Canada launches consultation for Just Transition legislation – updated

On July 20, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources announced the launch of a public consultation on its long-promised Just Transition legislation.  The accompanying Discussion Paper states: “ we are committed to developing legislation that could: · Include people-centred just transition principles that put workers and communities at the centre of the government’s policy and decision-making processes on climate change action. · Establish an external Just Transition Advisory Body to provide the government with advice on regional and sectoral just transition strategies that support workers and communities.”  

 The Discussion Paper asks for feedback on these proposed Just Transition Principles, to be incorporated into legislation:

“1. Adequate, informed and ongoing dialogue on a people-centred, just transition should engage all relevant stakeholders to build strong social consensus on the goal and pathways to net zero.

2. Policies and programs in support of a people-centred, just transition must create decent, fair and high-value work designed in line with regional circumstances and recognizing the differing needs, strengths and potential of communities and workers.

3. The just transition must be inclusive by design, addressing barriers and creating opportunities for groups including gender, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, Black and other racialized individuals, LGBTQ2S+ and other marginalized people.

4. International cooperation should be fostered to ensure people-centred approaches to the net-zero future are advancing for all people. ”

The Discussion Paper poses a number of other questions, to which Canadians are invited to respond via email to nrcan.justtransition-transitionequitable.rncan@canada.ca, or at www.just-transition.ca.  Invitation-only stakeholder sessions will be held over the summer, and a “What we Heard” report is promised for Fall 2021, with updates at #JustTransition from https://twitter.com/NRCan  .

Early reactions to the announcement are summarized in “Now’s your chance to weigh in on Canada’s just transition” (National Observer, July 21), which compiles reactions from politicians and the Director of Iron and Earth. Iron and Earth issued a separate email statement, citing their recent poll which shows that 69% of surveyed fossil fuel workers are willing to switch to clean energy careers . The emailed statement continues: “Fossil fuel industry workers have the knowledge and expertise to build Canada’s net-zero future that will support our families and communities – if they get the training they need. We’re pleased to hear Minister O’Regan say that fossil fuel industry workers will have a central role in the consultations for Just Transition legislation. Now it’s time to put those words into action. We’ll be watching to ensure fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers have a seat at the table to ensure the legislation meets their needs and leaves no one behind.”

The government already has a useful discussion available to it, in Roadmap to a Canadian Just Transition Act , co-published on April 1 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change (ACW) and summarized in “Canada needs an ambitious, inclusive Just Transition Act” (National Observer, April 1) by the report’s author Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood.

Teaching climate change in Canada

Education International, which represents 32.5 million educators in 178 countries, launched a “Teach for the Planet” campaign in April 2021, with a Manifesto for Quality Climate Change Education for All .  The Canadian Teachers Federation has endorsed the campaign, raising the profile of climate change amongst Canadian educators.  Earlier, in January 2020, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) held its first Climate Action Summit in response to youth global climate strikes, which resulted in the launch of  OISE’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan  in February 2021.  Although much of that Plan relates to the operation or governance of OISE as a teaching faculty within the University of Toronto, it also sets out goals and strategies to conduct an inventory of sustainability and environmental content in courses, expand sustainability and environmental content in curriculum, encourage research by faculty, and “consider sustainability expertise as an asset in the hiring of new staff and faculty.”

 “Are Canadian schools raising climate-literate citizens?” (Corporate Knights magazine, Summer 2021), states that at best, K–12 sustainability and climate change content in schools is “uneven,”, and provides an overview of grassroots initiatives amongst educators aiming to improve that situation. Ellen Field, an assistant professor in Lakehead University, is quoted:  “We have a responsibility, especially for those who are educators, to be honest with young people about the reality of the urgency we are facing”. Field  authored an important survey: Canada, Climate Change and Education: Opportunities for Public and Formal Education (2019),  which among many findings, reports that teachers identified the three main barriers to more climate education:  lack of time to include during class; lack of classroom resources; lack of professional knowledge.

Other examples of grassroots activism regarding climate education: Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF), housed at York University in Toronto is a national non-profit that promotes environmental awareness and social responsibility for students and teachers,  and hosts Resources for Rethinking, an online collection of  lesson plans, books, videos related to environmental, social and economic issues.  (The B.C. Teachers Federation also offers a collection of lesson plans ).

Climate Education Reform BC is  a student-led coalition which published an Open Letter to the provincial education minister in April 2021, recommending 6 points, including revisions to climate change for K-12  curriculum, and support for teacher training.  

The Alberta Council for Environmental Education (ACEE) has operated since 2005, and recently adopted the  K-12 Environmental Education Guidelines for Excellence, published by the North American Association for Environmental Education. ACEE also maintains an online resource centre of teaching materials related to climate change, including professional development materials such as the quarterly Green Teacher magazine .

Retrofitting Canadian buildings could bring 200,000 jobs, along with healthier spaces

Canada’s Renovation Wave: A plan for jobs and climate was released by the Pembina Institute on July 14. Borrowing a term originated in a 2020 European Commission report, the authors present a simplified scenario outlining how we could convert the 63% of Canadian buildings currently heated with natural gas or oil to electricity.  This, combined with the rapid decarbonization of the electricity grid, would result in significantly lower carbon emissions while generating more than $48 billion in economic development and creating up to 200,000 jobs .  Drawing on a 2018 report from Clean Energy Canada, Canada’s Renovation Wave asserts that energy efficiency jobs are inherently labour intensive and create a higher number of jobs than other industries – for example, whole building retrofits are estimated to create an average of 9.5 gross direct and indirect jobs for every $1 million invested.

The authors estimate that “priming the pump for this transformation” will require public investments of about $10 to $15 billion per year, from now until 2040 (or until appropriate regulatory drivers are in place). Much of this sum is directed to subsidies and incentive programs, but it also includes a recommendation for $300 million per year to be spent on skill development, capacity building and recruitment to grow and diversify the energy efficiency and green building workforce.

Related reading: “If heat waves become the new normal, how will our buildings have to change?” (The National Observer, July 2) quotes Pembina author Tom-Pierre Frappé-Sénéclauze who  relates the need for retrofitting to the health impacts of  the recent B.C. heatwave.

Aalso, Canada’s Climate Retrofit Mission emphasizes the urgency of the task and outlines market and policy innovations to speed up the process and achieve economies of scale to reduce costs.  Authors Brendan Haley and Ralph Torrie state that, at the current pace,  it will take 142 years to retrofit all low-rise residential buildings and 71 years to retrofit all commercial floor area  in Canada. The report was published by  Efficiency Canada in June 2021.  

B.C. burns while the government partners with Shell to research carbon capture technology

As British Columbia mourns over 800 lives lost in the June heat wave,  firefighters from Mexico and Quebec arrived to help fight the province’s raging forest fires , more than 400 people have been arrested protesting logging of Old Growth forests, and scientists have confirmed that oil and gas facilities in B.C. are producing 1.6 to 2.2 times more methane pollution than current estimates, it doesn’t take long to find strong and serious criticism of the B.C. government’s climate policies.  A few recent examples:

BC’s Climate Adaptation Plan won’t protect you from heat waves, or much else” by Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law  (July 9)

Subsidizing Climate Change 2021: How the Horgan government continues to sabotage BC’s climate plan with fossil fuel subsidies , a report by Stand.earth

B.C. is in a state of climate emergency with no emergency plan” by Seth Klein in (National Observer, July 19)

“Seven Big Warnings from the Killer Heat Wave” (The Tyee, July 19)

“Lytton Burned, People Died. Who Should Pay?” (The Tyee, July 13)

And on July 16,  to add insult to injury, the Premier announced the formation of a new B.C. Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy  to “help B.C.-based companies develop, scale up and launch new low-carbon energy technologies and will help establish B.C. as a global exporter of climate solutions.”  The province will partner with the federal government and Shell Canada to fund a new centre  whose first priorities include carbon capture, hydrogen production,  biofuels and battery technology.  Stand.earth reacted with:  “Partnership with Shell Canada sets country and province on the wrong path to address climate change”. 

Scottish Trades Union Congress calls for a national energy company, and “Climate Skills Scotland”

Green Jobs in Scotland is a recent report commissioned by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), written by economists at Transition Economics.  In a highly-readable format, it sets  out how Scotland can maximise green job creation, along with  fair work with effective worker voice.  It takes a sectoral approach, examining the changes needed, the labour market implications and job creation opportunities of those changes, and makes recommendations specific to the sector, for each of 1.  Energy 2.  Buildings 3. Transport 4. Manufacturing/Heavy Industry 5. Waste 6. Agriculture And Land-Use.  As an example, the chapter on Energy is extensive and detailed, and includes  recommendations to  invest £2.5 billion – £4.5 billion (to 2035) in ports and manufacturing to supply large scale offshore renewables and decommissioning,  2. to  establish a Scottish National Energy Company to build 35GW of renewables by 2050, as well as run energy networks and coordinate upgrades; and 3. Encourage local content hiring, with a target to phase in 90% lifetime local content for the National Energy Company.   (Note that an auction is currently underway for rights to North Sea offshore development, as described by the BBC here).

Overall, the report concludes that smart policies and large-scale public investment will be required, and recommends “the creation of a new public body – Climate Skills Scotland – to play a co-ordinating and pro-active role to work with existing providers ….. As many of the occupations in the energy, construction, and manufacturing industries are disproportionately male-dominated, Climate Skills Scotland and other public bodies should also work with training providers and employers to make sure climate jobs and training programmes follow recruitment best practice, and prioritise promotion and incentives to historically marginalised groups, including women, BAME people, and disabled people.”