, services, and resources – produces most of the greenhouse gases created by human activity. In ten chapters, the book’s contributors demonstrate “how the world of work and the labour movement need to become involved in the struggle to slow global warming, and the ways in which environmental and economic policies need to be linked dynamically in order to effect positive change”. The book is organized into “Trends and Challenges”, such as the dilemma of the Canadian labour movement, and gender analysis of emissions reduction, and “Making Green Work”, with examples from the construction, hospitality, and energy industry, as well as chapters on sustainable infrastructure and its implications for the engineering profession, and the role of cities and the green economy. The book has a Canadian focus, but includes an international context. Chapters were written by associates of the Work in a Warming World research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, led by Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

Good Jobs and GHG Reductions Promised by Vancouver Transit Plan

Good Jobs, Clean Skies examines the potential economic and climate impacts of the Mayors’ Council Regional Transit Plan, which calls for an investment of $7.5 billion over the next ten years, to cope with the expected immigration of 1 million new residents to the Vancouver Tri-City area.

The analysis forecasts 26,322 person years of new direct employment, 43,800 person years of total employment, $2.96 billion in wages, and $4.48 billion toward GDP in Metro Vancouver over its 10 year life span. Additionally, the area would experience an 8.2% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from transport, versus a business as usual approach, and the plan would save more than $1 billion in traffic congestion costs. By improving by 7% the number of jobs accessible by transit, the Plan would support targets for livability, growth, and location of employment.

The study is a co-publication of Green Jobs BC and Blue Green Canada. In February 2015, the Mayors Council had released a report by InterVISTAS Consulting, The Economic Impact of Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan 2014 – 2045. That report forecasts direct, indirect and induced jobs, finding 40,000 jobs created for the capital phase, and 197,000 created in operations from 2014-2045. The consultants’ report doesn’t address other economic benefits such as reduced congestion, improved goods movement, and improved labour mobility, nor does it forecast the environmental benefits. The Transit Plan is subject to a Referendum vote underway until  May 29, 2015. 

Employee-Related Initiatives at Canada’s Greenest Workplaces

The results of the 9th annual Canada’s Greenest Employers competition were made available online at the Globe and Mail on Earth Day. “Canada’s greenest employers help the Earth – and their bottom lines” (April 22) is a quick overview, but the online list of winners allows readers to select each employer by name, and find much more detail on the reasons why they were selected: e.g. unique initiatives, presence of an environmental audit, organizational responsibility for green initiatives, building LEED rating, community initiatives, etc. Companies are listed both for the environmental impact of their products/services, and their workplace policies. For example, Nature’s Path is an organic food manufacturer in Richmond, B.C., but was also cited for its mandatory sustainability training for all new employees. Keilhauer, a custom furniture manufacturer in Toronto, is included for its in-house “Design for Environment” employee training program, which began in 2011 and sparked the switch to more environmentally-responsible manufacturing processes such as water-based wood stains and  FSC-certified wood. Not all employers on the list produce green products: e.g. Labatt’s Breweries is included because of its significant water and waste reduction programs, and for its employee engagement initiatives – all employee suggestions for green improvements are entered into a searchable database so employees in any of the parent company Anheuser-Busch locations around the world can learn from each other. The Greenest Employers list is linked to the Eluta job search engine to aid job-seekers who prefer to work for a green company.

Organizations will need Leaders with Sustainability Competencies

Sustainability Talent Management: The New Business Imperative is a consultant’s report released in April by Alberta firm Strandberg Consulting. Arguing that companies will need to reinvent themselves to secure their access to resources and the social license to operate and grow, the author reviewed the business and human resource management literature since 2005 to arrive at five competencies required for leaders to successfully cope with the sustainability issues. These are: systems thinking, external collaboration, social innovation, sustainability literacy, and active values. It concludes: “Professional associations, management education and business schools should consider their role in equipping future leaders with these competencies. HR, talent and learning and development professionals can identify gaps in their current approach to leadership development and build these leadership qualities to enable future sustainable and commercial success. Organizations can use these competencies to enhance the talent pipeline and develop the next generation of leaders and the organizational capacities to steer corporations toward a sustainable future for all”.

U.S. Climate Policy Considers Health Effects of Climate Change, Including Occupational Health

On April 7th, the Obama administration announced a series of new initiatives which will highlight the health risks of climate change, especially for children, the elderly and the vulnerable. In the companion Climate and Health Assessment report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, outside workers are identified as exceptionally vulnerable to heat extremes. ” Certain occupational groups that spend a great deal of time exposed to extreme temperatures such as agricultural workers, construction workers, and electricity and pipeline utility workers are at increased risk for heat-and cold-related illness, especially where jobs involve heavy exertion… Lack of heat illness prevention programs that include provisions for acclimatization was found to be a factor strongly associated with death”. The report cites numerous other reports on heat  effects, including a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control, “Heat Illness and Death Among Workers – United States, 2012-2013”.

Job Benefits of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions

An analysis published at the end of March by the New Climate Institute of Germany estimates  the co-benefits associated with the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC)  targets of the EU, as well as the anticipated statements from the U.S. and China. The co-benefits include the cost savings associated with reduced fossil fuel imports, the reduction in premature deaths associated with reduced air pollution, and the generation of green jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Job creation forecasts were only made for wind, solar, and hydro electricity sectors, and within that, only for manufacturing, construction and installation, and operation and maintenance. Even within those conservative parameters, the forecasts show that if the IDNC’s of the three jurisdictions were strengthened so that they actually would meet the 2 degree celsius reduction target, job creation would be 350,000 in the EU, 180,00 in the U.S.,  and 1.4 million in China. Assessing the Missed Benefits of Countries’ National Contributions  demonstrates that “the achievement of a 2°C compatible trajectory does not only preserve the well-being of future generations, but may also generate positive economy-wide returns, rather than costs for the current generation”. 

The European Circular Economy Debate Informed by New Job Creation Report

An interim report by the Club of Rome examines the social benefits that a circular economy would bring to the Swedish economy. The full report, due out in summer 2015, will include the Dutch and Spanish economies as well. The Circular Economy and Benefits for Society: Swedish Case Study shows Jobs and Climate as Clear Winners estimated the effects of three different scenarios to reduce carbon emissions.

The report found that if all three decoupling strategies were undertaken together, carbon emissions would be cut by almost 70% and job creation  would likely exceed 100,000. This report was partly supported by Swedish Association of Recycling Industries, and was released with the stated objective of influencing the current political debate in the European Commission, where a proposed Circular Economy program was withdrawn amidst controversy in 2014. The original proposal, included a 70 per cent recycling and reuse target for 2030, as well as a requirement to increase the recycling rate for packaging waste to 80 per cent by 2030 and a ban on the landfilling of recyclable plastics, metals, glass, paper and cardboard, and biodegradable waste by 2025. Read also Circular Economy Package Consultation Expected Before Summer (April 21) and follow developments from the official EC Circular Economy website.

Two years after Rana Plaza – the Fashion Industry hangs its hat on Greening, not Labour Rights

On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring thousands more. Two  years later, according to a report, by Human Rights Watch, working conditions and labour rights are unchanged. However, the garment industry is working to burnish its public image on sustainability issues. The recently-released H&M Conscious Action Sustainability Report 2014, discusses “the challenges” in the industry, which they identify as “Clean water, climate change, textile waste and wages and overtime in supplier factories”. But  in a press release titled, “H&M’s sustainability promises will not deliver a living wage” (Apr. 9) the Clean Clothes Campaign states: “Despite announcing partnership projects with the ILO, education schemes alongside Swedish trade unions, and fair wage rhetoric aplenty, H&M has so far presented disappointingly few concrete results that show progress towards a living wage. H&M are working hard on gaining a reputation in sustainability, but the results for workers on the ground are yet to be seen”. The Clean Clothes Campaign is an alliance of trade unions and NGOs in 16 European countries.

 H&M, along with Target, Gap, and Levi Strauss, has been commended by the Clean by Design program of the National Resource Defense Council for their progress in incorporating environmental performance in their procurement decisions. In April, NRDC also released The Textile Industry Leaps forward with Clean by Design: Less Environmental Impact with Bigger Profits which describes the extent of the pollution in textile mills in China, and highlights  the mills which made operational improvements and achieved the most cost savings, chiefly through increased motor and lighting efficiency, process water reuse, and heat recovery from exhaust.

The Premiers’ Summit on Climate Change Reveals Divisions, but the Act on Climate March shows Solidarity

The Premiers of Canada’s provinces met in a Summit in Quebec City on April 13th, sparking high hopes which were not met, according to the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, Interprovincial climate summit a damp squib. In “Interprovincial climate summit reveals rifts in Canada’s carbon strategy”, the Globe and Mail (April 14) called the final joint communiqué  “vague”, going only so far as referencing “transitioning to a lower-carbon economy” and “strengthening co-operation” on climate measures. And the Calgary Herald editorial, “On the Hot Seat”, criticized Alberta Premier Prentice for skipping the Summit. B.C. Premier Christy Clark spent her day addressing the World Bank instead of attending, but issued a challenge to other Premiers regarding B.C.’s climate action plan 2.0: “meet it or beat it”.

The Premiers meeting, however, sparked the Act on Climate March, organized by environmental groups, and including First Nations, trade unions, social and citizens’ groups, student associations, and individuals. The march attracted 25,000 marchers on April 11 and, according to participant Judy Rebick’s article, Huge march raises temperature, “…the Act On Climate march was an historic moment in the fight against climate change in Canada and a major step forward in the movement towards merging the environmental and social justice movements as promoted in Naomi Klein’s new book, not to mention a rare common action between Quebec and the rest of Canada…It was an important if not historic moment in our struggle”. For a union viewpoint, read also CUPE Says Yes to Action on Climate.

Also, on April 13, the Canadian Roundtable on the Green Economy was organized by SWITCH, the Alliance for a Green Economy in Quebec, a business-environmental alliance. The press release lists all participants, endorses carbon pricing, and affirms the central role of cities to promote a greener economy through  sustainable procurement policies and innovative urban development. A second group of business, aboriginal and civic leaders went on record with their position concerning climate change policies in Canadian Leaders Pen Low Carbon Economy Letter to Premiers (April 12), at the Sustainable Prosperity website.    

 

…Also from the Premiers’ Summit: Ontario Announces Cap-and-Trade

The main outcome of the Quebec City meetings occurred beforehand on April 13, with the Joint Statement of Intent from the Ontario and Quebec Premiers. Ontario announced that it would join Quebec in a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. The Ontario government press release, provides links to earlier discussion papers and whatever details are currently available. Reactions to the announcement were generally positive but tinged with questions about the effectiveness of the cap-and-trade system. See Want to make Polluters pay? Opt for a carbon tax over cap and trade from EcoJustice or reaction from Environmental Defence. From  the new Clean Economy Alliance of Ontario, launched on April 8 by 50+ Ontario businesses, labour unions, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and environmental groups: “Ontario should join with the many other jurisdictions around the world in putting a price on carbon. The province must also take complementary actions in other key sectors across Ontario’s economy including energy efficiency, renewable energy, climate friendly land-use planning, and low-carbon transportation”. 

Cap-and-Trade or Carbon Tax?

Recent reports have examined the strengths and weaknesses of the two systems. On April 7, the EcoFiscal Commission released The Way Forward: A Practical Approach to Reducing Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions which employs policy analysis and new economic modelling to reach recommendations that every province should put a price on carbon, that existing and new policies should increase in stringency over time, should be designed to be as broad as practically possible, should be tailored to each province’s unique economic contexts and priorities, yet should be designed for longer-term coordination.

On April 13, Clean Energy Canada released Inside North America’s largest Carbon Market: Top Lessons from the Front Lines of Quebec’s Fight Against Carbon Pollution. Together with their February report, How To Adopt a Winning Carbon Pricewhich focused on British Columbia’s carbon tax, Clean Energy Canada provides what they call “under the hood” comparisons of the  two approaches to carbon pricing. 

 Sustainable Prosperity also weighed in with two Briefing Notes on April 23; Briefing Note #1

summarizes the rationale for pricing carbon, and the main policy approaches i.e. carbon tax and cap-and-trade. Briefing Note #2 reviews the key policy design criteria and considerations, and how they differ across approaches. 

Oil and Gas and Canada’s Energy Policy

Two other reports were released in advance of the Premiers meetings in Quebec City. Crafting an Effective Canadian Energy Strategy: How Energy East and the Oil Sands Affect Climate and Energy Objectives by the Pembina Institute reviews Canadian experience with carbon pricing, emissions levels, and states that any energy strategy will only be effective if it takes into account the emissions footprint of new infrastructure projects, including the proposed Energy East pipeline project. The report also recommends that the Council of the Federation create an advisory committee modelled on the disbanded National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. The report is also available in French.

 Another study, released by Environmental Defence and Greenpeace, makes similar arguments and asserts that “continuing to expand tar sands production makes it virtually impossible for Canada to meet even weak carbon reduction targets or show climate leadership”. Read Digging a Big Hole: How tar sands expansion undermines a Canadian energy strategy that shows climate leadership.

 In April, Environment Canada released the UNFCC-mandated report, National Inventory Report 1990-2013: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. The report states that the Energy industry was responsible for 81% of Canada’s emissions in 2013. 

Health Studies of the Oil and Gas Industry

On March 26, the government of British Columbia released the Northeast Oil and Gas Human Health Risk Assessment Studywhich includes a scientific literature review, a screening level risk assessment, a detailed human health risk assessment, a review of the current regulatory framework, and recommendations for future research and action. According to the Minister of Health, “After careful review and analysis, the study found that the risk to human health from emissions from oil and gas activities in the Northeast remains low”. The report did make 14 recommendations regarding: emergency planning; flaring, venting and fugitive emission management; hydraulic fracturing; information management; and environmental monitoring. All documentation from the study is available online.

 Of related interest, several recent U.S. studies: “Predictors of Indoor Radon Concentrations in Pennsylvania 1989-2013” appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives on April 9. Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health measured radon levels in U.S. homes near the Marcellus shale fields since fracking began in 2004 and found higher readings of radon, compared with homes in low-activity areas. Another study, Wasting Away: Four states’ failure to manage oil and gas waste in the Marcellus and Utica Shale, conducted by Earthworks, explored  state oversight of drilling in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The article particularly focuses on the identification and handling of the potentially hazardous waste materials left behind after fracking. Finally, the Environmental Defense Fund in the U.S. has recently released the latest of 16 studies they commissioned/collaborated on regarding methane leaks in the oil and gas sector. 

Canadian Study finds no Significant Health Impacts from Wind Energy

Understanding the Evidence: Wind Turbine Noise, was published on April 9 by the Council of Canadian Academies, and concludes that the only adverse health effect of wind turbines is annoyance. From the report: “We identified 32 health issues and then analyzed the published peer reviewed studies on each problem to determine if there was evidence for a causal relationship with wind turbine noise…We can say conclusively that hearing loss is not related to wind turbine noise”. The experts also concluded that there is limited evidence for sleep disturbance, but inadequate evidence to link any of the other studied health issues.

Cities, including Vancouver and Los Angeles, keep Reducing GHGs

At the World Congress of the ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability in April in Seoul, Korea, mayors from over 100 cities adopted the The Seoul Declaration, and a new Strategic Plan 2015-2021. The meetings also launched the Transformative Actions Program (TAP) to improve access to existing capital and encourage additional public and private capital investment. The Press release summarizes the meetings.

At the meetings, Vancouver and Montreal joined the Compact of Mayors, launched in 2014 and described as “the world’s largest effort for cities to fight climate change”. The Compact entails a commitment for cities to make deep GHG emissions reductions and report on their progress annually, using a standardized international measurement system. Vancouver has announced a goal of 100% renewable energy in 20 years for electricity, heating, cooling, and transportation – a big jump from the current 32 per cent of its energy from renewable sources. The City maintains a website to describe and monitor progress on its Green City Action Plan 2020.

The Mayor of Los Angeles recently released a Sustainability Plan, titled The pLAn, which addresses transit, housing, air quality, water, renewable energy and carbon footprint, as well as environmental justice and green jobs. Amongst the goals: a landfill diversion rate of 90%, more electric vehicle infrastructure than any of the cities in the U.S., and complete divesture from coal power by 2025; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide to 60% below 1990 levels and to source 50% of water locally by 2035. The section on “Prosperity and Green Jobs” sets short term (2017) goals of attracting $100 million of private-sector investment though the LA Clean Tech Incubator, creating 20,000 new green jobs, and increasing the minimum wage to $13.25 per hour. By 2035, the goal is at least 150,000 new green jobs. The overall vision includes workforce development initiatives to create private-sector partnerships for apprenticeship programs in green industries, and to partner with higher education institutions to retain high-skill graduates and enlarge the talent pool in Los Angeles. Importantly, the pLAn will be integrated into the city’s administration: for example, the General Manager’s annual performance review will include measures of progress and outcomes from the pLAn, and Chief Sustainability Officers will be appointed in key departments.

For information about the sustainability, building energy use and climate change policy work of cities around the world, a series of documents was released in April by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the World Green Building Council (WGBC). Toronto and Vancouver are the only Canadian cities profiled.

New Website to Monitor Supply Chain pledges Re Deforestation and Agricultural Commodities

On March 25, Forest Trends, in collaboration with CDP and WWF, launched Supply Change.org, a web portal to track corporate supply chain commitments relating to the purchase of palm oil, soy, timber and pulp, and cattle. A report released in tandem with the portal, Supply Change: Corporations, Commodities and Commitments that Count provides an “inaugural snapshot of corporate commitments and performance”, based on publically-available data from 243 companies describing 307 commitments.

In April, fast-food giant McDonalds exceeded expectations by pledging to eliminate deforestation from its global supply chain for all commodities linked to deforestation, including beef, fiber-based packaging, coffee and poultry, and palm oil. A summary appeared in The Guardian, “McDonald’s to axe deforestation in its supply chain” (April 21), and the 8-point corporate statement is online.  

Two out of Three – U.S., Mexico Submit their INDC Targets – but Not Canada

March 31st was the deadline set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for each nation to submit a statement of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to greenhouse gas emission reduction, as a precursor to the climate discussions in Paris in December. The United States set an ambitious economy-wide target to reduce emissions by up to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. Read the White House Fact Sheet: U.S. Reports its 2025 Emissions Target to the UNFCCC.

Reductions will be accomplished primarily through fuel economy standards, energy efficiency for buildings, limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and reducing emissions from existing power plants. The statement by Mexico was the first by a developing country, and pledges a 22 per cent reduction of GHG emissions and 51 per cent cut in black carbon emissions by 2030. Prime Minister Harper promised our INDC submission by May, and lowered expectations, according to a Globe and Mail article (April 23) “Harper suggests Canada likely won’t match U.S. emissions targets”. All INDC submissions are cumulated at the UNFCC website.

 In addition, the U.S. and Mexico issued a joint statement which states, “The two countries will launch a new high-level bilateral clean energy and climate policy task force to further deepen policy and regulatory coordination in specific areas including clean electricity, grid modernization, appliance standards, and energy efficiency, as well as promoting more fuel efficient automobile fleets in both countries, global and regional climate modeling, weather forecasting and early alerts system”. Two countries – not including Canada. 

Displacement in the Energy Industry: Fossil Fuels have “Lost the Race”; Wind Power Growing; Coal Workers Displaced

Analysis presented at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual summit in New York on April 14 was titled: Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables: This is the beginning of the end (April 14). Bloomberg states that the shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels.

More statistics and a forecast are presented in a White Paper, Medium-term outlook for US power: 2015 = deepest decarbonization ever (April 8). And an International Energy Agency (IEA) press release in March states that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there is a drop in GHG emissions that was not tied to an economic downturn. “Preliminary IEA data point to emissions decoupling from economic growth for the first time in 40 years” (13 March, 2015). The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to expanding reliance on renewables in China and energy efficiency improvements in OECD countries. China alone added 23 GW in wind power, almost half the world’s new wind installation capacity in 2014, according to the Global Wind Energy Market Report 2014 by the Global Wind Energy Council. Canada ranked 6th in new wind installations in 2014 and now ranks 7th in cumulative installed capacity in the world. Canada also appears in the report regarding the use of green bonds to finance wind power, illustrated by  the case of Northland Power.
 
Duke University researchers used input output modelling to measure job loss, gains, and displacement in each sector of the electricity sector in “Employment Trends in the U.S. Electricity Sector, 2008-2012” in the journal Energy Policy in March (access restricted). They report that the U.S. coal industry lost more than 49,000 jobs, while the natural gas, solar and wind industries together created nearly four times that amount.  

 

Do Governments have a Legal Obligation to Protect their Citizens from Climate Change? Yes, say the Oslo Principles and Citizens in Netherlands and Belgium

In March, a group of experts in international, human rights, and environmental law released the Oslo Principles on Global Obligations to Reduce Climate Change. “These Principles set out the legal obligations of States and enterprises to take the urgent measures necessary to avert climate change and its catastrophic effects”. Based on a network of local, national and international laws, the Oslo Principles outline specific measures and assert that these should be undertaken “without regard to cost”. The lack of an international agreement does not relieve nations from their duty to their citizens.

The brief Principles document is accompanied by a more extensive Commentary (94 pages). The members of the Oslo Principles group are supporting a court challenge in the Netherlands, the first case in Europe in which citizens attempt to hold a state responsible for its inaction against climate change, and the first case in the world in which human rights are used as the legal basis for its arguments. The Urgenda Climate Case opened  on April 14, and a verdict is promised on June 24th. The plaintiffs are asking the Court to order the Dutch State to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. A similar case is under preparation in Belgium. 

Alternative Economic Models proposed for the 21st Century by a new U.S. Group

The Next System is a new project “that seeks to disrupt or replace our traditional institutions for creating progressive change”. Its backers include Greenpeace President Annie Leonard, clean energy champion Van Jones, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, Gerald Hudson, Mark Levinson and Peter Colavito from Service Employees Intl Union, Ron Blackwell, UNITE and AFL-CIO, Joe Uehlein from the Labor Network for Sustainability, climate activist Bill McKibben, and hundreds of other prominent academics including Noam Chomsky, Frances Fox Piven, and Jeffrey Sachs. The project launches with a webinar on May 20th, and has already released its inaugural report, The Next System Project: New Political Economic Alternatives for the 21st Century. The report states that such new movements as the Next System “seek a cooperative, caring, and community-nurturing economy that is ecologically sustainable, equitable, and socially responsible”. It draws inspiration from a variety of alternative systemic models and ideas, including employee ownership and self-management, cooperatives, social democracy, participatory economic planning, socialism and public ownership, localism and bioregionalism, and ecological economics.

Climate Action Policy Prescriptions for Canada

Two sets of recommendations were recently released: on March 18, by a new academic collaboration, Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD); and on March 19, in the Alternative Budget published annually by the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis. The Sustainable Canada Dialogues document, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, and a french-language version,  Agir sur les changements climatiques, are characterized  as “a scholarly consensus on science-based, viable solutions for greenhouse gas reduction”.

Sixty academics from across Canada combined to urge policymakers to adopt a long-term target of at least an 80% reduction in emissions by mid-century. “In the short-term, we believe that Canada, in keeping with its historical position of aligning with US targets, could adopt a 2025 target of a 26-28% reduction in GHG emissions relative to our 2005 levels”. Policy recommendations include, most immediately: Either a national carbon tax or a national economy-wide cap and trade program; elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; and integration of sustainability and climate change into landscape planning at the regional and city levels so that maintenance and new infrastructure investments contribute to decarbonizing.

The paper also advocates establishment of East-West smart grid connections to allow hydro-producing provinces to  sell electricity to their neighbours; energy efficiency programs, and a “transportation revolution”. The Acting on Climate Change document will be followed by a special issue of Alternatives Journal magazine, to be released on March 27, to include more detailed articles by 20 of the SCD participant authors. Sustainable Canada Dialogues, launched in September 2014, is partnered with three institutions in Panama, and “proposes to advance sustainability education, research and social dialogues in Panama and in Canada”.

The second statement of recommended climate policies appears in the CCPA Alternative Budget for 2015, Delivering the Good. The Alternative Budget, like the government budget statement that it shadows, covers the full range of economic and social issues facing Canada. It also includes a section on the Environment and Climate Change, which states: “The best current budget opportunities include implementing a price on greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon tax; not subsidizing liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hydraulic fracturing (fracking); protecting Canada’s public lands and species at risk; and supporting power storage through accelerated expense write-offs, electric vehicles through fast-charging recharging stations in high-demand areas, and public transit and energy efficiency home retrofits”. A National Harmonized Carbon Tax should be implemented immediately, at $30 a tonne (the current level in British Columbia), increasing to $200 a tonne by 2020. More than half of the HCT revenues should be used to provide a Green Tax benefit for individuals and the remainder transferred to the provinces to fund “climate change abatement measures”. It is estimated that the carbon tax would generate annual revenue of $16 billion, with the Green Tax Refund incurring a net annual cost of $8.8 billion (p. 28).   Is the time finally right for serious consideration of Canada’s climate change policies? As Environmental Defense reported on March 9, NDP, Liberals and Greens agree on an Approach to Assess Carbon Pollution Reduction. Calling it “a step in the right direction”, the blog describes the February 19 debate in the House of Commons around Bill C-619, the Climate Change Accountability Act, a private members bill introduced by NDP Matt Kellway in June 2014. NDP, Liberals and Greens are now on record as supporting the Bill’s accountability measures and the target of  domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions to at least 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

CUPE Provides a New Guide for Greener Workplaces

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, in advance of Earth Day in April 2015, has released Healthy Clean and Green: A Worker’s Action Guide to a Greener Workplace. CUPE answers the basic question, “Is climate change a union issue?” and then focuses on workplace actions and solutions, with examples and tips to improve energy efficiency, recycling and reduction of resources, worker education, and workplace environment committees. The book also describes the LEED features of the CUPE National Headquarters in Ottawa. To further encourage greening activities, the union announced the 2015 CUPE Green Workplace Contest, with a deadline of May 2015.

How are U.S. Unions Working Toward a Climate-Safe Economy for All Workers?

Joe Uehlein, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS), has written A Climate Protection Guide to Organized Labor, which summarizes the issues and arguments regarding the role of U.S. labour in the fight against climate change. Joe’s essay also introduces the Labor Landscape Analysis, a “set of tools” compiled by the LNS and consisting of several units. For climate activists not familiar with the labour movement, The Labor-Climate Landscape: A Guided Tour for Worker- and Climate-Protection Advocates explains decision-making in labour unions, relationships in the movement, and the climate change policies of 42 U.S. unions, as well as the role of more than 800 local, regional and national labour leaders. It updates and expands on Labor and Climate Change: A Briefing Paper for Activists (2010). In his introductory essay, Joe Uhelein states: “The threat of global warming requires a different concept of solidarity, one which recognizes the common interest of all workers in climate protection. That concept gives all unions a legitimate role in shaping labor’s climate policy. But it also gives them an obligation to protect the livelihoods and well-being of any workers who might be adversely affected by climate protection policies through a just transition to a climate-safe economy”.

 

Workforce Development Issues for the Expansion of Wind Energy in the U.S.

Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States was released by the White House on March 12, providing an overview of the U.S. wind industry and projections for the future. Analysis focuses on greenhouse gas (GHG) and pollution reductions, electricity price impacts, job and manufacturing trends, and water and land use impacts – for the years 2020, 2030, and 2050. The study provides a roadmap of actions to achieve a goal of 35% wind energy in the U.S. by 2050, at which time the wind industry would employ more than 600,000 people. Workforce development is one of nine core topics in the roadmap, detailed in item M8 of the Appendix.  The workforce development recommendations build on previous research published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in 2012, National Skills Assessment of the U.S. Wind Industry by Levanthal and Tegen.

Ontario Appoints a Climate Change Advisory Group

In March 9, the government of Ontario appointed John Godfrey as Special Advisor, and created a new Climate Change Advisory Group which he will chair. The Climate Action Group is composed of academics, business and civic leaders, with one representative from the labour movement: James St. John, the business manager of the Central Ontario Building Trades. The advisory group is meant to  collaborate closely with Québec’s Climate Change Advisory Committee to support work between the two provinces.

 

Alberta Regulations Re Water Management and Tailings Management

On March 13, the Alberta government announced two new policies meant to provide environmental protections in the Athabasca Oil Sands area. The Tailings Management Framework for Mineable Oilsands limits the amount of tailings allowed to accumulate and  requires that sites be remediated to a ready-to-reclaim state within 10 years of the end-of-mine-life of a project. Companies are encouraged to invest in new technology, and are required by the Conservation and Reclamation Regulation to post additional financial security to deal with potential remediation issues. Read the Pembina Institute reaction, Tailings Management Framework: A new Chapter in the Alberta Oil Sands Story? (March 16). Regarding water policy, The Surface Water Quantity Management Framework establishes limits for water use during low-flow periods and requires maintenance of an adequate quantity of water for Aboriginal river navigation and pursuit of traditional activities. It does not establish Ecosystem Base Flow (EBF) system, as recommended by scientists. The Council of Canadians reacted by pointing out that the Framework restrictions are voluntary, and provide exemptions to Suncor and Syncrude, even if water levels are low. The explanation? Under NAFTA Chapter 11, the government of Canada could be sued if Alberta were to limit the current water access of the oil sands companies.  SumOfUs.org, Keepers of the Athabasca, Environmental Defence Canada and the Natural Resources Defence Council issued a joint press release condemning the new regulations as an “oil industry wish list”. See also the NRDC blog, New Tar Sands Water Policy from Alberta favors Industry (March 13).

Clean Water Week, March 16-22, including the Importance of Water in the Fracking Debate

The Council of Canadians continues its advocacy for a clean, safe, public water system with a new campaign for a National Water Policy. Their proposals include the creation of a national public water infrastructure fund, a strategy to reduce water pollution (including stronger standards for agriculture, oil sands extraction), a ban of bulk water exports, and exclusion of water from NAFTA and all future trade agreements. On March 12, the Council of Canadians released a new report, On Notice for a Drinking Water Crisis and will be staging protests throughout Canada on World Water Day, March 22. Environmental Defence also marked Water Week with several blogs, including No Energy East Tar Sands in our Water!. And for interesting case studies of the importance of water in the anti-fracking movement, see Getting Off the Frack Track: How Anti-Fracking Campaigns Succeeded in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (Feb. 20) at the Freshwater Alliance website.

Economic Impact of Alberta Greenhouse Gas Emissions Funds

On February 27, the Conference Board of Canada released Investing in GHG Emissions-Reduction Technology: Assessing the Economic Impact (free with registration). The study quantifies the economic impact of investments in greenhouse gas emission-reducing technologies that are funded in whole or in part by Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC), and concludes that the total economic impact of CCEMC and related investments from 2011 to 2016 will be over $2.4 billion and an additional 15,017 person-years of full-time-equivalent (FTE) employment. The Pembina Institute reaction (March 5) was to point out that despite any economic gains, the problem remains that there are no significant reductions to greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Resolute Forest Products on Notice after 3M Announces a new Sustainability Policy for Paper Procurement

Following a review of its procurement processes conducted in collaboration with ForestEthics and Greenpeace, multinational 3M released a revised Pulp and Paper Sourcing Policy in March, with high standards for environmental protection and human rights. 3M will no longer use the Sustainable Forests Initiative (SFI) label. Its new policy requires improved monitoring and reporting of source materials, and “free, prior and informed consent by indigenous peoples and local communities before logging operations occur”. The company has already cancelled its contracts with Indonesian Royal Golden Eagle Group-owned suppliers and has warned Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products that it must quickly improve its controversial relationships with First Nations, as well as its practices of logging of caribou habitat and in High Conservation Areas. Read ForestEthics Applauds 3M’s New Industry-Leading Sustainability Plan (March 5), or 3M’s new pulp & paper policy impacts Resolute Forest Products (CBC, March 5). For an excellent history of Resolute’s controversial environmental record, see “Resolute and Greenpeace at Loggerheads” in the Montreal Gazette (Feb 13).

Clean Tech Investments in Canada

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) began its rollout of announcements of recipients from the SDTC Tech Fund in February in Southwest Ontario and in Quebec on February 16. Of the $25 million invested in Quebec, almost half was directed to Nemaska Lithium Inc., for a pilot demonstration project aimed at lowering costs associated with electric vehicle use. On February 20, seven clean technology projects in Ontario received over $26.8 million and on March 4, similar investments in Alberta were announced. In Alberta, with the top three recipients are projects for cleaner technologies for oil sands. It was B.C.’s turn on March 16, when a further $27.3 million was distributed for 10 projects. Each press release names the recipient companies and summarizes their technologies.

Oregon joins B.C. and California with Clean Fuel Standards

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council the state of  Oregon “clinched a spot in the clean energy future” on March 12 when the Governor signed Bill SB324A, which removes the December 2015 sunset clause on previous legislation requiring the adoption of clean fuel standards, and extends the target date for compliance from 2020 to 2025. With B.C. and California already regulating clean fuels, the NRDC states that it needs only the state of Washington to pass similar standards to “create a corridor of clean fuel demand encompassing more than 50 million people up and down the length of the West Coast, equivalent to the 5th largest economy in the world”. The NRDC draws its information from a detailed and wide-ranging analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation, Potential: Low-carbon Fuel Supply to the Pacific Coast Region of North America (January 2015). Of related interest, The California Energy Commission issued its 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) Update in March, highlighting its transportation achievements in electric vehicles, fuel cell development, and biofuels.

Toronto, Vancouver amongst Case Studies of District Energy in Cities Worldwide

A new report  released on February 25 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency (C2E2), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and UN-Habitat, offers concrete policy, finance and technology best practice guidance on energy efficiency improvements and the integration of renewables in cities. District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, offers an analysis of the 45 ‘champion cities’, which have collectively installed more than 36 GW of district heating capacity (equivalent to 3.6 million households), 6 GW of district cooling capacity (equivalent to 600,000 households) and 12,000 km of district energy networks. The case studies include Toronto, Vancouver,  St. Paul Minnesota, Paris, London, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, and Tokyo.

New GHG Emission Reduction Targets for the U.S. Federal Government

The Federal government of the U.S. operates 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles, and spends $445 billion annually on goods and services, making it the largest consumer of energy in the country. To reduce GHG emissions, an Executive Order by President Obama on March 19 mandates that Federal buildings reduce total energy use by 2.5% per year between 2015 to 2025, and increase the proportion of clean energy to 25% by 2025. Water intensity in Federal buildings will also be cut by 2 percent per year till 2025. Regarding the fleet of 650,000 vehicles, the Order establishes a goal of 30% reduction of GHG’s from 2014 levels by 2025. A White House Fact Sheet, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Federal Government and Across the Supply Chain (March 19) provides more details, and summarizes the emissions reductions commitments made by major suppliers in the federal government supply chain. Those suppliers include such giants as IBM, HP, AECOMM, Northrup Grumman, and United Technologies.

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment and the New Campaign by the Guardian Newspaper and 350.org

The divestment movement has been busy since global Fossil Fuel Divestment Day in February, with news that hundreds of thousands of academics, engineers and lawyers in Denmark will vote on divesting their €32bn pension funds from fossil fuel investments in April, and that Oxford University is facing protest demonstrations because it has deferred a vote on divestment till May. In March, The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. and 350.org launched the Keep it in the Ground campaign, asking the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation to divest their endowments from fossil fuels. The Guardian has been relentlessly posting information and arguments for the cause of divestment: “Bank of England warns of huge financial risk with fossil fuel investments”(March 3); “Mark Carney defends Bank of England over Climate Change Study” (March 10); “UN Backs Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign” (March 16); “Wellcome Trust sold off 94 million pound ExxonMobil oil investment” (March 18) and, “Revealed: Gates Foundation’s $1.4bn in fossil fuel investments” (March 19). The retiring editor of The Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger,  announced the paper’s new editorial stance in “Climate change: Why the Guardian is Putting Threat to Earth Front and Centre” (March 6). He states: “The coming debate is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of global warming beyond 2C by the end of the century. And how we can prevent the states and corporations which own the planet’s remaining reserves of coal, gas and oil from ever being allowed to dig most of it up. We need to keep them in the ground”.

Clean Energy Canada Moves to Simon Fraser University

Clean Energy Canada, formerly a project of Tides Canada, announced on March 2 that it will become a new program within the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. The Centre for Dialogue states that “uses dialogue to generate non-partisan and constructive communication around difficult topics. We partner with government, business, and community groups to explore critical issues that impact the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of our communities”. Merran Smith, Director of Clean Energy Canada, has been named a Fellow within the Centre and will continue to lead the program, which aims to accelerate Canada’s transition to a clean and renewable energy system.

Literature Review of Climate Adaptation by Multinationals

A recent working paper by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics finds that “there is a paucity of work analysing adaptation actions by MNCs, their motivations and contribution to broader adaptation and climate resilient development efforts, as well as possible instances of maladaptation”. The review points out research gaps and provides a useful bibliography of the academic literature. See Multinational corporations and climate adaptation – Are we asking the right questions? A review of current knowledge and a new research perspective (March 11).

 

British Columbia’s Economic Transition and Just Transition Proposals

A January report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives offers insight into the kinds of just transition policies that will be needed to support labour as carbon-intensive industries are phased out. Just Transition: Creating a Green Social Contract for BC’s Resource Workers is the result of seven focus groups composed of workers from the forestry, mining, and fossil fuel industries. They were asked about their first-hand experiences with transitioning out of industrial employment, and the changes they felt were necessary for workers and communities to thrive alongside effective environmental and climate policies. Participants stressed the importance of improving training and education programs, which were seen as neglecting transferable and upgraded skills in favour of narrow specialization that plugged current labour gaps but left workers vulnerable to wage suppression and unable to change industries without downgrading. Participants also highlighted personal, family and community strain associated with moving to find work or commuting long distances, pointing to the need for related socioeconomic support, counselling, and policies that keep workers closer to home. Local economy diversification and greener, and value-added industries were identified as a way to lower carbon and create more resilient communities, though workers’ concerns highlight that the loss of industrial wages would need to be managed.

The report recommends income security guarantees to maintain stability in resource communities, as well the embrace of alternative models such as worker ownership. Further, the new social contract needed to address the training and socioeconomic needs of transitioning communities should include a just transition fund drawn from resource revenues, harnessing pre-existing tools such as B.C.’s natural gas royalties and carbon tax. The new source of public funds could support investment in job-creating green infrastructure, public transit, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

The B.C. business community is also recognizing the coming economic transition. Business in Vancouver magazine has launched a new series on the economic impacts of climate change in the province, with a first installment based on interviews with Tom Pedersen of the University of Victoria’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and Deborah Harford of Simon Fraser University.  “Climate Change Looms as Major Threat to Key B.C. Industries” (Feb. 16) considers B.C.’s future in light of problems that have already arisen, including water shortages in the Okanagan, reduced water flow at hydroelectric dams, soil salinization, and ocean acidification impacting shellfish farmers and the salmon industry. The series will continue throughout 2015, engaging experts from diverse fields and industries.

Environmental Groups Stand with U.S. Refinery Workers on Strike for Safety

The United Steelworkers union represents workers at 65 oil refineries in the United States. On February 1, the union announced an unfair labour practice strike at 9 locations, with the remainder operating under a rolling 24-hour contract extension. In a media advisory, the head of the USW National Oil Bargaining Program states: “This work stoppage is about onerous overtime; unsafe staffing levels; dangerous conditions the industry continues to ignore; the daily occurrences of fires, emissions, leaks and explosions that threaten local communities without the industry doing much about it; the industry’s refusal to make opportunities for workers in the trade crafts; the flagrant contracting out that impacts health and safety on the job; and the erosion of our workplace, where qualified and experienced union workers are replaced by contractors when they leave or retire”. Indeed, the dangerous working conditions of the oil industry have been well documented by no less than the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. These safety and health issues have been at the heart of the dispute, and have resulted in widespread public support from environmental and community groups, as summarized in “Striking for Climate Justice” in Dissent Magazine (Feb. 21). The Sierra Club issued an almost immediate statement of support on Feb. 3, ready to do so because of an earlier agreement spelled out in A Common Position on the Future of Oil (September 2013). Public statements of support from other green groups: Oil Change International; Labor Network for Sustainability, and Communities for a Better Environment, a California-based group  which sums it up: “Environmental justice demands everyone’s right to a safe and healthy work environment and challenges the false choice that would force us to choose between our health and our jobs. Indeed, fighting for worker rights protects community health and safety”.

Green Jobs, Green Economies from a Social/Gender Justice Lens

A discussion paper released in February by the ILO and the Global Labour University provides a wide-ranging and well-documented global analysis of Green New Deal programs, green economies, and green jobs. Some excerpts: “…while advocates of the green economy promise the elimination of poverty, the green economy agenda is a new version of what has been described as finance-led accumulation and as such a continuation of the neoliberal project that has fuelled inequality during the past three decades”. Of green jobs, he observes, “statistical evidence suggests that many of the assumptions associated with green jobs are far too optimistic”. Referencing Austrian, EU, and South African studies, he states, “statistical evidence suggests that in terms of working conditions they (i.e. green jobs) are actually worse than average jobs…in sum, female workers are clearly disadvantaged when it comes to the distribution of the benefits from green growth”. Finally, “in sum, an alternative approach to a green transition towards a more sustainable economy and society must go beyond the goal of a thermal insulated capitalism and promote ecological, gender and social justice”. The author particularly discusses the importance of hours of work as a key factor in equality/inequality, and in ecological damage. Source: Green New Deal and the Question of Environmental and Social Justice.

Labour Market Impacts of a Circular Economy in the U.K.

A report released in late January 2015 by the Green Alliance and WRAP in the U.K. considers the regional and occupational patterns of employment in recycling, reuse and remanufacturing activities, with a forecast for the future. Employment and the Circular Economy: Job Creation in a More Resource Efficient Britain concludes that “if Britain continues to develop its resource efficiency, the country’s circular economy sector will create net jobs in regions where unemployment is higher, such as the North East and West Midlands, and among low to mid skilled occupations, where a higher rate of job losses are projected for the future”. The public report is based on a technical report, Opportunities to Tackle Britain’s Labour Market Challenges through Growth in the Circular Economy, which describes the U.K. labour market, explains the methodology and calculations, and forecasts job creation potential for low-skilled, skilled, and professional workers under three different scenarios. In the best case, by 2030 the sector could require an extra  205,000 jobs, reduce unemployment by around 54,000, and offset 11 per cent of future job losses in skilled employment.

Polluter Pays in New Rail Safety Legislation

Bill C-52, The Safe and Accountable Rail Act was announced by the federal Transport Minister on February 20, in the latest of several legislative and regulatory responses  to the tragedy of the Lac Megantic derailment and explosion in 2013. “Ottawa announces Rail Disaster Relief Fund” in the Globe and Mail (Feb. 20) summarizes the provisions, which include the requirement, for the first time, that railways must carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, ranging from $25-million up to $1-billion, depending on their volume of dangerous goods. Additionally, a fee of $1.65-a-tonne will be charged to the companies and pooled in a fund to cover the costs of damages that exceed their insurance. The Act also requires that rail companies implement policies and procedures to ensure workers the right to report fatigue without fear of reprisals. See the text of the Act.

Canada’s Federal Liberal Party takes a Flexible Position on Carbon Pricing

Federal leader Justin Trudeau chose Calgary’s Petroleum Club on February 6 as the venue to announce that, if elected in October 2015, a Liberal government would set national targets for reducing carbon emissions but allow provinces to design and manage the policies to meet them. The Liberal party website provides text of the speech as well as a video. The Pembina Institute reacted to the announcement, as did Clean Energy Canada, which also provides a comparison chart of the positions of three of the four federal parties. There is no shortage of recent policy reports on the issue of carbon pricing, for example: Carbon Pricing and Mind the Hissing from Sustainable Prosperity (case studies of revenue allocation in the carbon pricing systems of B.C., Alberta, and Quebec); How to Adopt a Winning Carbon Price: Top 10 Takeaways from the Architects of British Columbia’s Carbon Tax from Clean Energy Canada; Will Nova Scotia Implement a Carbon Tax? by Brendan Haley at the Progressive Economics Forum. Even the World Bank’s Partnership for Market Readiness has a policy “wish list” in its business-oriented new report, Preparing for Carbon Pricing: Case Studies from Company Experience: Royal Dutch Shell, Rio Tinto, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns in Canada

Global Divestment Days took place worldwide on February 13 and 14th, organized by 350.org through their Go Fossil Free campaign. In Canada, a divestment campaign led by the UBCC350, (a group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni) climaxed on February 10 with a a largely symbolic vote by UBC Faculty : see “UBC profs vote 62 per cent in Favour of Fossil Fuel Divestment” in the Vancouver Observer (Feb 10  ) and see the press release from UBC350. On February 12, the Financial Post reported that “University of Calgary will not Divest from Fossil Fuels”.

Also in February, the Sustainability and Education Policy Network housed at the University of Saskatchewan released The State of Fossil Fuel Divestment in Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions, which lists all 27 Canadian post-secondary institutions where divestment campaigns were underway as of October 2014, as well as the amount of money currently invested in fossil fuels. The report notes a “disconnect”: “While some campuses have positioned themselves as sustainability leaders, they are still heavily invested in fossil fuel companies”. Other related documents from the ongoing research are at the SEPN website.

A White Paper, Fossil Fuel Divestment: Reviewing Arguments, Policy Implications, and Opportunities was published by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) in January. It  concludes that fossil fuel divestment campaigns can be socially effective but are unable to have any real impact on reducing emissions or financing transition to sustainability without alternative investments that change the structure of the economy. PICS is maintaining a website for ongoing commentary on the issue, and indeed, the paper has been criticized in The Tyee and in the DeSmog Canada Blog for “missing the point” of the importance of divestment to revoke social license.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Detrimental to Global Climate

A report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development was presented at the  U.N. Geneva Climate Change Conference, held from February 8-13. Fossil-Fuel Subsidies and Climate Change: Options for Policy-makers within their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions argues that removal of fossil fuel subsidies could lead to global GHG emissions reductions of between 6-13% by 2050. The CEO of IISD also stated: “The billions of dollars spent on these subsidies means less money is available for clean energy, health, education and infrastructure”. The report was financed by the Nordic Prime Ministers’ Green Growth Initiative.  The IISD also provides a comprehensive summary of the Geneva meetings.

Local Energy Distribution Vancouver, Guelph, Connecticut

A February report describes the development of the low-carbon Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU), which uses a hybrid system of sewage heat recovery (SHR) backed up by natural gas boilers to deliver thermal energy to 24 buildings in the False Creek area of Vancouver. The opportunity arose from the redevelopment of former industrial land into a mixed-use community- a highly capital-intensive project which generated approximately 50 FTE jobs over 3 years of construction, and has resulted in 3.5 highly-skilled engineering jobs in the operational phase. Although the job creation impact is small because of the small scale of the project, author Marc Lee maintains that it is important as an example of public sector innovation which challenges the paradigm of centralized energy distribution, and which could be replicated by other cities. See Innovative Approaches to Low Carbon Urban Systems: A Case Study of Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility, published by Economics for Equity and Environment as part of their Future Economy Initiative.

Guelph, Ontario was recently profiled in “Community and Energy in Guelph: Environment and Economy in Partnership” in Engineering Dimensions (Jan/Feb 2015), which briefly describes Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative, begun in 2007. More recently, the Guelph District Energy Strategic Plan explains the concept of distributed urban energy systems, and includes case studies from Mannheim, Copenhagen and North Vancouver. The Guelph plan envisions a system which would supply at least 50 per cent of the heating needs of commercial, institutional and industrial facilities as well as residential dwellings.

In Connecticut in December 2014, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced a study to evaluate the merits of distributed energy. In response, a working paper by Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability discusses the monopoly power of electrical utilities and makes seven proposals to reform a system to reduce GHG’s and be worker- and community-friendly. Connecticut’s Electric Utilities: Time to Revise the Model specifically proposes that the ownership of energy distribution be transferred from private utilities to consumer-owned co-operatives, municipal or state-owned companies, or “other alternatives”. And for a more general vision of some of those alternative models, read the EnergyVision document, A Pathway to a Modern, Sustainable, Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future by the Acadia Center, released February 15.

Business Voices call for Net-zero Emissions Target at COP21, as well as Carbon Pricing and an end to Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The B-Team, a group of international business leaders, released an Open Letter to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change on Feb. 5, calling on governments to commit to a zero-net-emissions target for 2050 at the COP 21 talks in Paris in 2015. Further, they call for businesses and governments to adopt meaningful and effective carbon pricing; an end to all fossil fuel subsidies, and redirection of that capital to renewable energy solutions; and for businesses and governments “to ensure the benefits of responses to climate change flow to vulnerable and impoverished communities that suffer disproportionately from climate change and are least equipped to cope with its impacts”. In October 2014, the B-Team partnered with other business organizations (The Climate Group, Ceres, Carbon Disclosure Project, BSR, World Business Council for Sustainable Business and the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group) to form the We Mean Business Coalition.

Ethical Supply Chains: Different View Points

Supply Chain Sustainability Revealed: A Country Comparison, 2014-2015 was commissioned by CDP (a member of the We Mean Business coalition) and authored by Accenture consultants. The report reveals how the suppliers of 66 CDP-member corporations (who spend $1.3 trillion in procurement) are approaching risks and opportunities related to climate change and water. Supply chains in the U.S., China and Italy are considered “vulnerable”. Suppliers in India and Canada are judged as not doing enough to manage climate change risks. Indian companies, in particular, demonstrate a low propensity to report on emissions, and suppliers in Brazil have done the least to manage climate exposures and recent water shortages. A profile of Canadian suppliers is provided on page 14. A more business-oriented report, Beyond Supply Chains: Empowering Responsible Value Chains was jointly authored by the World Economic Forum and Accenture consultants. It highlights 31 supply chain practices which, it is claimed, can increase revenue by up to 20% for responsible products, reduce supply chain costs from 9%-16% and increase brand value by 15%-30%. This commercial success, combined with improved environmental impact and better local economic conditions, is called the “triple supply chain advantage”. The report states that “Adopting the triple advantage can also shrink carbon footprint by up to 22% while enabling companies to contribute to local development”.

Sustainable Energy Updates

The 2015 edition of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook found that “over the 2007-2014 period, U.S. carbon emissions from the energy sector dropped 9%, U.S. natural gas production rose 25% and total U.S. investment in clean energy (renewables and advanced grid, storage and electrified transport technologies) reached $386 billion”. The report was commissioned by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and prepared by analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. On February 2, the 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book was released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Key findings include: Renewable electricity, including hydropower and biopower, grew to nearly 15% of total installed capacity and 13% of total electricity generation in the United States in 2013, compared to 23% of all electricity generation worldwide, and 15% in the UK. Solar electricity was the fastest growing electricity generation technology in the U.S., with cumulative installed capacity increasing by nearly 66% from the previous year.

 

Chilly Climate re Climate Change continues in Canada

In the U.S., the White House National Security Strategy document was released on Feb. 6,  stating that climate change is a significant risk to Americans at home and abroad, along with terrorism and a nuclear Iran. Here in Canada, the intelligence community appears to see things differently. A threat assessment document by the critical infrastructure intelligence team of the RCMP, written in January 2015 and leaked to the press in February, seems skeptical of the world’s understanding of climate science and states: “There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed, anti-Canadian petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists, who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels”. See coverage in  The Toronto Star (Feb. 17); The Globe and Mail (Feb. 17); or The Guardian (Feb. 18). For reaction by Greenpeace, one of the groups high on the RCMP’s radar, see “Caring for the Climate is not a Crime in Canada. Yet”, which puts the RCMP document in the context of Bill C-51, Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act, introduced to the House of Commons on January 30, 2015.

As for the media, consider the facts presented by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (Feb. 12) in “Do you know who’s writing your climate change news”. The article notes the case of Andrew Weaver, described in more detail in “B.C. MLA Andrew Weaver wins defamation suit against National Post”The Globe and Mail (Feb. 6). PICS puts the Weaver case in a wider context by reporting on the dismissal by Postmedia of both Margaret Munro (nominated for a World Press Freedom Award for her stories on the muzzling of federal government scientists) and Mike De Souza (who wrote about the oil sands and exposed examples of bribery, undeclared conflicts of interest and withheld information relating to the federal government’s energy policy). Energy and oil industry news coverage will now be “centralized” at the  National Post, according to “Postmedia cuts National Writer Jobs, Offers Newsroom Buyouts” in the Globe and Mail (Feb. 5).

Growth of Canada’s Clean Energy, Wind Energy, and more on Grid Parity

Tracking the Energy Revolution – Canada, is the first annual status report by Clean Energy Canada, released in early December 2014. The report states that  $25 billion has been invested in clean energy, resulting in a 37 percent employment increase in the sector in the past five years, so that  by 2013 the clean energy sector (manufacturing, power production, energy efficiency, and biofuels) accounted for more direct Canadian jobs than the oil sands. To back up their job creation claim, Clean Energy published an explanation of the calculations. Full of infographics and tables, the report goes beyond statistics to highlight the leading provinces, companies, projects, and investor groups. It also makes recommendations for the federal and provincial levels and aims to spur laggard jurisdictions to more action.

 

More good news comes in a new report by the Canadian Wind Energy Association: 2014 was a record-breaking year for wind in Canada, with 37 new wind energy projects representing over $3.5 billion in investment. Fifteen of the projects involved municipalities, First Nations, and local farmers; activity was strongest in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. The Grand Renewable Energy project in Ontario can be considered a poster child for the industry, with over 98% of the workforce on the project from Ontario – from turbine manufacture to construction, installation, and operation. Samsung and Pattern Energy are equity partners with the Six Nations of the Grand River, which owns 10% of the project; Samsung and Pattern Energy provided a $400,000 donation to the Grand River Post-Secondary Education Office, to help Six Nations students. In B.C., the government has provided more than $5.8 million since 2011 to support the participation of over 90 Aboriginal communities in the clean energy sector, including wind energy, biomass and run-of-river hydroelectric power. See “First Nations Clean Energy Funding tops $5.8 million” in the Vancouver Observer (Jan. 6, 2015). And also of interest, a report in January 2015 by Oceana conservation group concludes that offshore wind has the potential to generate more jobs (91,000 more over 20 years) produce more power, and lead to a higher degree of energy independence than offshore drilling for oil and gas, while posing fewer environmental threats. Read Offshore Energy by the Numbers: An Economic Analysis of Offshore Drilling and Wind Energy in the Atlantic
All this, despite the assertion in a December report  that the $548 billion that is paid annually in fossil fuel subsidies around the world have impeded the growth of the renewable energy industry by making fossil fuel power generation appear cheaper than it really is. The Impact of Fossil-Fuel Subsidies on Renewable Electricity Generation was published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). Yet even so, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014, a landmark report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), states that “biomass, hydropower, geothermal and onshore wind are all competitive with or cheaper than coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, even without financial support and despite falling oil prices. Solar photovoltaic (PV) is leading the cost decline, with solar PV module costs falling 75 per cent since the end of 2009 and the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar PV falling 50 per cent since 2010.”

Canadian Companies Going Green with Energy Efficiency and More

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) “Living Planet @ Work” campaign profiles successful Canadian companies who have switched  to 100% renewable energy and are employing green business practices. Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewing and Miratel Solutions (a fundraising, call-centre, and online and mailing services company) have been featured so far.

In the case of Steam Whistle Brewing, facilities are kept cool by harnessing cold water from the bottom of Lake Ontario; company vehicles are fueled with biodiesel, and renewable energy, via Bullfrog Power, saves the equivalent of 128 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Miratel Solutions began the path to greening the workplace with a ban on plastic water bottles, an extensive recycling program, eco-friendly lighting and retrofitting, and energy-efficient electronics. Since 2006, Bullfrog Power allowed the company to support the transition to renewable energy despite the fact that they rent office space and can’t control its energy supply. Miratel saves the equivalent of 38.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Other Canadian case studies of energy efficiency projects are profiled in Heads-up CIPEC, the online newsletter of the Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation (CIPEC) of Natural Resources Canada.

Solar Jobs in the U.S., and a Survey of Working Conditions

 The newly released U.S. Solar Jobs Census 2014 from the Solar Foundation states that there are 173,807 solar workers in the U.S., representing a growth rate of 21.8% since November 2013.  The installation segment of the solar sector represents the single largest source of domestic employment growth in the U.S., more than doubling in size since 2010.
The report also asserts that diversity is growing since 2013, and that wages remain competitive, with installers earning $20-$24 per hour; assemblers earning close to $18 per hour, solar designers, $30-$40 per hour, and sales staff ranging widely from $30 to $60 per hour. In his response to the release of the Census, the U.S. Energy Secretary highlights the DOE Solar Instructor Training Network at nearly 400 community colleges in 49 states. He states that the program has trained over 30,000 people since 2010, with a goal of 50,000 new solar workers trained by 2020.

 

The Solar Census covers all segments of the solar industry in the U.S. In contrast, The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition Annual Scorecard surveys and ranks solar PV manufacturers internationally, with the goal “to enhance transparency around environmental health, safety, and sustainability issues for communities, workers, and the environment”. The latest edition, released in late November 2014 names manufacturers and ranks them on environmental issues such as Extended Producer Responsibility, water use, use of conflict minerals, and use of toxic chemicals. It also includes a category for Worker Rights and Health and Safety policies, measured by “a formal commitment to protecting worker rights, health, and safety that goes beyond compliance with local laws and regulations; commitment to improving employee wages; signage informing illiterate workers about minimum wage provisions; coverage of workforce by collective bargaining; workday case rates; recordable incident rates; and adoption of OHSAS for 100% of facilities”. Top ranked companies in the workers rights category in 2014, are Trina (owned by Chinese interests), SunPower (headquartered in California), and REC (recently taken over from Norwegian control by a Chinese company).

Blue and Green Authors Promote Sustainable Forestry over LNG Development in B.C.

An article written jointly by Arnold Bercov, President of the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada (PPWC), and two campaigners with the Wilderness Committee environmental group states: “We believe the B.C. government has gradually abandoned the province’s forestry heritage in pursuit of an unsustainable pipe dream: liquefied natural gas exports to Asia. The better option – for a resilient economy and for our climate – is to rebuild an innovative, sustainable forestry sector…What B.C. needs is legislation that supports an innovative and adaptable forest industry that creates local jobs and moves products up the value chain. Raw-log exports must be banned. Strong laws should also be enacted to protect the ecological values of our working forests for future generations”. See “Trees are the Solution that LNG will never be” in the Times Colonist (Dec. 21). The same article appeared in The Tyee (January 5, 2015) under the title “Prosperity? Forestry not Fracking”. The PPWC has also been critical of the unequal distribution of funds in B.C.’s 2014 policy document, Skills for Jobs Blueprint, whereby training support for LNG jobs appears to come at the expense of funding for other sectors, such as forestry. See Local Knowledge and Government Funding Vital to Training the Next Generation of Foresters.

Union/Community Cooperation Builds on De Blasio’s Proposal to Reduce NYC GHG Emissions

A strategy document released in December tackles the triple bottom line, with ten proposals that would create jobs – up to 40,000 per year – while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. The report is notable for two reasons: it was produced by a broad group of community, environmental and labour union groups in New York, including ALIGN, the National AFL-CIO, the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the BlueGreen Alliance, and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
Secondly, the  proposals in Climate Works for All: A Platform for Reducing Emissions, Protecting Our Communities, and Creating Good Jobs for New Yorkers are specific and detailed. They include mandatory energy efficiency retrofits for large buildings; installing solar energy systems on the rooftops of the 100 largest schools in New York City; investing in microgrids; investing in more bus lines and restoring train lines; improved flood protection and storm water management; improved commercial waste management and recycling.
For each of the ten proposals, there is a detailed discussion which includes consideration of workforce issues: for example, the energy efficiency retrofit proposal includes a recommendation that, “building owners should ensure that building operators are trained in energy-efficient operations. To this end, the City Council should pass Intro 13-2014, a bill that will require large buildings in New York City to have at least one building operator who is certified in energy efficient building maintenance”.

Labour Voices on the International Scene: G20 and Lima Climate Conference

In November 2014, following the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane, Australia, the Labour 20 (L20) issued a statement calling on the G20 to take action on climate change and green growth, and to implement a plan for jobs and growth that reduces inequality. From the statement: G20 leaders should “commit to an ambitious and fair share in reducing emissions” to ensure the success of the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations; should  contribute to the Green Climate Fund and support green bond development; commit to investing one percent of gross domestic product in infrastructure in every country, especially that which supports a transition to a low-carbon economy; support industrial transformation measures to protect the livelihoods of those in climate-vulnerable and energy-intensive sectors; support sustainable economic activities; and set attainable food and energy security targets. In addition, the L20 called for measures to promote inclusive growth by enabling women and youth to participate in secure jobs; responsible, green investment strategies; and trade and supply chains that help create decent work and safe work places. The L20 is convened by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). See L20 website and read a summary of the L20 statement.

Lima Leaves Out Key Labour Language

Labour organizations are decrying the lack of language pertaining to just transition policies in the final negotiating agreement of the Climate Conference in Lima in December.

Organizations such as BlueGreen Alliance and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) lobbied leaders prior to the Conference, providing recommendations and wording suggestions to facilitate the inclusion of worker protection and reducing inequality in the climate agreement. BlueGreen advocated for improved international collaboration on best practices for just transition, and joined TUED in calling on the parties to prepare data on the positive and negative employment impacts of climate policies to support decision-making.

While a number of governments did raise labour issues at the Conference, co-chairs ultimately left them out of the text altogether. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, however, there was an overall trend of greater recognition of the centrality of just transition to sound climate policy, an active role played by labour organizations at the Conference, and the ongoing expansion and diversification of the climate justice movement, including increasing attention to labour issues. See Lima climate conference deceives, but not the climate movement. A similar assessment was made by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Climate talks advance slowly, but activism on the rise.

Getting Back on the Climate Track with “Made in Canada” Policies

A new report from the David Suzuki Foundation overviews Canadian provincial and municipal policies that have effectively reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and calls upon the federal government to implement national policies that would coordinate and expand the ingenuity and skills of the existing green workforce. Building on the Best: Keeping Canada’s Climate Promise, also suggests that Canada would now be on track to meeting its 2020 targets if the best policies had been implemented in 2009, when Canada committed to action in Copenhagen.

The report focuses on policies that eliminated coal power, boosted renewable energy, and put a price on carbon, along with low-carbon transportation, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage, and landfill and biogas. Ontario’s staged coal phase-out, together with the introduction of the Green Energy and Economy Act, is lauded as evidence that major changes can be made rapidly and that green economics can be fruitful; the burgeoning Ontario renewable energy industry has created more than 20,000 jobs so far. B.C.’s carbon tax is commended for its rigor and broad application, while Québec’s cap-and-trade system is favoured for its ability to link to international markets.

The report considers the application of successful policies to other jurisdictions in Canada, with each province given policy recommendations, and then rated according to their emissions reduction potential if the best policies were implemented. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Atlantic provinces have the most potential for improvement. Building on the Best is based on a technical report, Progress on Canadian Climate Policy, commissioned by DSF and prepared by Navius Research.

Ontario Taking a Leading Role in Provincial Climate Policy Initiatives

“Ontario: Tired of Waiting”, in Corporate Knights magazine summarizes the recent climate initiatives of Premier Kathleen Wynne. Most notably, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and  California issued a Joint Statement on Climate Change at the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Lima on December 9, 2014 (Joint Statement on Climate Change French version) which pledges to “collaborate on mid-term greenhouse gas emissions reductions to maintain momentum toward 2050 targets. This commitment reflects…a collective will to take action and establish these targets prior to the 2015 Conference of the Parties”.
On December 10, Ontario announced it would host a pan-American dialogue on long-term climate action at a 2015 Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto, from July 7-9, 2015. This gathering is likely to be the venue to launch Ontario`s carbon pricing plan, pledged on January 14th; read “Ontario to move forward with carbon-pricing plan this spring” from the Globe and Mail.

B.C. Carbon Tax Receives International Praise

While Ontario hasn’t stated whether it will choose a cap and trade system or a carbon tax, British Columbia`s carbon tax has received a  recent flurry of praise. In a December 8 speech  leading up to the COP Lima meetings, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stated that “all countries should commit to put a price on carbon” and singled out British Columbia’s system as one of the most “powerful” examples…”It’s worth noting that British Columbia’s GDP has outperformed the rest of Canada’s after introduction of the tax”.
Read also: a Globe and Mail editorial of December 13, “Why Stephen Harper should Love Carbon Taxes”; Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan in “Cutting Emissions needn`t kill Jobs, Says Oilsands Labour” in The Tyee (December 8). Even well-established conservative Preston Manning, now part of the Ecofiscal Commission, appears to endorse the concept in a November 19 Globe and Mail article: “How to Communicate a Good Idea: Carbon Pricing”. Last word goes to Larry Sommers, former Secretary of the Treasury in the U.S., in his January article in the Financial Times titled “Let this be the Year we Put a Proper Price on Carbon”.

    For more factual information about carbon taxes and how B.C. has achieved revenue neutrality, see Proof Positive: The Mechanics and Impacts of British Columbia’s Carbon Tax, released by Clean Energy Canada in December. A new, much more detailed study of the effect of a carbon tax, modelling with various revenue structures, was released by the state of Oregon in December.

Public Health Concerns Lead to Fracking Bans in Quebec, New Brunswick, New York; and what about Workers Health Concerns?

Quebec has had a moratorium on fracking since 2011, and in an interview with Radio-Canada in December, the Premier announced that the province would not allow further development. See Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says No to Shale Gas and also in the Montreal Gazette, “Couillard Rules out Fracking”. The premier’s announcement came one day after a report from BAPE, Quebec’s environmental assessment agency, which cited risks to air and water quality, as well as potential increases in noise and light pollution. The report is available only in French, or see the Montreal Gazette summary in English. In New Brunswick, recently-elected Premier Brian Gallant announced a fracking moratorium at the end of the December legislative session – it will be voted on in February. In New York, a fracking moratorium was announced on the grounds that there were significant public health concerns about water contamination and air pollution, and insufficient scientific evidence to affirm the safety of fracking. “Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State” in the New York Times (Dec. 17). The article has a link to the report, A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas
Development. Also of interest: a January report from Friends of the Earth in the U.K.: Making a Better Job of it: Why Renewables and Energy Efficiency are better for Jobs than Fracking (January 2015) reviews and critiques economic impact studies from the U.S. and U.K. and concludes that fracking job estimates have been overstated, and that the jobs created are likely to be short-term, with as yet unknown health risks for workers. On that note, the U.K.’s Trades Union Congress on January 20 released its TUC shale gas briefing: Fracking and workers’ health and safety issues, which briefly reviews some of the important research to date on the public safety issues, especially exposure to hydrocarbons and silica. It concludes that even with regulation in place, unions are needed to give workers the right to refuse unsafe work without the fear of penalty.

Ontario Energy Board Consultation on Energy East Pipeline

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) released four preliminary assessments from its technical advisors on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline project on January 15, 2015. The report relating to socioeconomic aspects is by the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto and concludes that “TransCanada’s estimated benefits are likely inflated while local benefits are expected to be small, particularly along the converted portion of the pipeline in northern Ontario”. The OEB Energy East Consultation webpage compiles all technical and background papers and submissions to date. The deadline to make a public submission is February 6, 2015; a link is available on the OEB website. Also see The Council of Canadians Energy East webpage.

Environmental Investigation of Oil Sands Tailings Ponds Unlikely, and Alberta GHG Emissions Regulations Stalled

The Commission on Environmental Co-operation (CEC) was created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to resolve environmental disputes and to provide an outlet for the public’s environmental concerns. In 2010, Environmental Defense Canada and the Natural Resources Defense Council led a public submission which alleged that tailings ponds from Alberta’s oil sands were leaking four billion liters each year, and that the federal government was not enforcing its own Fisheries Act to prevent damage to the Athabasca River. In July, 2015, the CEC ruled that the complaint merited further investigation, but according to a CBC report of January 12, the government is attempting to stop any such investigation. See NAFTA scrutiny of oilsands tailings ponds opposed by Canada. The entire record of the complaint, with all documentation, is available at the CEC website. In the meantime, four Alberta regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, previously set to expire on December 31, have been extended till June, to allow “government to explore new approaches and partnership opportunities” for a new climate change policy framework in 2015. The regulations affected are: The Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), Specified Gas Reporting Regulation (SGRR), Administrative Penalty Regulation, and the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund Administration Regulation. See the government’s news release (Dec. 19) and an explanation of the current framework.

Government Scientists Continue their Fight for their Right to Speak Out

The Professional Institue of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) represents scientists employed in some 40 federal departments and agencies, including many directly involved with climate change. Having previously documented the culture of intimidation felt by their members in two reports, The Big Chill and Vanishing Science, the union is now addressing the issue at the bargaining table. Amongst the demands in the current round of bargaining: the right to speak about one’s work; the right to attend professional development meetings and conferences; and the development of a scientific integrity policy. The bargaining proposals have both an English version and French version.

Tools to Improve Sustainability at Universities

A Green Guide for Universities published by Sustainia of Sweden in December, provides suggestions, tools, and best practices for university building maintenance, purchasing, transportation, and student and employee engagement. The main focus of Chapter 8, Employee and Student Engagement, is to urge the establishment of a sustainability office in each university. Case studies are presented from Yale, Cambridge, Peking, and Copenhagen University. Many Canadian universities have well-established Sustainability offices, including: Queen’s; University of Toronto; University of British Columbia; Universite Laval. The 2014 Annual STARS Review by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education also presents case studies of sustainability at universities. The 2014 report features 105 higher education institutions, mainly from the United States, several from Canada, and some pilot international participants. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) rates institutions on a host of practices, including Human Resources practices such as the presence of sustainability information in professional development courses and new employee orientation, commuting and telecommuting policies, etc.

Obama Administration Issues New Methane Emissions Standards for the U.S.

A White House Fact Sheet, released on January 14, announces a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 – 45% from 2012 levels by 2025. In general, reaction from environmental groups has been tepid, citing the need to address existing operations, and to rely more on regulation and less on voluntary industry action. Read “Climate Hawks aren’t impressed with Obama’s Methane Plan” in Mother Jones (Jan. 20) for a summary of reactions.

California’s New Climate Change Initiative

Re-elected Governor Jerry Brown used his inaugural speech in January to lay out three climate-related goals for 2030: Increase the proportion of electricity sourced from renewables to 50%; reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50%; and double the energy efficiency of existing buildings in the state. Calling for “active collaboration at every stage with our scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, businesses and officials at all levels”, he envisioned changes such as more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles. On January 1, the state’s cap and trade system expanded to include oil and gas refineries and distribution, and on January 5, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to launch the controversial high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, due for completion in 2028. Read the Legal Planet analysis.

Study Examines “High Road”, Unionized Jobs in the California Solar Industry

A study released on November 10 by the University of California at Berkeley examines the environmental and economic impact of a boom in utility-scale solar electricity generation in California since 2010.

The report describes the overall economic and policy situation, then calculates the new construction, maintenance, and operations jobs created, plus the upstream and downstream jobs. It estimates the income and health and pension benefits of these new construction and plant operations jobs, most of which are unionized.

In California, the union contracts have required payments into apprenticeship training programs; the study calculates the new monies that have been generated for apprenticeship programs, and asserts that the boom in utility-scale solar construction has set in motion a related boom in apprenticeship and other forms of training for electricians, operating engineers, ironworkers, carpenters, millwrights, piledrivers, and laborers. The author estimates how apprenticeship affects lifetime earnings- using the example of electrical apprentices, who are estimated to see a lifetime income approximately $1 million higher than that of workers without similar training.

Finally, the report describes the policy environment that has facilitated this solar boom, and makes recommendations for the future. The author, Peter Philips, from the University of Utah, is currently a Visiting Scholar at the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, at the Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy.

Literature Review of Job Creation Impact of Energy Efficiency Investments

A study released by the U.K. Energy Research Centre (UKERC) on November 4 presents an analytical literature review of fifty studies published since 2000 on the relationship between green energy investment and job creation in the U.S., Europe and China. The report outlines the key concepts and modelling methodologies, and provides a comparative analysis of the job impact results of the studies surveyed.

Overall, the authors found that renewable energy and energy efficiency create up to ten times more jobs per unit of electricity generated or saved than fossil fuels. However, they conclude that the job creation issue is complex and is often wrongly focussed on short-term benefits. “The proper domain for the debate about the long-term role of renewable energy and energy efficiency is the wider framework of energy and environmental policy, not a narrow analysis of green job impacts.”

 LINKS

Low Carbon Jobs: The Evidence for Net Job Creation from Policy Support for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is available from the Energy Research Centre website.

Canadian Environmental Education: Post Secondary Guides, Context, and New Initiatives for Public Outreach

Alternatives Journal in October published a special issue addressing environmental education. The fifteenth annual Environmental Education Guide helps students heading to postsecondary education to identify and compare the 700 interdisciplinary programs available in 120 Canadian universities and community colleges.

Three accompanying articles emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary studies: “Academic Evolution: Innovation knows no Boundaries”, profiles the work of Dr. James Orbinski, who leads research on global health and climate change as the Research Chair in Global Health at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and Tim Kruger, who is the Coordinator of the Geoengineering Program at the Martin Oxford School at University of Oxford, and one of the authors of the Oxford Principles.

A quote from Kruger sums up the point of the article: “Climate change presents systems problems, involving multiple, complex mechanisms…What is left now, are those problems which are not amenable to being solved by a single disciplinary approach.” “The Genius of the Generalist”, describes the educational paths of three graduate students- two of whom have Masters of Environmental Studies degrees from York University in Toronto and “Meet 6 Environmental Grads” profiles careers after graduation from various environmental programmes in Canada, and one in Freiberg, Germany.

For students heading for an MBA, Corporate Knights magazine released its annual guide to Sustainable MBA programs around the world in October. As in past years, York University’s Schulich School of Business ranked first, followed closely by the Sauder School of Business at University of British Columbia.

And two new online initiatives to promote climate change literacy and climate justice emerged from British Columbia in October. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation jointly created free classroom-ready materials designed for students in grades 8 to 12. Eight modules explore climate justice within the context of B.C.’s communities, history, economy and ecology. On October 28th the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the University of Victoria, launched “B.C Climate Impacts & Adaptation”, an  interactive online module free to anyone interested in expanding their climate literacy. At the same time, PICS updated the content of the educational section of their website, which houses other modules and mini-lessons.

LINKS
 
 

A New Commission with a Prescription of “Ecofiscal” Policies for Canada

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission was launched on November 4, with the release of a report which makes the economic case for a new suite of Canadian policies at the municipal, provincial and national level.

“Ecofiscal policies correct market signals to encourage the economic activities we want (job creation, investment, and innovation), while discouraging those we don’t (greenhouse gas emissions and pollution of our land, air, and water). They use prices to help companies and individuals make decisions that take the true value of our environmental assets into account.” The Commission describes itself as independent, and representative of all political viewpoints; this manifests itself in the membership, which includes prominent former politicians Jean Charest, Bob Rae, Preston Manning, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, and Mike Harcourt. It is housed at McGill University, and led by Professor Chris Ragan of the McGill University Department of Economics (formerly a special adviser to the Bank of Canada).

LINKS
View the

 
Smart, Practical, Possible: Canadian Options for Greater Economic and Environmental Prosperity, Inaugural Report of  the EcoFiscal Commission (English Version / French Version).
 
Chris Ragan is interviewed by Tyler Hamilton of Corporate Knights magazine.

 

Corporate Leaders Sign on to an Open Letter for More Climate Change Leadership, Carbon Pricing in Canada

In an open letter to Canada’s federal and provincial political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, the Clean 50 states that Canada needs to put a higher priority on climate change action, and specifically, “We believe that one solution is to develop a well thought out framework that includes setting a price on carbon at some specific date in the future, that would reduce other taxes, and provide an incentive for businesses and individuals to take steps to reduce their use of carbon.” The Clean 50 is a group founded and managed by Delta Management, a corporate search firm specializing in green jobs; it includes sustainability professionals from corporate Canada, as well as academics and individuals. See the website and their Open Letter

Superlatives for the U.S.-China Agreement on Climate Change, and what it Means for Canada

Media superlatives signal the importance of the surprising climate change announcement by the U.S. and China on November 11. President Obama pledged that the U.S. will emit 26 to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005, and will double the pace of reduction it had previously targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020. China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, and that clean energy sources would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.

See the White House press release and the White House Fact Sheet. For a summary of U.S. reactions, see the Blue Green Alliance at “What Leaders are Saying about the Historic Agreement”.

What is the impact in Canada? A Globe and Mail article stated that the agreement would put pressure on Prime Minister Harper to act on climate change, yet columnist Jeffrey Simpson wrote, “Leadership means a willingness to spend political capital on an issue, and in Canada’s case, there is no such leadership at the top. That this absence would suddenly shift as a result of a China-U.S. understanding is improbable in the extreme”.

Alberta’s new premier Jim Prentice announced that the province will “stiffen” its regulations for fossil fuel extraction. “It’s the desire of Alberta to be participatory in any sort of international agreement that we can arrive at, modeled on what the United States and China have been able to achieve”. When the U.S. – China agreement was announced, Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne, accompanied by green business leaders, had just returned from a trade mission to China.

According to the University of Victoria PICS Newscan, Guelph’s Canadian Solar Solutions signed a $70-million deal to build solar energy plants in China, and China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group signed an agreement for future collaboration.  

Climate Change Momentum Continues at the G20 Summit in Brisbane

Despite the efforts of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to keep it off the agenda, pressure to address climate change was heaped on the G20 group, notably  by the climate agreement signed by the U.S. and China. Pope Francis sent  a letter to Prime Minister Abbott that admonished “unbridled” consumerism, environmental degradation, and their capacity to undermine global economic stability. See “U.S., EU Override Australia to put Climate Change on G20 Agenda” from Reuters and “Pope Francis to World Leaders: Consumerism Represents ‘Constant Assault’ on the Environment” from ClimateProgress.

The final communiqué expressed strong support for the Green Climate Fund. Canada announced on November 20 that it would contribute $300 million to the Green Climate Fund. See the government press release and government backgrounder, and see also “Green Climate Fund in the Spotlight at G20 Leaders’ Meet” from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.

Ontario and Quebec sign Agreements on Electricity Trade and Climate Change

On November 21, Ontario and Québec announced a number of agreements to “strengthen Ontario and Québec’s partnership to build up Central Canada’s economy, create jobs and make a difference in people’s lives”. These agreements specifically focused on electricity trade, climate change (including carbon pricing), infrastructure investments, the Energy East pipeline, interprovincial trade, and the Francophonie.

Relating to Energy East, Ontario affirmed Québec’s concerns and insistence that climate change is considered by the NEB and that the unfair burden of risk born by those nearby the converted aging gas pipelines is addressed.

Read Ontario’s press release and Ontario’s backgrounder, and see CBC coverage in “Ontario, Québec sign deals on Electricity, Climate Change”. According to the Globe and Mail, federal and Alberta government ministers will be travelling to Quebec soon to press the case for Energy East. Read reaction to the Ontario-Quebec agreement by Clare Demerse at Clean Energy Canada.

Analysis of the Canada – EU Trade Agreement

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada was announced as a “done deal” in Ottawa on September 26, despite the fact that the text had never been made public till that time.

The agreement abolishes almost all tariffs and reduces many non-tariff barriers, but most controversial is the chapter on investment protection, which includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. The ISDS mechanism gives foreign corporations the ability to sue Canada or a province, if the companies allege that domestic health or environmental policies and regulations interfere with their right to make a profit.

The Council of Canadians has been a vocal opponent of CETA because of these ISDS provisions and released a new book in November. Trading away Democracy (co-published by a number of other organizations, including Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees, European Federation of Public Service Unions, Friends of the Earth Europe).
The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva has published a detailed review which includes a summary of the Environment and Labour chapters of the CETA . The article points out a departure from past trade agreements such as NAFTA: disputes under the Environment or Labour chapters cannot be initiated by civil society, but only by a government- to -government mechanism specifically defined in each chapter. See “Unpacking the EU Canada Free Trade Deal” in Bridges (Nov. 3).

Also see the Government of Canada website relating to CETA, including a link to the text of the agreement (English version / French version).

Grid Parity for Solar and Wind Energy

According to the Global Wind Energy Outlook published by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International, wind power alone could supply as much as 19 percent of global electricity needs by 2030, and 30% by 2050, given policy support. The economics of wind and solar production are leading the way: see an overview of recent studies relating to grid parity of solar and wind energy, including the October report by Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shah, and a New York Times article. The Deutsche Bank report found that solar has already reached grid parity in the ten states that represent 90 % of U.S. solar electricity production. Wind continues to face community opposition, but a Health Canada study in November concludes that there is no evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and self-reported medical illnesses and health conditions. See the Health Canada study.

Pipeline News: Report Questions Economic Benefit of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Project ahead of Mass Arrests

A report released by Simon Fraser University and The Goodman Group Ltd. on November 10th asserts that pipeline company Kinder Morgan has exaggerated the number of jobs to be created by its Trans Mountain Expansion Project and drastically underestimated the potential cost of spills. 

While the company holds that the project will support 36,000 person-years of work for British Columbians, with an additional 2000 jobs in spin-offs, the Goodman Group report estimates a maximum of 12,000 person-years during the construction period – amounting to about 4000 jobs per year. Further, revenues for the province may also be lower than claimed. The Goodman report was released just after Kinder Morgan was granted an injunction on November 14th against a group of residents protesting the Trans Mountain project on Burnaby Mountain. 53 protestors have been arrested as of November 22nd.

Read the Goodman report, Economic Costs and Benefits of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) for B.C. and Metro Vancouver. Read “Economists Question Projected Value of Trans Mountain’s Pipeline” from The Globe and Mail. For information about the protests, see “Kinder Morgan Slaps Burnaby Residents with Multi-Million-Dollar Lawsuit” from the Vancouver Observer, and “Kinder Morgan Protests: More Protesters are Arrested as Test Drilling Starts” from the CBC.

Pipeline News: Energy East Application filed at NEB; Quebec Response

On October 30th, Trans Canada filed a formal application for its Energy East pipeline project from the National Energy Board (NEB). See the NEB website for information about the Energy East application and the National Energy Board process, including how to participate, or see the CBC website for “TransCanada Formally Applies to NEB for Energy East Pipeline Approval”.

TransCanada claims the project will directly or indirectly create 14,000 jobs, and help create $36 billion worth of economic activity, basing its projections on a new Conference Board of Canada report, which updates a previous report by Deloitte consultants. See Energy East Pipeline Project: Understanding the Economic Benefits for Canada and its RegionsSee also an “Economic Backgrounder” from Trans Canada.

 On November 6th, the Québec National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution asserting provincial jurisdiction to conduct its own environmental assessment and casting a vote of non-confidence in the NEB process. The resolution condemned the NEB’s exclusion of climate impacts from the factors it considers and the failure of the federal government to adopt national emissions regulations for oil and gas. Québec’s Minister of Natural Resources said the province will analyze potential economic and environmental impacts and the threat to its wintertime natural gas supply in consultation with the public, and will appear before the NEB with its findings. Find the resolution in the legislative Votes and Proceedings for Nov. 6 at page 471, and the Quebec press release. See reaction to the resolution from the Pembina Institute, emphasizing climate impacts. The Québec Minister of Environment also sent a letter to Trans Canada on November 18th which  outlined seven project conditions, including assurance the province will benefit economically and adequate involvement of the public and First Nations in decision-making. Read the conditions in “Environment Minister sets Conditions for TransCanada in Quebec”.

How Should Canada Prepare for Climate Migrants?

As part of its Climate Justice program, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – B.C. Office released a report in November, asking: “given Canada’s historical and ongoing contribution to global warming, what is our collective obligation to people fleeing regions most affected by climate change, and how prepared are we to meet these obligations?” Researchers found serious gaps in current policies and thinking around climate migration, and recommend legislative reform to create a new immigration class of “climate migrants”, with targets and programs to ensure Canada absorbs its fair share of those migrants. Recognizing that most climate migrants will remain in developing countries, Canada should also increase its support to those countries which will bear the brunt of climate displacement. Read Preparing B.C. for Climate Migration.

 

Canada’s Forests, Climate Change, and the Roles of Government and Professionals

On September 24, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources released the 2014 edition of State of Canada’s Forests, which includes “sustainability indicators” which highlight key social, economic and environmental data such as GhG emissions, contribution to GDP, and labour force growth and wage levels.

In a table showing “Benefits to the Canadian Economy”, the forest sector ranks as providing 9.34 jobs per million dollars of value added; in comparison, the energy sector provides 1.94 jobs (see http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/report/economy/16517). The federal government report strikes an optimistic and positive note, highlighting government’s role in providing financial incentives through the Investments in Forest Industry Transformation program, the Expanding Market Opportunities program and the Forest Innovation program.

forestsIn contrast, a September report from the Intact Forest Landscapes Initiative states that Canada has led the world in forest loss from deforestration since 2000 (half of such forest loss occurred in just three countries: Canada, Russia and Brazil). According to Global Forest Watch Canada, the major causes of Canada’s forest loss are massive increases in oil sands and shale gas developments, as well as logging and road building. The Intact Forest project is produced by the Global Forest Watch Network, an international collaboration that includes Greenpeace, University of Maryland, and World Resources Institute among others, and uses satellite imagery technology to determine the location and extent of the world’s last large undisturbed forests.

In British Columbia, four professional associations related to the forestry industry released an “unprecedented” joint statement in July, which states, “Our members have crucial roles to play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation; their knowledge, expertise and professionalism are key parts of the solution. But they also have important professional and ethical responsibilities related to the changing climate. Professional associations have an obligation to define those responsibilities and to provide the training and structures that will allow members to meet their responsibilities to their clients and to the public”. The statement also calls on government to show leadership, and calls for a review of a range of provincial laws in light of climate change. Signatories to the joint statement are: the Association of BC Forest Professionals (ABCFP), the Association of Professional Biology (APB), the College of Applied Biology (CAB), and the Planning Institute of BC (PIBC).

LINKS:

State of Canada’s Forests 2014 is available, with accompanying infographics and summaries at: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/report/16496 (English version), and http://www.rncan.gc.ca/forets/rapport/16497 (French version)

Intact Forest Landscapes is at: http://intactforests.org/; Global Forest Watch Canada is at: http://www.globalforestwatch.ca/

Professional Associations of B.C. Joint Statement is at: http://www.abcfp.ca/about_us/media_centre/documents/Pro_Leadership_in_a_Changing_Climate-Joint_Statement_20140708.pdf; accompanying 1-page background document is at: http://www.abcfp.ca/about_us/media_centre/documents/Joint_Statement_on_Climate_Change-Backgrounder_20140708.pdf. The Association of B.C. Forest Professionals released their own position paper in January 2014 at: http://www.abcfp.ca/publications_forms/publications/documents/ABCFP_Climate_Change-Position_Paper_2014.pdf

Electric Vehicles Good for Ontario Economy

According to a new report from the non-profit Windfall Centre, Ontario’s economy would enjoy major economic benefits from increased electric vehicles (EV’s), including considerable energy savings, government revenue, and thousands of new skilled, well-paid jobs in manufacturing, research, business and professional services, and infrastructure development. 

According to Windfall, these benefits would outweigh losses in other sectors, including oil and gas and Ontario’s sagging gasoline vehicle manufacturing sector. The report estimates that if 10% of Ontario’s passenger vehicles were to be electric by windfall2025, the province’s total income would increase by more than $3.6 billion with an added 34,000 person years of work. 

The importance of such a conversion is underlined in a September report from the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport. “Without transport contributing in a significant manner to the mitigation of climate change it will not be possible to shift to a global stabilization pathway that can keep warming below 2 Degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”.  

California’s Governor Jerry Brown also cast his vote for EV’s in September with S.B. 1275, The Charge Ahead California Initiative, to get 1 million EV’s driving in the state by 2020. Governor Brown’s decision was celebrated by the BlueGreen Alliance, who noted that most EV’s in California are union-made in the U.S. 

LINKS: 

The Economic Impact of Electric Vehicle Adoption in Ontario is available at: http://www.windfallcentre.ca/drive-electric/studies/ev-adoption/report/

For more about electric vehicles, see “Plugged in: Electric Vehicles Coming to Canada in 2015” from the Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/culture/technology/plugged-in-electric-vehicles-coming-to-canada-in-2015/article20592549/, or follow the Electric Vehicle News Blog at FleetCarma at: http://www.fleetcarma.com/category/electric-vehicle-news/ 

Land Transport’s Contribution to a 2°C Target is at: http://www.slocat.net/transporttwodegree   

“The Effort to Get One Million Electric Vehicles on California’s Roadways Just Got A Jumpstart” from BlueGreen Alliance is at: http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/blog/the-effort-to-get-one-million-electric-vehicles-on-californias-roadways-just-got-a-jumpstart

 

Federal Government Scientists: an Open Letter in their Support, and an Injunction for Energy East Based on their Concerns

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, marked the Government of Canada’s Science and Technology week with an advertising campaign which included an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

muzzle_scientists_canada_report_535_692The letter states: “Canada’s leadership in basic research, environmental, health and other public science is in jeopardy…We urge you to restore government science funding and the freedom and opportunities to communicate these findings internationally”. The letter was signed by more than 800 scientists from 32 countries, from institutions such as Harvard Medical School in the U.S. and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. PIPSC, which represents scientists employed by the federal government, has published earlier surveys of its members to document their perceptions of being “muzzled”; a related advocacy group, Evidence for Democracy, released its own report on October 8, compiling and ranking the communications policies of federal government departments.

The world has seen this before, as described in a blog by the Union for Concerned Scientists, and coincidentally, by the New York Times obituary on October 19, 2014 for Rick Pitz. Pitz was a U.S. whistleblower who exposed the subtle manipulation of scientific reports on climate change in the Bush administration between 2002 and 2003.

Ignoring the opinions of federal government scientists has its perils. On September 23, the Quebec Superior Court issued a temporary injunction to stop TransCanada’s exploratory drilling for the Energy East pipeline. Part of the reason for the injunction: environmental groups provided internal documents showing that scientists from the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans had been raising concerns for months about the impact of the exploratory drilling on the habitat of threatened St. Lawrence beluga whales, and of the proposed oil terminal that would be built to service 250-metre long supertankers. The court ruled that, by ignoring the scientists’ concerns, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment erred in issuing a permit for the exploratory work.

LINKS:

PIPSC Press release, with a link to the Open Letter, is at: http://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/website/news/newsreleases/news/21102014

Can Scientists Speak? Grading Communication Policies For Federal Government Scientists is at: https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/canscientistsspeak, with a blog which summarizes Canadian and U.S. experience at the Union of Concerned Scientists at: http://blog.ucsusa.org/want-to-talk-to-a-scientist-in-canada-dont-look-to-the-federal-government-678

See the CBC report at:http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/foreign-scientists-call-on-stephen-harper-to-restore-science-funding-freedom-1.2806571 for links to previous stories in this ongoing issue.

Rick Pitz obituary in the New York Times (Oct. 19, 2014) is at: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/a-passing-rick-piltz-a-bush-era-whistleblower/?_php=true&_type=blogs&module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar&_r=0, and the related expose of Philip A. Cooney, “Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming” in the New York Times (June 8, 2005) at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/08/politics/08climate.html?emc=eta1

“TransCanada work on St. Lawrence port Suspended by Quebec Court Order” on the CBC website (September 23) at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/transcanada-work-on-st-lawrence-port-suspended-by-quebec-court-order-1.2775613

Productivity Loss due to Workplace Heat Stress: an Issue for North America, too

In an article appearing in Our World, a publication of the United Nations University, author Tord Kjellstrom argues that economists need to consider the impact of the physiological limits of people exposed to ambient heat when they work.

His article reviews the literature to date on this issue, and contends that climate change is resulting in huge financial losses because of reduced labour productivity: estimated in 2012 as approximately US$2 trillion globally by 2030. High temperatures are already having an impact in tropical and sub-tropical countries, as well as the southern U.S. and Europe, and Australia.

How relevant is this to North America? In 2014, as part of the Risky Business project, the American Climate Prospectus included a chapter on labour productivity, which projected that heat-related losses of labour productivity in 2050 and 2090 in the United States would be the largest actual economic cost of climate change – amounting to approximately 0.2 percent of GDP in 2050. And in October 2014, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that “By 2050, many US cities may experience more frequent extreme heat days. For example, New York and Milwaukee may have 3 times their current average number of days hotter than 32°C (90°F)…The adverse health aspects related to climate change may include heat-related disorders, such as heat stress and economic consequences of reduced work capacity”. The article continues to list many other adverse health outcomes and the implications for physicians. Wor

LINKS:

“Productivity Losses Ignored in Economic Analysis of Climate Change” in Our World (September 23, 2014) at: http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/productivity-losses-ignored-in-economic-analysis-of-climate-change

American Climate Prospectus: Economic Risks in the United States (June, updated August 2014) at: http://rhg.com/reports/climate-prospectus

“Climate Change Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) at: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1909928

For more, see the Hothaps website at: http://www.climatechip.org/. Hothaps = High Occupational Temperature: Health and Productivity Suppression, an international research program which studies “the effects of heat exposure on working people (including gender aspects and effects on pregnant women and on children), to quantify climate change-related increases in workplace heat exposures and the impact this will have on human health and productivity”.

Labour Should Lead with a Worker-Friendly Climate Plan

Drawing on American economic and labour policy during World War II, authors Jeremy Brecher, Ron Blackwell and Joe Uehlein envision what climate policy could look like with labour in the lead, in an article in the September 2014 issue of New Labor Forum.

The authors acknowledge that unions are caught between the immediate interests of their members, many of whom work in industries vulnerable to new climate regulations, and long-term social, economic, and ecological wellbeing. As a result, labour has at times remained “aloof” to the climate movement, but the authors advocate that the labour movement should take the initiative to develop its own government-led climate plan – one that bridges the divide between work and environment, reverses austerity, raises wages, and offers full employment, job security, and transition training.

As during wartime, the authors contend, climate change demands ramped up production and expansion in innovative sectors. The government should take the lead in financing the low-carbon transition during its initial, more expensive stages, thereby encouraging private investment by creating stable green markets. Citizens should be supported during the transformation through the establishment of a welfare state that diverts carbon tax revenues to workers and the unemployed, provides education and training, and recruits and distributes workers to where they are most needed.

LINKS:

“If Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change” in New Labor Forum (v.23, #3) is at: http://nlf.sagepub.com/content/23/3/40.full.pdf+html

New York Climate Summit: Labour Marches and Business Makes Pledges

The New York Times Editorial Board pronounced its verdict on the U.N. Climate Summit – focussing on the People’s March rather than the official meetings, and noting “a palpable conviction that tackling climate change could be an opportunity, and not a burden”.

The article notes that cooperation between the U.S. and China could create the conditions for a breakthrough agreement in 2015, “But what might really do the trick – if Climate Week is any guide – is the emergence of a growing bottom-up movement for change”. In an article in Truthout, Abby Scher summarizes the support for the People’s March by national unions in the U.S., including Service Employees (SEIU) and Communication Workers of America, as well as the New York state and city unions and the community-labour alliances which have taken root in New York since Hurricane Sandy.

The business community made headlines with its reports and announcements over the Climate Summit week: a Global Investor Statement by nearly 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets, calling for stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing and a phase-out of fossil fuels; the Carbon Tracker Initiative published a report for investors to measure their risk exposure and start directing capital away from high cost, high carbon projects; the new We Mean Business coalition released The Climate has Changed report; and iconic companies like Kellogg’s, Nestle, Apple, and IKEA and others released their own statements supporting climate change action.

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the U.S., pledged to measure and publicly disclose the carbon footprint of its $300 billion investment portfolio, and the California State Teachers Retirement System announced that it will increase its clean energy and technology investments from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion over the next five years. And according to a New York Times summary of business initiatives: “The major Indonesian palm oil processors, including Cargill, issued a separate declaration on Tuesday pledging a crackdown on deforestation, and asking the Indonesian government to adopt stronger laws. Forest Heroes, an environmental group, called the declaration “a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture. We should not underestimate the significance of what is happening”.

And for an interesting, more neutral point of view: consider the special report Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement, presented to the German Federal Government on the occasion of the UN Climate Summit in New York. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) recommends a dual strategy for international climate policy: governments should negotiate the global phasing-out of fossil CO2 emissions at the Paris meetings in 2015, while civil society initiatives, including those of trade unions and religious organizations, should be supported and encouraged.

LINKS:

“A Group Shout on Climate Change” Editorial in the New York Times (September 27) is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/opinion/sunday/a-group-shout-on-climate-change.html?emc=edit_th_20140928&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=67440933&_r=0. In contrast, see also “Moving Forward after the People’s Climate March” in Canadian Dimension at: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/moving-forward-after-the-peoples-climate-march

“At Least Some Unions Step Up for Big Climate March!” by Abby Scher in Truthout at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26137-at-least-some-unions-step-up-for-big-climate-march, with a list of the unions who officially endorsed the People March at: http://peoplesclimate.org/organizedlabor/. See also the BlueGreen Alliance statement at: http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/news/latest/members-of-labor-environmental-partnership-front-and-center-in-peoples-climate-march

For Business documents, see Global Investor Statement is at: http://investorsonclimatechange.org/; Carbon Supply Cost Curves: Evaluating Financial Risk to Oil Capital Expenditures is at the Carbon Tracker Initiative at: http://www.carbontracker.org/report/carbon-supply-cost-curves-evaluating-financial-risk-to-oil-capital-expenditures/; We Mean Business website is at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/, with The Climate has Changed at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/stories. CalPERS statement is at: http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/newsroom/news/montreal-carbon-pledge.xml; California Teachers Retirement System press release is at: http://www.calstrs.com/news-release/calstrs-commits-increase-clean-energy-and-technology-investments; “Companies take the Baton in Climate Change Efforts” in the New York Times at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/business/energy-environment/passing-the-baton-in-climate-change-efforts.html?_r=3

Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement by the German Advisory Council on Global Change is at: http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templates/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/sondergutachten/sn2014/wbgu_sg2014_en.pdf

Climate Change is the Theme of ILO World Day for Decent Work, and CLC Announces a Climate Change Week of Action

According to the Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO), “To mark this year’s World Day for Decent Work, trade unions have chosen the theme of climate change, urging governments to move now to create prosperity for all on a sustainable planet”. “There is a growing consensus that climate change and decent work for all are the two defining challenges of the 21st century”. The Canadian Labour Congress also marked the day, and, referring to the Report of Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment, made this statement: “In keeping with the Climate Justice theme for World Day for Decent Work, the CLC used this report to invigorate the preparations for its planned national climate change week of action this December, set to coincide with the United Nations global climate change meeting (COP 20) in Lima, Peru, from December 1 to 12, 2014”.

LINKS:

ILO Director’s blog is at: http://iloblog.org/2014/10/08/there-are-no-jobs-on-a-dead-planet/

CLC announcement of Climate Change Week of Action is at: http://www.canadianlabour.ca/news-room/statements/october-7-2014-world-day-decent-work

Canada will miss 2020 Copenhagen Emissions Target, says Environment Commissioner

The Report from the Canadian Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development states that, in addition to failing to develop a national framework, enact any legislation that targets climate change, or release long-awaited oil and gas regulations, Canada’s tar sands monitoring is inadequate, neglects cumulative impacts, and lacks a plan beyond next year. The tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions. Commissioner Gelfand also highlighted uncertainty surrounding which projects are subject to an environmental assessment and inadequate public and aboriginal consultation following the introduction of Bill-C45 in 2012, which profoundly altered environmental legislation in Canada. She also noted the dire need to improve planning in the Arctic, as shipping increases in the absence of updated navigation information or emergency response strategies.

Read the 2014 Fall Report of Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development at: http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201410_e_39845.html (English), and http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/Francais/parl_cesd_201410_f_39845.html (French). The Commissioner appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development to discuss her report on October 8; see the transcript at:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=6723122&Language=e&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=2(English), and http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=6723122&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=2&Language=F (French). See “Highlights of the Environment Commissioner’s Fall Report” from the CBC at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/highlights-of-environment-commissioner-s-fall-report-1.2790164.

For reaction see “Commissioner’s report shows Canada must do more for environment” from the David Suzuki Foundation at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/10/commissioners-report-shows-canada-must-do-more-for-environment/; “Treading Water on Climate Change: Sierra reacts to Environment Commissioner’s Report” from Sierra Club Canada at: http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/report-fail; and “No Overall Vision:” Scathing New Audit from Environment Commissioner Exposes Canada’s Utter Climate Failure” from Desmog Canada at: http://www.desmog.ca/2014/10/07/no-overall-vision-scathing-new-audit-environment-commissioner-exposes-canada-s-utter-climate-failure.

Ontario is the First Canadian Province to Issue Green Bonds

In early October, Ontario’s sale of green bonds attracted orders of almost $2.4 billion from investors around the world.

The funds will be used to finance clean transportation; energy efficiency and conservation; clean energy and technology; forestry, agriculture and land management; and climate adaption and resilience. Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT will be the first project to receive funding. Read the news release from the Government of Ontario at: http://news.ontario.ca/mof/en/2014/10/strong-demand-for-ontarios-first-green-bond.html. See also “Ontario goes green with the latest bond sale” from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at: http://pics.uvic.ca/news/news-scan/pics-climate-news-scan-september-25-2014#solutions.

For an financial explanation of green bonds, see the TD Economics report Green Bonds: Victory Bonds for the Environment (November 2013), at: http://www.td.com/document/PDF/economics/special/GreenBonds_Canada.pdf. According to a September report released by UNEP, World Bank and others, green bonds are on the rise worldwide and are “integral” to financing the global low-carbon transition. Read Financial Institutions Taking Action on Climate Change at: http://investorsonclimatechange.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/FinancialInstitutionsTakingActionOnClimateChange_Final.pdf.

Bloomberg estimates that the global green bond market will reach US$40 billion by the end of the year, three times more than 2013.

B.C. LNG Setor: New Legislation and a New Report

In the week of October 20, British Columbia introduced the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act and the Liquefied Natural Gas Income Tax Act. The former requires liquefied natural gas plants to purchase carbon offsets and punishes those who fail to limit their carbon emissions to 0.16 tonnes per tonne of LNG – the strictest standards in the world, according to B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak.

However, Merran Smith of Clean Energy Canada criticized the Act for focussing exclusively on port facilities, at the end of the supply chain. Matt Horne of the Pembina Institute asserted that 70% of the industry’s emissions would be released before reaching the ports. See “B.C.’s New LNG Emissions Regulations A Good Start, But Not Enough” from Desmog Canada at: http://www.desmog.ca/2014/10/22/bc-new-lng-emissions-regulations-good-start-but-not-enough, and Pembina’s comments at: http://www.pembina.org/media-release/pembina-reacts-to-tabling-of-bc-lng-carbon-pollution-legislation.

The new tax legislation imposes a 3.5% rate on operating income, half the amount B.C. had initially planned. Read the government press release at: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/10/bc-to-have-worlds-cleanest-lng-facilities.html, and for details on the Act, see the government’s website at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=75BD4BF2B6B5493FB8A36DB05EBA764D. Jack Mintz, from the University of Calgary, states: “the B.C. shale gas royalty is one of the most distortionary systems developed in industrialized countries”.

For his financial and policy critique, see “Jack M. Mintz: Why B.C.’s LNG tax policy sets a bad precedent” in the Financial Post at: http://business.financialpost.com/2014/10/22/jack-m-mintz-why-b-c-s-lng-tax-policy-helps-neither-the-province-nor-the-industry/. For a broader view, see Marc Lee’s reaction in “A B.C. Framework for LNG, part 2: The LNG income tax” at Rabble.ca at: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/policynote/2014/10/bc-framework-lng-part-2-lng-income-tax.

And the last word: Pembina will release a new report on October 27th, LNG and Climate Change: The Global Context.

Energy Efficiency in Canadian Industrial Sectors

On October 16, the Council of Canadian Academies released a report commissioned by Industry Canada, based on a survey of more than 1,000 Canadian firms. It provides an overview of how Canadian businesses have adapted to rising and increasingly volatile energy prices. “The Panel focused on Canadian sectors that are particularly exposed to energy prices and therefore potentially vulnerable to changes: the energy intensive resource-based, manufacturing, and transport sectors; the capital intensive oil and gas, mining, and electric power sectors; and the transport equipment sector”.

59% of firms surveyed have invested in equipment to manage energy costs over the past few years; only 18% of surveyed firms had access to information that allowed them to benchmark their energy efficiency against their competitors (the Forest Products industry being one example of an industry that does benchmark).

The report was prepared by a 13-member expert panel, chaired by Fred Gorbet . See Energy Prices and Business Decision-Making in Canada: Preparing for the Energy Future at: http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en/assessments/completed/energy-prices.aspx (English), and http://sciencepourlepublic.ca/fr/assessments/completed/energy-prices.aspx (French), with an abridged English version (6 pages) at: http://www.scienceadvice.ca/uploads/eng/assessments%20and%20publications%20and%20news%20releases/energy_prices/energyprices_rif_en.pdf.

Cities Making Progress in the Fight against Climate Change

A new global network, The Compact of Mayors, was announced at the New York Climate Summit in September, to expand city-level GHG reduction strategies; make existing targets and plans public; and make annual progress reports using a newly-standardized measurement system that is compatible with international practices. The new Compact will work with existing organizations and global networks of cities (C40, Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). See a summary at: http://www.iclei.org/details/article/global-mayors-compact-shows-unity-and-ambition-to-tackle-climate-change-1.html, read The Compact document at: http://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ICLEI_WS/Documents/advocacy/Climate_Summit_2014/Compact_of_Mayors_Doc.pdf, or see the World Resources Institute blog at: http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/09/compact-mayors-cities-lead-tackling-climate-change-un-summit/.

At their annual meeting on September 23, the B.C. Mayors Climate Leadership Council reviewed their accomplishments since the group was founded 5 years ago. Climate Action Plans have been established in 50% of municipalities in British Columbia, covering 75% of B.C.’s population. 31 local governments achieved carbon neutrality for their operations in 2012. See the press release at: http://www.toolkit.bc.ca/News/BC-Municipalities-Marching-Ahead-Climate-Action. For more information about action in cities across Canada, see the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Partners for Climate Protection latest National Measures Report at: http://www.fcm.ca/Documents/reports/PCP/2014/PCP_National_Measures_Report_2013_EN.pdf (the PCP is part of the global ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability). See also Best Practices in Climate Resilience from Six North American Cities (from City of Toronto, June 2014) at: http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Environment%20and%20Energy/Programs%20for%20Businesses/Images/16-06-2014%20Best%20Practices%20in%20Climate%20Resilience.pdf.

The Carbon Disclosure Project surveyed 207 cities worldwide in its new report, Protecting Our Capital: How Climate Adaptation In Cities Creates a Resilient Place for Business. The survey included the following Canadian cities: Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Brandon, Winnipeg, Burlington, Hamilton, London, Toronto, and Montreal. The report attempts to identify the alignment of how companies and the cities in which they operate perceive climate-related risks. It finds most commonality in recognizing risks from increased temperatures and heatwaves, which have immediate impacts across the public and private sectors. It is assumed that cities that develop reasonable risk assessment and reduction strategies will be better positioned to attract and retain business. See https://www.cdp.net/CDPResults/CDP-global-cities-report-2014.pdf.

Climate Compensation: Considering the Liability of Oil and Gas Companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange

CLIMATE COMPENSATION: CONSIDERING THE LIABILITY OF OIL AND GAS COMPANIES ON THE TORONTO STOCK EXCHANGE
A report released on October 9 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and West Coast Environmental Law considers the total potential liability of five oil and gas companies currently trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange-EnCanada, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Talisman, and Husky. Informed by a discussion of the liability claims against the tobacco industry, the authors provide an overview of possible legal approaches to climate compensation, and conclude that those five TSX-listed companies alone could be incurring a global liability as high as $2.4 billion per year for their contribution to climate change.

See Payback Time? What the Internationalization of Climate Litigation Could Mean for Canadian Oil and Gas Companies at the CCPA website at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/payback-time.

New European Targets for Emission Reductions and Renewables

On October 24, members of the European Union reached agreement on new emissions targets for 2030: 40% cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, 27% target for the renewable energy market share and, an optional target of 27% increase for energy efficiency improvement. The EU is holding up the agreement as a model for other countries in advance of the Paris climate talks of 2015, though like all politically-driven compromises, it has its critics. According to Greenpeace EU: “People across Europe want cleaner energy, but EU leaders are knocking the wind out of Europe’s booming renewables sector”, and from the European Green Party, “It is shameful that the council gave veto power against better goals to Poland on renewables, to France on interconnectors, and to the UK on efficiency. […] We used to have a polluter-pays-principle; now we’ve gotten a polluter-vetos-principle”.

See The Guardian at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/24/eu-leaders-agree-to-cut-greenhouse-gas-emissions-by-40-by-2030; Statements and Reactions are found at: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-priorities-2020/eu-leaders-adopt-flexible-energy-and-climate-targets-2030-309462.

Union Should Embed Climate Change in their Core Agenda, says TUED Report

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is convening a 40-person strategy discussion on September 20 as part of the People’s Climate March activities in New York. The meeting will discuss “central political issues facing the global labor movement around energy, climate change, impacts of pollution, and the need to develop an inspiring vision of a truly sustainable political economy based on solidarity and sufficiency”.

To focus discussion, TUED has released a working paper, written by Sean Sweeney of the Cornell Global Labor Institute, taking stock of what he calls “the great inaction” – UN-led climate negotiations and labour’s participation in them. He advocates that “social dialogue and social partnership need to be replaced by a new trade union narrative around movement-building and alliances, coupled with a new agenda or program grounded in economic democracy and popular power”. He concludes: “Focusing on climate change as a distinct and separate issue is counterproductive. To connect with their own members unions will need to embed climate protection into the work they are presently doing to defend and promote workers’ rights, fight privatization, austerity, and defend public services…By integrating climate protection into their present battles, unions can broaden the social base of support for what they presently regard to be their ‘core agenda’. Furthermore, they can play a role in articulating a clear and inspiring alternative that mounts to a new ecological and economic development paradigm”.

Sweeney cites Naomi Klein’s speech at the founding convention of UNIFOR in September 2013 as a statement of a desirable approach. Ms. Klein will also speak at the TUED event about her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.

LINKS:

Climate Change and the Great Inaction: New Trade Union Perspectives by Sean Sweeney is at: http://unionsforenergydemocracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/TUED-working-paper-2-Final.pdf

Agenda for the TUED meeting, Power to the People: A Strategy Discussion on Advancing Social Ownership of Energy is at: http://unionsforenergydemocracy.org/tued-strategy-discussion-sept-20-draft-agenda

Naomi Klein’s website is at: http://www.naomiklein.org/main; see the book review of This Changes Everything in the Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/book-reviews/naomi-kleins-this-changes-everything-a-convincing-case-that-global-warming-is-the-defining-issue-of-our-era/article20700657/, and an excerpt at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/naomi-klein-the-price-of-free-trade-is-unchecked-climate-change/article20578823/

Greening the Workplace: UK Unions Experience

A July report from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), The Union Effect: Greening the Workplace, explores six U.K. case studies in which notable attempts were made to improve workplace environmental footprints, including a government department, a hospital, a port, and a financial services company. While some initiatives were instigated by management and achieved variable success rates, unions played key roles overall. In some cases, unions pro-actively worked for environmental change, for example by educating members directly or instigating campaigns.

In other cases, they supported initiatives by helping shape workplace behaviour and “staff culture”, working closely with management, and adding staff input to the planning process. In general, unions saw it as their role to lobby employers to view a green workplace as a long-term inves'The Union Effect: greening the workplace report cover tment. Unfortunately, the current reliance on voluntary commitments meant that environmental initiatives sometimes stalled or failed as enthusiasm waned. The report concludes that “the right for a recognised trade union to appoint union environmental reps could have a transformative effect”, and that there are three essential underpinnings to success: “sufficient time off for appropriate and relevant environmental training; sufficient time to carry out an energy and environmental audit with management; by agreement with management, the option to establish a joint environment forum”.

LINKS:

The Union Effect: Greening the Workplace is available at: http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/social-issues/environment/climate-change/union-effect-greening-workplace

Energy Efficiency Investment Bring Jobs in US Scenario

A new report by lead authors Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier proposes a new energy investment program for the U.S., requiring public and private investment of $200 billion per year over the next 20 years, and focussing on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“Green Growth: A U.S. Program for Controlling Climate Change and Expanding Job Opportunities” argues that the U.S. can cut its carbon pollution by 40% from 2005 levels and create a net increase of 2.7 million clean energy jobs, if policies and investment undergo “a transformational shift in how we construct, finance, and deploy our energy infrastructure”. The report provides estimates of fiscal impacts and job impacts. The authors cite four essential conditions for their scenarios, one of which is “Regional equity and transitional support for communities and workers”, described as “allocating federal government clean energy investment spending equitably among all regions of the country, targeted community-adjustment assistance, extensive worker-training programs, and adjustment-assistance programs for fossil fuel workers. The national clean energy investment program can itself provide a critical base for generating new opportunities among workers and communities that are presently dependent on the fossil fuel industries”.

Energy Efficiency: Measuring the Multiple Benefits

The International Energy Association (IEA) on September 9 released a guide aimed at policy makers, including assessment tools to measure the multiple benefits of energy efficiency. In addition to the customary benefits (reduced GHG emissions, energy savings, and improved energy security), the IEA also lists improved health and well-being, industrial productivity, increased employment, poverty alleviation, and improved local air pollution, among others. It argues that energy efficiency is now the “first fuel” rather than the “hidden fuel”.

Note that in the 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in July, Canada ranked 10th out of 16 countries; the U.S. ranked 13th, and Germany ranked #1.

LINKS:

Green Growth: A U.S. Program for Controlling Climate Change and Expanding Job Opportunities by Robert Pollin, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, James Heinz and Bracken Hendricks, released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), and the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) is available at: http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/GreenGrowthReport.pdf. Reaction is at: http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/PERI_quotesheet9.18.pdf

Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency is summarized at: http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2014/september/name-125300-en.html, with an executive summary at: http://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/MultipleBenefits2014SUM.pdf

Press release for 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is at: http://www.aceee.org/press/2014/07/germany-italy-eu-china-and-france-to

Business and Climate Change: Canada, US, and a new International Coalition

Corporate Knights magazine released its 13th annual ranking of the best Corporate Citizens in Canada in June. Companies are ranked on 12 key performance indicators, including energy, carbon and water productivity, waste productivity, safety performance and employee turnover, and “clean capitalism pay link” (defined as: at least one senior executive’s compensation tied to clean capitalism-themed performance targets). A companion article, “The Sustainability Pay Link”, discusses the extent to which executive compensation is tied to ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) criteria, and the reasons why it is not as widespread as might be expected.

Also in June, U.S.- based Ceres released a 2014 edition of its ongoing series, Power Forward 2.0: How American Companies are Setting Clean Energy Targets and Capturing Greater Business Value. It reports that clean energy is becoming mainstream for U.S. corporations – with 60% of the Fortune 100 having goals for renewable energy or greenhouse gas reductions, resulting in a decrease in annual CO2 emissions of approximately 58.3 million metric tons. The report also chronicles the evolving business practices, financial tools, and policy developments, including case studies and profiles. For example, it includes a note about the compensation policy at Clorox, which awards its CEO a bonus for meeting corporate environmental goals.

In the lead-up to the U.N. Climate Summit in New York, a new coalition of business and climate organizations is being launched. The founding partners of “We Mean Business” are: BSR, the B Team, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Their mission statement says: “we are calling for national and international policies that will continue to scale-up clean energy and energy efficiency, unleash low carbon innovation and send the right price signals to drive investment in clean technologies”.

LINKS:

Corporate Knights’ Canada’s Best Corporate Citizens is at: http://www.corporateknights.com/report/2014-best-corporate-citizens-canada, with details of the performance criteria at: http://www.corporateknights.com/report/2014-best-corporate-citizens-canada/methodology. “The Sustainability Pay Link” is at: http://www.corporateknights.com/article/sustainability-pay-link

Power Forward 2.0: How American Companies are Setting Clean Energy Targets and Capturing Greater Business Value is at: http://www.ceres.org/resources/reports/power-forward-2.0-how-american-companies-are-setting-clean-energy-targets-and-capturing-greater-business-value/view (free registration required)

We Mean Business website is at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/

Architects Commit to Build Zero Emissions World by 2050

In early August, at the International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress, architects from around the world signed the “2050 Imperative”, committing them to eliminating emissions in the built environment by 2050.
UIA member organizations alone represent 1.3 million architects in 124 countries. From Canada, the declaration was signed by The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). From the text: “We recognize our responsibility to seize this unique opportunity to influence ethical, socially responsible development throughout the world: to plan and design sustainable, resilient, carbon -neutral and healthy built environments that protect and enhance natural resources and wildlife habitats, provide clean air and water, generate on-site renewable energy, and advance more livable buildings and communities”.
 
LINKS:

The 2050 Imperative and the media advisory from Architecture 2030 are available at: http://architecture2030.org/news/uia_declaration_081414.html. The 6-page declaration is at: http://www.architecture2030.org/downloads/uia_declaration_full.pdf

Provincial Updates, including the Premiers Agreement on a National Energy Plan

As the annual Premiers conference ended on August 29, Canada’s premiers announced a reinvigorated Canadian Energy Strategy (CES), a shared vision and set of principles emphasizing environmental responsibility, a diversified, climate-friendly energy and clean technology sector, and a robust, lower-carbon economy utilizing carbon pricing.

A driving force at the Premiers Conference may have come from Ontario Premiers Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who had agreed to revive the Ontario-Québec partnership at a bilateral meeting one week earlier. The central Canadian bloc will increase economic and energy integration between the provinces and advocate for national progress on climate change.

Reaction to the Energy Strategy announcement from Keith Stewart of Greenpeace provides historical context to the Premiers’ meetings, and laments the failure of the federal government to contribute meaningfully to the development of a coherent, effective national approach.

Yet Canadian provinces have made uneven progress on their climate action plans, according to monitoring reports released over the summer. In Alberta, the Auditor General’s report stated that the province lacked a plan to meet its goals. British Columbia has achieved its first interim target of a 6% emissions reduction below 2007 levels by 2012, largely due to government policies, including its well-regarded carbon tax. The Ontario Environment Commissioner reported that Ontario will meet its 2014 target (a 6% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels) largely because of the shutdown of the province’s coal plants, but it will miss the 2020 target because so little else has been done. In New Brunswick, the Climate Action Plan 2014-2020 document reports that New Brunswick’s GHG emissions declined by 17 per cent between 2005 and 2010, thus meeting its goals for 2012. A new plan establishes provincial GHG emissions reduction targets of 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75 to 85 per cent below 2001 levels by 2050.

LINKS:
The Canadian Energy Strategy and premiers’ news release are available at:

The Ontario news release on partnering with Québec is available at: http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2014/08/quebec-and-ontario-partner-to-strengthen-central-canadas-economy.html?utm_source=ondemand-multimedia&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p

 Comments from Keith Stewart of Greenpeace are available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/provinces-leave-harper-increasingly-alone/blog/50444/

  A Letter to the Ottawa Citizen by Mark Winfield and Pierre Olivier Pineau provides insight into  Ontario’s and Quebec’s  electricity markets at: http://marksw.blog.yorku.ca/2014/06/11/ontario-quebec-electricity-and-climate-change-time-for-a-new-relationship/

 For a summary of the energy-related policies in Ontario’s July 2014 Budget statement, including the Industrial Electricity Incentive program to promote job creation, see the Gowlings Newsletter at: http://www.gowlings.com/KnowledgeCentre/article.asp?pubID=3675

Alberta Auditor General’s report is at: http://www.oag.ab.ca/webfiles/reports/AGJuly2014Report.pdf, with a Pembina Institute analysis at: http://www.pembina.org/blog/auditor-generals-scathing-review-ups-pressure-to-improve-albertas-weak-climate-policy

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner’s report, Looking for Leadership: the Costs of Climate Inaction is at: http://www.eco.on.ca/index.php/en_US/pubs/greenhouse-gas-reports/2014-ghg-looking-for-leadership

  In British Columbia, Climate Action in British Columbia Progress Report 2014 is at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cas/pdfs/2014-Progress-to-Targets.pdf.

The Pembina reaction to the report is generally positive at: http://www.pembina.org/blog/bc-climate-action-plan-2

Clean Energy From Canadian Perspective: a Call for Renewable Policies in Canada and a Global Review

“A New National Prize: Making Clean Energy the Next Oil Sands” by Clare Demerse and Dan Woynillowicz appears in the September October issue of Policy magazine. The article distills the findings of the UN-backed study, Pathways to Deep Decarbonization, in which research teams from 15 countries, including Canada, proposed strategies for national energy reform that will allow us to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees.

The report of the U.N.-based Pathways project was presented to the Secretary General in July, to support the UN Climate Summit in September. The press release and details of the Pathways project is at: http://unsdsn.org/news/2014/07/08/ddpp-press-release/.

The Demerse/Woynillowicz article summarizes the overall findings and focuses on the Canadian findings, including that by 2050, wind and solar sources could comprise 27% of Canadian electricity generation, up from 2% today. The article concludes by proposing two simple policy changes to kick off a stronger commitment to clean energy in Canada: more favourable tax treatment for power storage and solar technologies, and consumer incentives for electric vehicles. See “A New National Prize” at: http://policymagazine.ca/pdf/9/PolicyMagazineSeptember-October-14-DemerseWoynillowicz.pdf.

Citing the “wave of hope” generated by the People’s Climate March, on SeptTER-Global-Cover-300ember 21, Clean Energy Canada released its first-ever annual review, called Tracking the Energy Revolution: Global Edition at: http://cleanenergycanada.org/2014/09/21/tracking-energy-revolution-builds-surging-wave-hope/. With maps, photos and infographics, it is loaded with statistics that reveal the extent of the global shift to renewable energy by governments and businesses.

Nova Scotia Bans Onshore Fracking; Explores Energy Options

Following a two-year moratorium and the release of the report of a 10-person expert panel chaired by Cape Breton University president David Wheeler, Nova Scotia announced its decision to prohibit onshore high-volume fracking on September 3rd. The ban does not include less risky onshore extraction methods or offshore high-volume fracking.

Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas reserves are significantly larger and have already attracted $2 billion in investments and proposals to build three LNG plants. The South Canoe wind project, currently under construction, and a tidal turbine to be built next year will further buttress the province’s energy resources.

Consultations with the public and Mi’kmaq communities revealed a strong mistrust of fracking. See the website of the Hydraulic Fracturing Review at: http://www.cbu.ca/hfstudy, with links to submissions, studies and press coverage. See also “High-volume fracking to be banned in Nova Scotia” available at the CBC at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/high-volume-fracking-to-be-banned-in-nova-scotia-1.2754439.

On the heels of the announcement, a study released by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that some fracking workers are exposed to unsafe volumes of benzene when inspecting storage tanks. “Evaluation of Some Potential Chemical Exposure Risks During Flowback Operations in Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction: Preliminary Results” is available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/.VBDknKOuRas#.VBySDmOln4U, summarized in the Los Angeles Times at: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-fracking-benzene-worker-health-20140910-story.html#page=1.

Tsilhqot’in Landmark Decision with Implications for Resource Developments in Canada

The decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to grant British Columbia’s Tsilhqot’in nation title over a portion of their ancestral lands marks the first time Aboriginal title has been formally recognized in Canada. Gowlings law firm calls it “one of the most significant Aboriginal law cases in Canadian history” and a blog at West Coast Environmental Law calls the decision “a watershed moment”.
Notably, the decision clarifies the test for whether an indigenous group has title over an area, including such criterion as occupation prior to the Crown assertion of sovereignty and continuous occupation since. In particular, the case established that “nomadic or semi-nomadic” land use, such as that of the Tsilhqot’in, does not preclude title.
It also offers some explanation about what legal rights and responsibilities title entails, such as decision-making power over how the land will be used, the right to derive economic benefits from the land and to use and manage it. Yet considerable uncertainty remains about resource extraction or other projects espoused by the government. The decision stops short of requiring consent, but recommends seeking consent from title-holders prior to project approval.
The West Coast Environmental Law blog offers an analysis of the text of the decision and how it may impact pipeline development in B.C. See the Supreme Court decision at: http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/14246/index.do; subsequently, the B.C. government announced a letter of agreement with the Tsilhqot’in in a press release at: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/09/tsilhqotin-bc-sign-historic-letter-of-understanding-set-the-stage-for-lasting-reconciliation.html.
See also: “Supreme Court of Canada grants Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal title claim” summary from Gowlings Law Firm available at: http://www.gowlings.com/KnowledgeCentre/article.asp?pubID=3399
and “Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia: Implications for the Enbridge Tankers and Pipelines Project” from West Coast Environmental Law is available at: http://wcel.org/resources/environmental-law-alert/tsilhqotin-nation-v-british-columbia-implications-enbridge-tankers.

An Update on Canadian Climate Change

At the end of June, Natural Resources Canada released the latest in its climate change assessment reports, updating the 2008 version. Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation synthesized over 1500 publications since 2007, and includes chapters on natural resources, food production, industry, biodiversity and protected areas, human health, and water and transportation infrastructure.

Editors of the compilation are F.J. Warren and D.S. Lemmen of the Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Division of Natural Resources Canada; over 90 authors and 115 expert reviewers contributed to the document. See http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/environment/resources/publications/impacts-adaptation/reports/assessments/2014/16309 for the 2014, 2008, and 2004 assessment reports.

Canadian Food Industry Targets Waste Reduction

A new report on waste in Canada’s food industry calls for a collaborative, coordinated approach that includes businesses and consumers to reduce waste. An estimated 30-40% of all the food produced in Canada is wasted.

The report asserts that because businesses tend to focus narrowly on the waste of food products, it overlooks the waste of energy, water, labour, and productive capacity. Where efforts are made to reduce food waste, they tend to emphasize waste diversion, particularly recycling. Far more effective is waste reduction, which eliminates waste diversion costs before they arise.

Although consumers are the greatest source of food waste, the report states that one of the main barriers to  preventing food waste at source were the attitudes and behaviour of management and staff. Developing an Industry Led Approach to Addressing Food Waste in Canada was commissioned by Provision Coalition (a national association of food and beverage manufacturers), and written by Provision Coaliton, Network for Business Sustainability at the Ivey School of Business, and Value Chain Management Centre. See a summary at: http://www.provisioncoalition.com/blog/blogdetail/Industry%20Collaboration%20Needed%20To%20Tackle%20Food%20Waste%20Challenge%20in%20Canada. The full report is at: http://www.provisioncoalition.com/assets/website/pdfs/Provision-Addressing-Food-Waste-In-Canada-EN.pdf.

 

For a recent article on the “food waste hierarchy” and the growing international concern about food waste, see the Food Climate Research Network at:  http://www.fcrn.org.uk/research-library/waste-and-resource-use/food-waste/food-waste-hierarchy-framework-managing-food-surp. The authors argue for a distinction between food surplus and food waste, and advocate a hierarchy of action, beginning with prevention, followed by re-use, recycle, recovery and finally, disposal.

Need for Energy Efficiency will Transform Manufacturing

A report released on July 30 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) describes the components of “smart manufacturing” – networked devices, predictive and anticipatory software, culminating in an integrated, cloud-based, open-access smart manufacturing platform which “in a few decades will transform the industrial sector and fundamentally alter the way products are manufactured”.
See The Energy Savings of Smart Manufacturing at: http://aceee.org/research-report/ie1403.
See also the July 4 white paper Smart Freight: Applications of Information and Communications Technologies to Freight System Efficiency, which describes and provides examples of companies using new, more sophisticated information and communications technology (ICT). Although examples are given of new systems of electronic monitoring of truck drivers, the majority of the report describes sophisticated logistics innovations. The report is at: http://aceee.org/files/pdf/white-paper/smart-freight-ict.pdf.

 

People’s Climate March Under the Eyes of the World

The Climate Leadership Summit convened by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York City on September 23 has created a flurry of reports and statements, some of which are summarized below. Most world leaders are expected at the Summit, with the notable exceptions of the leaders of China, India, and Canada – which will be represented by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. See the official U.N. website at: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit. Oxfam International has published The Summit that Snoozed, which calls for government action at the meeting and provides a checklist/toolkit for sorting out promises from greenwash at: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bkm_climate_summit_media_brief_sept19.pdf.

On September 21, the People’s Climate March, organized by 350.org and Avaaz, brought together people from diverse social movements from across the globe to demonstrate the size and diversity of the support for urgent climate action. In New York, Avaaz presented a petition containing 2.1 million signatures. Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress marched – as did an estimated 311,000 other people, including U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray as well as Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. According to the New York Times coverage at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/nyregion/new-york-city-climate-change-march.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0, “the People’s Climate March was a spectacle even for a city known for doing things big”… and it was only one demonstration of hundreds across the globe. The official March website is at: http://peoplesclimate.org/; see also the Toronto Star coverage, which reported 3000 demonstrators including leaders from the Sierra Club, Toronto 350, and Quebec-based Equiterre, at: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/09/21/3000_join_climate_march_at_nathan_phillips_square.html; CBC Vancouver estimated a crowd of 1000 for that city at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/un-climate-summit-vancouver-joins-thousands-in-worldwide-rallies-1.2773535, see the CTV video from Calgary for a taste of the demonstration there at: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canadians-join-global-climate-protest-in-nyc-1.2017167#, and the Montreal Gazette at: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Montrealers+march+back+climate+summit/10223004/story.html.

No Contradiction Between Climate Progress and Economic Growth

In September 2014, with the U.N. Summit on the horizon, the Global Commission on the Climate and the Economy released a consultation document, Better Growth, Better Climate, which culminates in a 10-point plan of key recommendations, aimed at the international community of economic decision-makers.

According to The Guardian newspaper, this report is the most significant intervention in climate politics for Lord Nicholas Stern since his 2006 report. “The report from the international commission concludes that making progress on the climate would not come at the expense of the global economy, but that there will have to be a sharp shift away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels if the world is going to avoid the worst impact of a changing climate”. See reaction at The Guardian at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/16/barack-obama-report-economy-grow-fight-climate-change-un-summit?CMP=EMCENVEML1631.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reaction honed in on the implications for Canada’s oil and gas industry of the report’s call for higher carbon pricing and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies – see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/oil-reliant-firms-at-risk-report/article20607843/#dashboard/follows/. Paul Krugman wrote an OpEd in New York Times on Sept.18 at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/19/opinion/paul-krugman-could-fighting-global-warming-be-cheap-and-free.html.

The Global Commission on the Climate and the Economy was commissioned in 2013 by seven countries, with its programme of work conducted by eight research institutes, led by Washington-based World Resources Institute. The Commission is chaired by former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, and includes Nicholas Stern amongst its other prominent members. Read Better Growth, Better Climate: the Synthesis Report at: http://static.newclimateeconomy.report/TheNewClimateEconomyReport.pdf.

 

Statements of European Policies for a Green Economy

In early July, the European Commission adopted the Green Employment Initiative Communication, a labour market and skills policy framework document which advocates developing labour skills and improving forecasting of which skills will be needed, anticipating sectoral change and promoting worker mobility, supporting job creation by shifting taxation from labour to pollution, and increasing transparency and data quality to better monitor changes to the labour market. See the European Commission press release is at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-765_en.htm; for more specifics see the FAQ’s re the Green Employment Initiative Communication at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-446_en.htm.
Much of the theory behind the policy framework is reiterated and elaborated in the European Environment Agency (EEA) report Resource-efficient Green Economy and EU Policy, released on July 15th. Noting that change is coming too slowly, it states: “what is required is a much bigger, deeper, and more permanent change in the EU economy and society to create both new opportunities and substitution processes across the economic structure”. The report then emphasizes the importance of strong fiscal reforms to support the green transition, including environmental taxation, emissions-trading, and phasing out subsidies to harmful industries, but notes that keeping the EU competitive will take delicate balance. The EEA report also underscores the need for eco-innovation and reducing barriers to adoption and diffusion through the free circulation of green knowledge, greater financial resources. See Resource-efficient Green Economy and EU Policy at: http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/resourceefficient-green-economy-and-eu.