Most telling: business leaders are making sure that their viewpoint is part of climate change policy discussions, especially leading up to and including COP21. Earlier this year, Citigroup bank announced that it would lend, invest, and/or facilitate $100 billion towards climate and environmental solutions, and more recently renounced investments in coal, led by its Environmental and Social Policy Framework document. Coordinated by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), six major U.S. banks issued a Climate Action Statement in October, as did the CEO’s of ten major food companies, including Mars, General Mills, Unilever, and Kellogg, who issued a joint letter to world leaders. C2ES also released Weathering the Next Storm: A Closer Look at Business Resilience. More businesses signed on to RE100, a global business campaign committed to 100% renewable electricity. And on October 19, the White House announced that 81 U.S. companies, with combined revenue of $5 trillion, have now signed the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge”, launched in July 2015.
Pembina Institute released a series of reports about energy efficiency and net-zero buildings over the summer of 2015, to contribute to B.C.’s Climate Leadership consultations. The most recent, concerning passive houses, were presented at the North American Passive House Network conference in Vancouver in October. Barriers and solutions to near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) and High Performance envelope in Europe and North America notes the role of work practices, lack of training, and regulatory barriers. Programs or Policies in North America that have Encouraged Passive Houses lists examples of changes to procurement policies, building codes, and permitting practices which have encouraged the growth of passive houses; most examples are for Vancouver and the west coast of the U.S.
In March 2015, Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD) released Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars – a “consensus paper” which compiled proposals for a national climate action plan from 60 Canadian academics. On October 8, SCD followed up with the release of Acting on Climate Change: Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians – which compiles the formal responses from First Nations, businesses, NGOs, labour, youth and private citizens, organized into topics which include Employment and Labour, Social Justice, Indigenous Perspectives, Reinventing Cities, Renewable Energy Challenges, Youth, and more. Highlight papers: “The role of workers in the transition to a low-carbon economy”; “Protect the Environment by Doing More Work, Not Less” by Lana Payne and Jim Stanford of Unifor, Comments by Andrea Harden-Donahue on behalf of the Council of Canadians; and “Envisioning a Good Green Life in British Columbia: Lessons From the Climate Justice Project” by Marc Lee of the CCPA. The report was accompanied by an Open Letter to the Leaders of Canada’s federal parties, and is signed by the participating academics. Catherine Potvin from McGill University, who spearheads Sustainable Canada Dialogues, states that the goal was to “provide the seed for an inclusive, country-wide consultation on the best ways for Canada to transition toward a low-carbon, sustainable economy and society”. The overview report, Agir sur les changements climatiques: vers un dialogue élargi à la société civile canadienne, and individual papers are available in French.
As reported in the June WCR , the courts of the Netherlands ruled that the government has a legal duty of care to its citizens to improve the environment, and ordered the government to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020. However, on September 1, the Dutch government announced it would appeal the decision. Environmentalists around the world have been inspired by the implications for their own legal systems: see “Around the world in five climate lawsuits” . A sampling of thought from Canada: Dutch climate court win – What does it mean for Canada? (June 26) at and Dutch Judicial Lessons for Canada (West Coast Environmental Law ); What the Dutch Climate Court win means for Canada (Ecojustice); Exciting developments in Climate Change Law (Alberta Environmental Law Centre); “Are countries legally required to protect their citizens from climate change?” (Corporate Knights , July 28). And most recently, the reports sparked by a public lecture in Toronto by Roger Cox, Urgenda lawyer: “Dutch climate lawsuit could work in Canada: lawyer” in The Tyee (Sept. 15); and “Canadian Courts could face Climate Change cases in wake of Dutch ruling” Globe and Mail (Sept. 14).
From Australia: Could Australians sue for climate action ?. For a U.S. viewpoint, see The Enormous Significance For Climate Law and Ethics Of a Dutch Court’s Order Requiring the Netherlands To Reduce Its GHG Emissions by 25% by 2020 at the Ethics and Climate website. From a legal viewpoint, The Urgenda decision: Balanced constitutionalism in the face of climate change? (Oxford University Press).
Watch the Urgenda Foundation website for news of the appeal by the Dutch government.
On July 2, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) set the new 2015 Social Cost of Carbon at $36/ton of CO2, representing the cost of the damage to society caused by one ton of carbon dioxide emission. At the same time, the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon released its formal response to the comments and letters submitted during the most recent public comment period in 2013 in Response to Comments: Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866 .
Canada is in the midst of a federal government election, with voting on October 19, 2015. The climate change issue was stated early, by Jeff Rubin and David Suzuki in “Canada’s Carbon Moment has arrived” . From their article: “Mr. Harper’s carbon-fuelled energy agenda hasn’t worked out, and that’s put the Canadian economy in precarious shape. But this critical moment of economic and environmental crisis is an opportunity for Canada to confront the reality, costs and urgency of climate change, and find solutions that will both reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and contribute to the economy. This is a challenge that every party in the current campaign should address.”
On September 15, prominent environmentalists stepped into the campaign with the release of the LEAP Manifesto Canada: A Call for Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another. The Manifesto puts Aboriginal rights at the forefront of the climate debate, calls for energy democracy and a bottom-up revival of democracy, declares austerity “ a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth”, and enumerates clean energy projects and means to pay for them. LEAP is supported by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which published a companion report, We Can Afford the Leap , offering more detail about specific sources of revenue to accomplish the Manifesto goals . The Canadian Union of Public Employees has also endorsed the Manifesto. An article in The Guardian is titled: “The Leap Manifesto isn’t Radical: It’s a way out of Canada’s head-in-the-sand Politics ” .
Some websites dedicated to climate issues in the election: Green Pac ; Environmental Laws Matter , 350.org Campaign , or Anyone but Harper, a guide to strategic voting to defeat the Harper government.
A July 2015 report from the Acadia Center states that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has allowed the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States to achieve significant reductions in CO2 emissions while providing economic benefits through the reinvestment of the proceeds from the auctions of carbon allowances. Since 2009, when RGGI began, the emissions in RGGI states dropped by 35% , compared to 12% in non-RGGI states. At the same time, the rate of economic growth in RGGI states was 21.2%, compared to 18.2% in non-RGGI states. Read RGGI: A Model Program for the Power Sector -2015 Update .
Energy East Pipeline is Not Worth the Risks: The Ontario Energy Board released the conclusions from an 18-month study and consultation on August 13. A Review of the Economic Impact of Energy East on Ontario considered the impacts on tax revenue and local employment, and concluded that “there is an imbalance between the economic and environmental risks of the project and the expected benefits for Ontarians”. The greatest concerns were expressed about potential gas shortages as the pipeline switches from transporting natural gas to oil, proximity to important waterways, and the need for up-to-date technology to prevent and mitigate spills. Employment impacts were difficult to estimate because of lack of data from the Trans Canada proposal, but were considered minimal, especially in Northern Ontario. The final report was prepared by researchers at the Mowat Centre and University of Toronto; consultants’ reports and submissions are available online at the Consultation website, including the Canada’s Building Trades Unions submission.
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick describes the natural environment and thriving fishery and tourism industry in its August report, Tanker Traffic and Tar Balls: What TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline means for the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine . The report cites the dangers to whales increased noise and traffic in already busy shipping lanes, as well as the greater danger of an oil spill. Further, it cites research that states that oil dispersants can by 52 times more toxic than spilled oil to certain marine species. It concludes with 9 recommendations for further consultation, research, and environmental protection legislation.
The Council of Canadians also exposed the dangers of Energy East oil spills to waterways across Canada in a 2014 report, Energy East: Where Oil meets Water.
A September essay published by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) presents a European approach to the two currently prevailing paradigms in the discussion of the low-carbon transition: “ green growth”, described as essentially a neo-Keynsian market-based approach where green jobs of high quality are the goal, and the “prosperity without growth” approach, which is less about quantifying new green jobs and more about changing the nature of the jobs and altering the conception and experience of work. Towards a Social-ecological Transition. Solidarity in the Age of Environmental Challenge concludes with “Ten Proposals for a social-ecological transition”, which include: Re-think working time; Develop rights for the transition; Measure the quality of new jobs; Embark on the third tax revolution; Develop local social-ecological indicators and policies.
The Trade Union Climate Summit was held in Paris on September 14th and 15th, organized by the International Trade Union Confederation. It included a session on Alliances: Walking Together and More, presented by Canadians Jerry Dias, (President of Unifor), Naomi Klein, (author of This Changes Everything), and Hassan Yussuff, (President of the Canadian Labour Congress), as well as Kumi Naidoo, (CEO of Greenpeace International). The Summit issued three topline demands for the Paris Agreement , calling on negotiators at COP21 to: “put back the language of just transition that has been stripped from the draft agreement; raise ambition before 2020 and invest in the potential of jobs and climate action and commit to a binding review of effort; support the most vulnerable with the promised financial commitments.”
JOB IMPACTS OF TRANSIT, INFRASTRUCTURE, CLEAN ENERGY: The Economic Benefits of Public Infrastructure Spending in Canada released by the Broadbent Institute on September 15 includes transit in its definition of public infrastructure – along with highways, and water supply and wastewater treatment facilities. It concludes that a public infrastructure program can help an investment-led economic expansion. Employment impacts vary over short-term and long-term, but the report estimates a short-term job multiplier effect of 9.4 jobs generated per million dollars spent. The study concludes that “while employment gains may be limited, businesses are more productive and competitive, and workers earn higher real wages: up 0.4–0.6 per cent a year on average”.
The Benefits of Transit in the United States: A Review and Analysis of Benefit-Cost Studies concludes that jobs and economic stimulus are among the largest benefit categories from transit investments, not only in urbanized areas but in small urban and rural areas also. The report recommends that greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, and other important but undervalued transit benefits categories should be considered in future studies.
A brief report released in August by the Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy at the University of California, Berkeley estimates the jobs created from California’s renewable energy investments from 2003 through 2014, and forecasts job creation between 2015 and 2030 as the state works to meet its 50% renewables portfolio standard (RPS). Job Impacts of California’s Existing and Proposed Renewables Portfolio Standard includes jobs related to the construction, but not maintenance and operation, of renewable energy facilities.
In June, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) jointly released a 2-volume report which examines the policy frameworks needed for development of large-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Global Green Growth: Clean Energy Industrial Investment and Expanding Job Opportunities (Volume 1 ) presents Overall Findings. Volume 2 assesses the employment impacts of the developments in Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, South Africa, and the Republic of Korea.
According to an article by Carla Lipsig Mumme and Caleb Goods, “an EV powered by average European electricity production is likely to reduce a vehicle’s global warming potential by about 20% over its life cycle. This is not insignificant, but it is nowhere near a zero-emission option”. “The Battery Revolution is exciting, but Remember they Pollute too” in The Conversation (June 2) also raises a bigger question: “For a technology to be seriously considered ‘green,’ the processes by which the tech is produced and the ways in which it operates, must also be ‘green.’” The authors then discuss the detrimental health consequences of the mining and manufacture of lithium ion batteries, which is the focus of a spin-off article in the National Observer, “ Your green Car could cause Black Rain in China” .
Yet there are emission savings to be made, according to researchers from the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, who released the results of their investigation into Canadian consumer attitudes to electric vehicles in July. Electrifying Vehicles: Insights From The Canadian Plug-in Electric Vehicle Study states that “With today’s electricity grids, usage of PEVs can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80—98% in British Columbia, around 45% in Alberta, and 58—70% in Ontario.”
In August, Quebec, California, and The Netherlands announced the launch of the International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance) to accelerate global adoption of electric vehicles. The press release states uses the term “zero emission vehicles”, and states that the number of ZEVs registered in Quebec has increased by 134 percent over the last 16 months, thanks largely to government incentives and a well-developed public charging infrastructure.
A newly-released Special Issue of Women and Environments International Magazine (Winter 2014/2015) is devoted to Women and Work in a Warming World (W4) . Co-editors Marjorie Griffin Cohen and Patricia Perkins state: “it is crucial that governments and policy makers (and even environmentalists) broaden the view of what would constitute a ‘green economy’ to include a greater emphasis on care work and the services sectors. This would shift the typical policy focus from an emphasis on cleaning up dirty industries (which of course needs to be done), to including and promoting a more rational society designed to meet people’s fundamental needs: physical, political and social well-being. If a ‘green economy’ meant not just cleaner energy and transportation, but structural sustainability, women’s work would be clearly situated as central in bringing about this transition.” The issue articles include “Opportunities and Constraints for Women in the Renewable Energy Sector in India”, “Gender in Government Actions on Climate Change and Work: the U.S. example”, “Are There Jobs for Women in Green Job Creation?” (re Canada), and “Women and Low Energy Construction in Europe: A New Opportunity?”.
Alberta: The Climate Change Advisory Panel was appointed and a consultation process begun, based on the Climate Leadership Discussion Document . The Pembina Institute issued a backgrounder, Opportunities to Improve Alberta’s climate strategy (Aug. 21) and convened a Alberta Climate Summit on September 9 including a variety of stakeholders.
In late summer, a Royalty Review Advisory Panel was appointed to examine and lead public discussion concerning royalties for crude oil and liquids, natural gas, and oil sands.
British Columbia: A review of the Climate Leadership Plan began in July, with the release of a Discussion Paper. In December 2015, a draft Plan will be released for public comment, with a final Climate Leadership Plan promised for Spring 2016. Also in July, a consultation period began re proposed regulations under the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act , expected to come into force in Fall 2015.
In a special session of the Legislature in July, the B.C. government passed controversial legislation which sets the terms for the $36 billion Pacific Northwest LNG project at Lelu Island.
British Columbia, as a member of the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), joined with California, Oregon, and Washington, to launch the West Coast Electric Fleets initiative , “a toolkit for public and private fleet managers to quickly assess opportunities for ZEVs and access useful incentives and resources to assist with procurement.”
Nova Scotia and British Columbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on July 21, pledging to share research and technology related to tidal energy.
Nova Scotia discontinued its Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT) program for local renewable projects on August 6. A DeSmog blog article provides background and details. The government promises a new electricity policy, including for renewables, in Fall 2015.
Ontario: In July, Ontario and Quebec jointly hosted the Climate Summit of the Americas, which resulted in the signing of a Climate Action Statement by Ontario and 22 other states and regions.
Feeling the Heat: Greenhouse Gas Progress Report 2015 was released by the Acting Environmental Commissioner on July 7, stating that, although Ontario met its GHG reduction targets for 2014, it is unlikely to achieve its 2020 targets with the current policies in place.
Ontario Climate Change Lab: Solutions for Ontario’s Climate Challenge reports on a one-day multi-stakeholder workshop that produced a series of actionable recommendations for the provincial government to include in its climate change strategy.
Quebec: On September 11, Quebec and Ontario signed Memoranda of Agreement regarding increased trade in electricty, and collaboration on the cap and trade system currently under development in Ontario. They also committed to attend COP21 in Paris, to which end, the government of Quebec, on September 17, proposed Canada’s most ambitious target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction – 37.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. The proposal follows the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory panel , tabled in the Legislatureon the 17th. (in French only).
In August, Quebec, California, and The Netherlands announced the launch of the International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance) to accelerate global adoption of electric vehicles. The press release states that the number of ZEVs registered in Quebec has increased by 134 percent over the last 16 months, thanks largely to government incentives and a well-developed public charging infrastructure.
Atlantic Provinces and U.S. Governors : Adopted a regional target of shrinking carbon pollution by 35% – 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 at the 39th annual meeting of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP).
And around the World:
Australia: Bipartisan agreement brought about the new Renewable Energy Target legislation on June 23, after an 18 month review. A new GHG reduction target of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 was announced on August 11, and is included in the Australian government INDC submission to the UNFCC in advance of the Paris climate talks. The New Scientist compares this to the U.S. pledge of 41 per cent by 2030, and the UK by 48 per cent (converting to Australia’s 2005 baseline year). The Climate Action Tracker website analyses the goals and ranks them “inadequate”.
At the end of June, the Australian Climate Roundtable was formed through the alliance of major Australian business, union, research, environment, investor and social groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, The Climate Institute, the Energy Supply Association of Australia, the Investor Group on Climate Change and WWF Australia.
On September 14th came the stunning news that Tony Abbott had been replaced as Prime Minister by Malcolm Turnbull. However, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported on September 15 that Turnbull has signaled no change to Australia’s climate policies.
China : China submitted its climate action plan to the UNFCC on June 30, vowing to peak its emissions by 2030 at the latest, to cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP to 60-65 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, to increase renewable and nuclear power to 20 percent of the country’s energy portfolio, and to increase its forest cover by 4.5 billion cubic meters from 2005 levels by 2030.
European Union: The EU restructured its Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) as part of the renewal of its Energy Union Strategy .The European Commission announced changes to the Emission Trading Scheme on July 15 . Under the new plan, only 50 economic sectors (including heavy industries such as steel and cement manufacturing) will receive free allowances, down from the current 177.
France: The Energy Transition for Green Growth legislation was approved on July 22, with far-reaching provisions: a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2030 ; to halve the country’s energy usage by 2050, with a reduced share of fossil fuels in energy production, a cap on nuclear power at 63.2 gigawatts and a goal of 32% of energy production from renewables , and a four-fold increase of the carbon tax on fossil fuel use, to €56 per ton in 2020 and €100 in 2030.
United Kingdom: The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change announced surprising cuts to its renewable energy programs, including solar PV, biomass conversion, and a consultation re changes to the Feed-in-tariff program. Cuts to subsidies to off-shore wind farms had been announced in June . As a result, “UK drops out of top 10 renewable energy ranking for first time” according to the latest quarterly report of EY consultants on September 16. Meanwhile, fracking continues to gain government favour in the U.K., with the third of a series of task force reports released on September 17. And on September 17, the U.K. government announced that Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed a former consultant to major oil and gas companies as his key adviser on energy and environment policy heading into the U.N. Paris climate talks.
This, in spite of the fact that 24 of Britain’s learned scientific societies issued a joint communique on July 23, urging the British government to curb greenhouse gas emissions through drastic reductions in the burning of fossil fuels, and a shift towards energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Two substantial reports on climate change risks and policy were tabled in the House of Commons over the summer: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change: 2015 Progress Report to Parliament (June 30) ; and Climate Change: A Risk Assessment .
Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities was released by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate on September 8. It estimates financial savings of $17 trillion by 2050 if cities around the world invest in low-carbon policies such as public transport, building efficiency, and waste management. A summary at Sustainable Cities Collective points out the positive impact of cooperative relationships at the municipal level – such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), and the Compact of Mayors, and calls for additional support at the federal level. On September 17, CDP (formerly the Climate Disclosure Project) and AECOM released their global survey of cities , showing that Latin American and European cities are the least reliant on fossil fuels for their electricity. In Canada, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) recently released the Green Municipal Fund (GMF) 2014–2015 Annual Report , which gives an overview of funded green projects using a triple bottom line approach. And the City of Toronto has launched a new 2-year initiative, Transform TO to consult with citizens to arrive at new policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
On August 3, President Obama released the finalized Clean Power Plan , which goes even further than the draft version in requiring the states to source 28 percent of their power from renewables by 2030. The U.S. Congressional Research Service published EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Highlights of the Final Rule August 14, 2015 to summarize the document and highlight the differences from the Proposed Rules. The National Resources Defense Council also released an Issue Brief, Understanding the Clean Power Plan , and stated “The plan represents the most important step the United States can take right now to combat climate change and help spur climate action around the globe.” Labor Network for Sustainability provides a union view in The EPA Clean Power Plan, Jobs and Labor , and The EPA’s Clean Power Plan: How Unions and Allies can protect affected workers , both of which discuss the role labor unions can play in lobbying for transition funds and programs for workers in the fossil fuel industry. At the federal level, LNS envisions federal Just Transition programs, modeled after the Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRAC) initiatives operated by the Department of National Defense when military bases were closed. At the state level, the report urges unions to build alliances among environmentalists, labor, and environmental justice advocates to lobby for Clean Power Plans which incorporate climate justice objectives.
See also: “The Very Real Impact of the Clean Power Plan” (Aug. 14) in Corporate Knights magazine, which refutes the negative reaction by Michael Grunwald of Politico , and concludes that “… to dismiss it as insignificant ignores the data and the political context. As the country sees the health and economic benefits of an accelerating movement toward renewable energy, we can expect greater openness to more aggressive actions. We are engaged in a process.” That’s clear from the timeline published by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
The WCR published an earlier summary of studies of the employment impacts of the CPP, including the widely cited report by Josh Bivens.
Further, the Obama administration announced initiatives at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas on August 24. Highlights: an additional $1 billion in loan guarantee authority for distributed energy projects using innovative technology, such as rooftop solar and methane capture for oil and gas wells; expansion of the residential clean energy financing program, which makes loans to homeowners who want to purchase home energy improvements; and $24 million to 11 solar research projects.
Climate Change and the Fiduciary Duties of Pension Fund Trustees in Canada was written by the Toronto law firm Koskie Minsky LLP for SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research and Education) . Released on September 8, it examines the legal responsibilities of pension trustees, with an emphasis on British Columbia, and considers the interface with public policy and governments . Concurrently, SHARE and NEI Investments issued a public letter to the Premier of Alberta, stating “We encourage the Government of Alberta to keep carbon pricing as a central tenet of future carbon policy.” It also urges the government to diversity the economy and to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives. The letter was signed by institutional investors and related bodies representing over $4.6trillion in assets under management, most notably the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, the B.C. Teachers Federation, California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the Pension Plan for the Employees of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Pension Plan for the Employees of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and investment and financial officials from churches around the world and across denominations.
Pension fund managers have lots to think about, as business-oriented reports continue to warn about the financial risks of climate change and stranded assets. The Koskie Minsky paper acknowledges the influence of the analysis of Mercer Investment Consulting , Investing in a time of Climate Change (2015), and an earlier 2011 Mercer report. Publications over Summer 2015 include: Carbon Asset Risk Discussion Framework (published by World Resources Institute and the UNEP Finance, partly funded by the Bank of America Foundation, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A., and Wells Fargo Foundation); The Cost of Inaction: Recognising the value at risk from climate change ( from the Economist Intelligence Unit); and Energy Darwinism II: Why a Low Carbon Future Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth , (from a division of Citi Bank).
A recent report by Trillium Asset Management found that California’s public pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, had incurred a massive loss of more than $5 billion last year from their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies. Legislation passed the California Assembly on September 2 to force CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest their holdings in coal; Governor Brown has until October to sign the Bill.
“Green Buildings and Health”appears in the September issue of Current Environmental Health Reports, and investigates indoor air quality in offices, factories, and hospitals, as well as homes. The authors, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, state that evidence points to superior air quality in green buildings versus non-green buildings, resulting in direct health benefits for the occupants. They propose a framework for identifying direct, objective and leading “Health Performance Indicators” for use in future studies of buildings and health.
Concerning outdoor workers, a study led by Sir David King, the U.K. Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change, is relevant. Climate Change: A Risk Assessment is a broad study, but includes discussion of heat stress, and the elevated risk which workers face. Using the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety thresholds regarding Wet Bulb Globe Temperatures (WBGT), , the King report defines an environment as ‘too hot to work’ if the average daily maximum WBGT is 36°C or more for a month. The report states that climate change will likely increase the probability of crossing that temperature threshold in North India, Southeast China, and Southeast USA.
Other studies examining the impact of climate change on human health were released over the summer:
“Unraveling the Relationship between Climate Change and Health “ in the New York Times (July 14); “Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health” in The Lancet (June)(registration required); and Climate Change and Public Health, a book edited by Barry S. Levy and Jonathan A. Patz, available from Oxford University Press . It has a chapter on occupational health. Finally, “Health and climate benefits of different energy-efficiency and renewable energy choices” was published in Nature Climate Change (August 31) The study by Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment showed that “energy efficiency measures and low-carbon energy sources can save a region between $5.7 million and $210 million annually, based on the accepted dollar value of human life. Those benefits depend on the type of low-carbon energy involved and the population density of the area surrounding a coal-fired power plant whose emissions are reduced by a clean energy project.”
On May 21, 2015 the Climate Publishers Network was launched. More than two dozen international news publishers agree to freely share climate change-related news content for 6 months, until December 11 , the final day of the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris. It is coordinated by the Global Editors Network, and also spearheaded by The Guardian in the U.K., and El Pais of Madrid. Montreal’s La Presse is a founding member, and the Toronto Star is in the process of signing up, joining a group that includes India Today, The Seattle Times, China Daily, The Sydney Morning Herald , The Irish Times, and others. See “Media failing on Climate-Change Coverage” in the Toronto Star (May 31).
From REN21, the annual Renewables 2015 Global Status Report provides up to date data on the global renewable energy industry and policy landscape. It credits China’s increased use of renewable energy and the OECD’s progress for “landmark ‘decoupling’ in 2014 – For the first time in four decades, the world economy grew without a parallel rise in CO2 emissions. “ From the International Energy Agency, the World Energy Outlook Special Report on Energy and Climate Change presents a detailed assessment of the energy sector impact of known and signalled IDNC national climate pledges for the COP21 meetings, and concludes that they will be insufficient to meet the 2 degree C goal. The report states, “A transformation of the world’s energy system must become a uniting vision if the 2°C climate goal is to be achieved.” The IEA sets out “four pillars for success” in that endeavour.
Globe-Net answers the question: “Just what did the G-7 Leaders Decide about Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment?” in a thorough summary of the communiques from the G7 meetings in Germany in June 2015. All the official documents from the meetings are here. In “ G7 Fossil Fuel Pledge is a Diplomatic Coup for Germany’s ‘Climate Chancellor’ ”(June 8), The Guardian calls the leaders of Japan and Canada, “ climate recalcitrants” and applauds the fact that even Canada has agreed to the G7 plan to phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century. The press release from Prime Minister Harper’s office on June 8 however, doesn’t mention that pledge amongst the achievements of the G7. “Canada commits to G7 plan to end use of fossil fuels” in the Globe and Mail (June 8) hints at Mr. Harper’s lack of enthusiasm.
According to a new report, Global 500 Greenhouse Gas Report: The Fossil Fuel Energy Sector, 31% of the world’s annual GHG emissions can be attributed to the operations and use of the products of 32 companies, ranked in the report. It is important to note that the calculations include emissions from “scope 3 use of product”, which accounts for the high percentage, and which leads the authors to state: “It is these companies’ value chains, and their customers in particular (which includes all fossil fuel users), which bear a burden of leadership and environmental stewardship, and it is the purpose of this report to bring transparency to the role of this sector to help us all manage our collective GHG footprint.” Of the named companies, Gazprom was the single biggest emitter, producing 1.26 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2013, (roughly equivalent to Japan’s annual emissions). Coal India was 2nd by far, producing 820 million tonnes. The next biggest emitters, in rank order: Glencore, Petrochina, Rosneft, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil.
According to the New York Times (June 5) “ Norway’s $890 billion government pension fund, considered the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, will sell off many of its investments related to coal, making it the biggest institution yet to join a growing international movement to abandon at least some fossil fuel stocks.” Yet a June 15th Special Report in The Guardian, “ Coal Crash: How Pension Funds Face Huge Risk from Climate Change ” highlights the coal assets held by the public pension funds of South Africa, Netherlands, U.S. teachers, and Canada, and estimates that Canada’s Pension Plan Investment Fund holds $590m in coal-related investments. The report includes private asset management companies as well, with BlackRock as the clear leader with $24.5billion in coal. The June 14th article in the Globe and Mail, “Campaigns to Divest from Fossil-Fuel Holdings Gain Steam” describes divestment by Canadian universities and the United Church of Canada, but makes no mention of pension funds. Helpful reading on the growing trend away from coal: Chapter 3, “Closing the Coal Plants” in The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy from the Earth Policy Institute ; a series by Inside Climate News “Coal’s Long Goodbye: Dispatches from the War on Carbon”, and “Big Oil takes on King Coal: The Climate Fight Shifts Gears” , a May 28 article from the National Observer in Vancouver, which argues that the petroleum industry will abandon its partner, coal, in the fight for its share of the world’s carbon budget.
On the issue of carbon taxes, the Pope’s Encyclical of June 2015 was clear: “The strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors. ” Yet economists continue to take an interest: new analysis by B.Murray and Nic Rivers, released by Duke University, reviews the studies to date on the economic effects of British Columbia’s carbon tax, and discovers “little net impact” either for or against economic growth in the province. See British Columbia’s Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax: A Review of the Latest ‘Grand Experiment’ in Environmental Policy . And in June, the Ecofiscal Commission released a brief, The Way Forward for Ontario: Design Principles for Ontario’s New Cap-and-Trade System which outlines four fundamental principles of good cap-and-trade design for Ontario, based on their April report.
On June 10, 2015 an Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was released by a group of Canadian and U.S. academics, including high-profile names such as Marc Jaccard (Simon Fraser University), Thomas Homer Dixon, ( University of Waterloo), David Schindler, (University of Alberta), Shawn Marshall, (University of Calgary’s Canada Research Chair in Climate Change). The Letter provides 10 reasons, based on science, for its demand that : “No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health, and respect treaty rights.” In Australia on June 16, an Open Letter signed by civil society groups including Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, Environmental Farmers Network, and Friends of the Earth urged the government to adopt a zero carbon emissions target, and stressed the economic benefits of moving towards renewables.
The global press has made the Pope’s June 18th Encyclical, Care for our Common Home, a headline event, although Canadian reaction has been surprisingly quiet. Prime Minister Harper has made no official reaction; the most complete press coverage came from the CBC “Pope Francis Urges Decisive Climate Change Action”. One might expect an official reaction to be forthcoming from Kairos, the Canadian ecumenical group. The National Observer summary of reactions to the leaked version of the Encyclical is here. The New York Times ran several stories, including “Championing Environment, Pope Francis takes aim at Global Capitalism” (June 18) and “Pope Francis May Find Wariness Among U.S. Bishops on Climate Change” (June 13). Laudato Si is available from the Vatican website.
The TransMountain Pipeline Expansion project by Kinder Morgan proposes to build a new pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C., as well as a new marine terminal, to be served by oil tankers. CBC has created a compilation of stories about the highly unpopular project and the protests against it, available here . The project is currently under review by the National Energy Board with a recommendation to Cabinet expected in January 2016 – all official documents and proceedings are here . On May 26, the Tsleil-Waututh’s First Nation, whose traditional territory includes Burrard Inlet, rejected the project . The City of Vancouver also formally opposes the project and released a report estimating the economic damage to the City from potential oil spills. On May 27, Unifor submitted evidence to the NEB, laying out the union’s reasons for its opposition, which include the environmental risks, but also relate to the economic interests of the union’s membership in the oil and gas sector and the B.C. commercial fishery. Unifor also criticized the narrow scope of the NEB review, which excludes consideration of the impacts of the pipeline project on workers and commercial interests as part of its “public interest” mandate. On June 1, a study released by Simon Fraser University and Living Oceans concluded that the public interest is not served by the project. Public Interest Evaluation of the Trans Mountain Expansion tests a variety of economic scenarios, and concludes that the project will result in a net cost to Canada that ranges between $4.1 and $22.1 billion, mainly because it will create excess pipeline capacity, and because of the enormous environmental risks.
A May 2015 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives considers six possible scenarios for liquefied natural gas export development in B.C., ranging in the number of export terminals from zero to five (the current government estimate). A Clear Look at BC LNG: Energy Security, Environmental Implications and Economic Potential states that government claims of available gas supplies for export are greatly exaggerated, and that production would involved massive disruption, given that most wells would be fracked wells. Further, author David Hughes argues that is unlikely that anything close to the revenue projected by the BC government will ever be realized. And beyond the environmental dangers to the citizens of B.C., LNG will not reduce global GHG emissions: “From wellhead to final combustion, there are substantial leakages of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Given this, liquefied fracked gas from BC actually has GHG emission rates similar to coal.” Researchers who wish to pursue these concerns will welcome a new interactive planning tool, called the B.C. Shale Scenario Tool , available online at the Pembina Institute website. It allows users “ to quantify the potential impacts of shale gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in northeast B.C. in terms of carbon pollution, land disturbance, water use and wastewater.”
California’s Oranges and B.C.’s Apples? Lessons for B.C. from California Groundwater Reform was released in June by the Water Sustainability project of the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria. Regulations under the 2014 Water Sustainability Act are currently under development. This report looks to the legislation in drought-wracked California., and based on that analysis, argues that there is an urgent need to begin piloting groundwater sustainability plans in critical watersheds in B.C.. It also recommends clear performance standards, timelines, and accountability for local decision-making bodies to ensure successful watershed or aquifer plans; and points to the importance of shared responsibility between senior government and local decision-makers.
In one of its first announcements, on June 4 the new Government of Alberta announced a $2 million investment in the province’s Municipal Climate Change Action Centre to promote energy efficiency and conservation initiatives led by local governments. The Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance recently released a brief report, GHG Savings and Energy Efficiency High – Level Opportunity Analysis in Alberta , which forecasts that over 15,000 new jobs could be created in one year, provincial annual GDP increased by $3 billion, and nearly $200 million/year in additional tax revenue could be raised , if the Alberta government were to invest in energy efficiency to a level equivalent to other provinces. The Alberta study uses the same methodology as a Canada-wide study released in November 2014 by the Acadia Center, Energy Efficiency: Engine of Economic Growth in Canada. A Macroeconomic Modeling & Tax Revenue Impact Assessment . The Canada-wide study found that, for every $1 million invested in efficiency programs, 30 to 52 job-years are generated. Both studies were prepared by Dunksy Energy Consulting.
Accelerating Energy Efficiency in BC’s Built Environment: Lessons from Massachusetts and California was released by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the end of May. The report compares the policy framework for energy efficiency in the three jurisdictions and concludes that B.C.’s Energy Efficient Buildings Strategy had merit when it was launched in 2008, but has lagged in success because it lacks accountability and public reporting mechanisms. Amongst the recommendations: “Appoint an expert, permanent and broad stakeholder representative Energy Efficiency Advisory Council to work with the province to develop, implement and ensure the delivery of an ambitious 20-year building energy efficiency strategy; Empower local communities via legislative changes to become niches for super-efficient buildings; Establish a transparent, deliberative process for setting utility energy savings targets that align with the province’s mitigation and market transformation goals.”
On June 24th, 2015 the courts of the Netherlands ruled that the government has a legal duty of care to its citizens to improve the environment, and ordered the government to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020. According to the BBC report , the court ruling was based on the judgement that under current policy, the Netherlands would only achieve a 17% reduction at most in 2020, which is less than other nations and less than the climate crisis demands. Where does that leave Canada? The BBC describes the case as “unexpected”, a “landmark”, and quotes a Greenpeace official who says “This is the start of a wave of climate litigation” . In fact, similar cases are being pursued already in Belgium and the Philippines . The arguments and progress of the case are thoroughly documented at the Urgenda website – Urgenda is the NGO which sponsored the class action lawsuit on behalf of 900 Dutch citizens.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) continued its Climate Change campaign with a Global Week of Action, from June 1 – 7, 2015. To support the campaign, the ITUC has released two Frontlines Briefing documents: Climate Justice: There are no Jobs on a Dead Planet (March 2015), and Climate Justice: Unions4Climate Action (May 2015) . In May, the ITUC also posted a Sustainlabour report, Reducing emissions from the Workplace and Creating Jobs: 4 European case studies, which describe commitments and proposals from British, Spanish, Belgian and German trade unions. As part of the Global Week of Action, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) sent a letter to Canada’s Environment Minister , urging Canada to participate ambitiously in the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, restating a commitment to a Just Transition for workers, and urging a national energy plan for a low-carbon economy. The ITUC is organizing a Union Climate Summit in Paris on September 14 – 15.
A report by the New Climate Institute in Germany provides an overview of the general co-benefits that climate action can achieve: reduced oil imports and fossil fuel dependency, lives saved from lower air pollution, and jobs created from growing the renewable energy sector. Assessing the Achieved and Missed benefits of Countries’ National Contributions: Quantifying potential Co-benefits then presents scenarios for the U.S., China, the EU, Canada and Japan , comparing the impacts of each country’s stated Intended Nationally Determined Contribution targets (INDCs) with those that could be achieved through targets of 100% renewable energy in 2050. For Canada, the report projects that shifting to a 100% renewable energy system by 2050 could prevent 700 premature deaths, compared to 100 premature deaths under Canada’s INDC target , and could create approximately 5,000 additional jobs in the domestic renewable energy sector, compared to the 3,000 jobs predicted under Canada’s target scenario. The Canadian results are summarized in a separate 3 page document .
The U.S. Clean Power Plan mandates a 30 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 2030, using the baseline year of 2005. The Plan, submitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the White House Office of Management and Budget on June 1, now proceeds to review and is expected to be finalized in August 2015 – when it is also expected that legal challenges will begin immediately. Good background reading about the CPP: The Clean Power Plan: A Climate Game Changer from the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Center for Energy and Climate Solutions website has compiled links to detailed documents, (including an April 2015 report on the impact of the CPP on Canadian hydropower exports to the U.S. .) Amidst the controversy, the Economic Policy Institute has released Employment Impacts of the Proposed Clean Power Plan in the U.S., by Josh Bivens. Bivens disputes the employment impact analysis done by the EPA. He concludes that the Clean Power Plan is likely to lead to a net increase in of roughly 360,000 jobs by 2020, but that the net job creation will diminish rapidly to approximately 15,000 jobs in 2030. Bivens differentiates between job-gaining and job-losing industries, and characterizes the workers in job-losing industries as less likely to have four-year college degrees, and substantially more likely to be unionized. He also points to a geographic concentration of gross job losses in poorer states. Another report, Assessment of the Economy-wide Employment Impacts of EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan was released by the University of Maryland in April 2015. Perhaps the most controversial on this topic: “Potential impact of Proposed EPA Regulations on Low Income Groups and Minorities”, was authored by Roger Bezdek and published by the National Black Chamber of Commerce in June . Its dire predictions include that by 2035, job losses would total 7 million for Blacks and nearly 12 million for Hispanics. The Bezdek study is roundly criticized by the Union of Concerned Scientists in “ New Flawed Study of the Clean Power Plan: How the MISI Study Gets It So Wrong” and by the National Resources Defense Council which states: “We should not let the polluter industry mislead us through the use of junk science and “mercenaries with PhDs” whose only goal is to prioritize polluter profits over the well-being and health of people.”
As part of its commitment to invest $130 billion in public infrastructure over 10 years , the Ontario government passed the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015 on June 4th. The Act states: “Infrastructure planning and investment should minimize the impact of infrastructure on the environment and respect and help maintain ecological and biological diversity, and infrastructure should be designed to be resilient to the effects of climate change.” And “Infrastructure planning and investment should endeavour to make use of acceptable recycled aggregates.” Regarding the workforce, it requires: “Infrastructure planning and investment should promote community benefits …. to improve the well-being of a community affected by the project, such as local job creation and training opportunities”. Steve Shallhorn, Executive Director of the Labour Education Centre and Chair of the Toronto Community Benefits Network states, “This is a huge step forward” in a Globe and Mail article (June 3 ) . The Toronto Network negotiated the Eglinton –Scarborough Crosstown Line Community Benefits Agreement with transit authority Metrolinx in 2013 . Their website provides “Definition of a CBA” and “CBA’s Here and Elsewhere” , which highlights models from Vancouver, Los Angeles, and other programs in Toronto. Separately, the City of Toronto Council recently passed a motion to consider inclusion of Community Benefits Agreements as part of the review of the city’s Social Procurement Policy for development and infrastructure projects, due at the end of 2015.
Ottawa-based research and consulting firm Analytica Advisors released the 2015 edition of its annual Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report at the Canadian Energy Summit in Toronto at the end of May. The report notes that more than 800 clean tech firms in Canada directly employed almost 50,000 people in 2013 – a growth rate of almost 21% since 2012, making the industry a bigger employer than the aerospace manufacturing sector, logging or pharmaceuticals and medical devices. 20% of workers in the industry are 30 years old or under. While current employment growth is encouraging, continued growth of the sector may not be assured, as the report documents a troubling loss of export markets. U.B.C.’s Sauder School of Business in “ The Ups and downs of Cleantech Venture Capital in B.C.” also casts doubt on the future of clean tech by contrasting the risk-averse culture of Canadian capital markets to that of the U.S. The interview concludes that “Without strategic changes brought on by the private sector and government, business will continue as usual.” – i.e. companies will continue to favour the U.S. over Canada as a place to invest. Case in point: the Obama administration announced “More than $4 Billion in Private Sector Commitments and Executive Actions to Scale up Investment in Clean Energy Innovation ” on June 16. Note also the analysis of the U.S. funding by The Guardian which states “.. arguably more important than the $4bn raised was the fine print: a new federal information source and new financing options for would-be investors.”
The Keep it in the Ground campaign, urging the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest from fossil fuels, is keeping up the pressure with an investigative series on the practices of Big Oil. For an update on the campaign and links to the latest major stories, go to Leading Health Charities should divest from Fossil Fuels say Climate Scientists at The Guardian news site (May 23). Information about the Divestment campaign is consolidated here; Sign the Divestment petition here.
And watch for: another interactive feature of the Keep it in The Ground campaign at The Guardian, asking readers “How has your job been affected by climate change”… From the website: “We’d like you to complete the sentence “What I wish others knew about climate change … ” using the form below and we will create an article with contributions from individuals around the world. “
A survey by Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) found that only 76 of the 500 largest asset owners in the world (pension funds, insurance funds, foundations and endowments) have taken meaningful action to manage climate risk. 21 of the 32 large Canadian institutional investors in the survey scored badly, including the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and the Ontario Public Service Pension Plan. “ Risky Management ” at Corporate Knights magazine (April 29) provides a summary of the survey results. The full report is at the AODP website .
The Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) is an independent not-for-profit global organisation whose objective is to protect retirement savings and other long term investments from the risks posed by climate change. AODP and a London-based environmental law firm, ClientEarth, have announced they will work with pension fund members to challenge trustees and managers to fulfill their legal duty to protect investments from climate risk. The campaign could result in a test case to clarify the legal duties of pension fund fiduciaries.
The HSBC Bank released advice to investors in April, titled Stranded Assets, What Next?. The letter admits that coal and fossil fuel investments are highly likely to become stranded, and advises that there are “reputational as well as economic risks to staying invested”. A blog by the Pembina Institute summarizes the HSBC report and considers the dangers of stranded assets for Alberta.
At the international level, G-20 leaders have asked the Financial Stability Board in Basel to convene a public-private inquiry into the dangers to the financial sector as climate rules become much stricter, and fossil fuel assets become stranded. All member countries have agreed to co-operate or carry out internal probes, including the United States, China, India, Russia, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. The investigation will be modeled on that commissioned by Mark Carney at the Bank of England, which is set to report in July 2015. See “G20: fossil fuel fears could hammer global financial system” in The Telegraph (April 29).
A new working paper from the International Monetary Fund , How Large are Global Energy Subsidies? reflects the shifting attitudes in the corporate world to the fossil fuel industry . A quote from the summary at the CBC website : “Described as a “post-tax” subsidy, the figure doesn’t take into account the pre-tax incentives used to encourage exploration and production, and is still much larger than ever before calculated.”… “The fiscal implications are mammoth: At $5.3 trillion, energy subsidies exceed the estimated public health spending for the entire globe”. The report concludes that energy subsidy reform is urgently needed, and though not perfect, “energy taxes” are the most effective tool currently available .
BUSINESS LEADERS ENDORSE CARBON PRICING, AN END TO FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES, AND SCIENCE-BASED GHG REDUCTION TARGETS : The Business and Climate Summit in Paris on May 20-21 was opened by the President of France, with the UN’s Ban Ki Moon in attendance, along with 2000 international business leaders, policymakers and investors. The final press release called on policymakers to leverage public funds and private sector finance towards low-carbon assets; to introduce carefully designed and predictable carbon pricing; and to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.
Another business group, the Caring for Climate program within the UN Global Compact, issued a statement at the Summit which commits them to carbon pricing, to set long-term targets based on science, and to speak up publicly against negative lobbying on climate action. As part of this effort, the Science Based Targets Initiative, led by the Carbon Disclosure Project and WWF, released Mind the Science, and Sectoral Decarbonization Approach: A method for setting corporate emission reduction targets in line with climate science . Both reports are available here .
Greenpeace has been evaluating the energy demand of the Internet, and the energy choices made by individual Internet companies, since 2010 , with its Cool It campaign. A new report, Clicking Clean: A Guide to Building the Green Internet identifies two major problems for companies who are moving to greener practices: 1. several critical data centre hubs must rely on monopoly electric utilities which provide only coal-generated electricity; and 2. the rapid rise of streaming video is driving significant growth in power use by data centers and network infrastructure. Profiles of the major tech companies show that Apple leads the way in the greening.
The National Institute of Building Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy have developed voluntary national guidelines to improve the quality and consistency of commercial building workforce credentials. The Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines were introduced in March 2015 and cover four energy-related occupations: Energy Auditor, Building Commissioning Professional, Energy Manager, and Building Operations Professional. See the press release here.
At the end of April, 2015 chairmanship of the Arctic Council passed from Canada to the U.S., as reported in the Globe and Mail . The U.S. stated their priorities for the chairmanship as addressing the impacts of climate change; supporting Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; and improving economic and living conditions in Arctic communities. Yet barely two weeks later, the U.S. Department of the Interior granted conditional approval to Shell to begin drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea this summer. See “ U. S. will allow Drilling for Oil in Arctic Ocean” in the New York Times (May 11) . Reaction has been strong: read Bill McKibben’s OpEd in the New York Times , “Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial” (May 12) , or “ Letting Shell drill in Arctic could lead to catastrophic oil spill, experts warn” in The Guardian (May 12) .
Also in mid-May, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted provisions under the Polar Code which will govern the safety and environmental impact of ships around the Earth’s poles, starting in 2017. The agreed provisions prohibit the discharge of sewage, noxious liquid substances, and oil or oily mixtures; require that fuel tanks be separated from the outer shell; and restrict garbage discharge. Disappointingly, the delegates put off adoption of a GhG reduction target for the shipping industry till a future date.
The Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity was launched on May 6, 2015. Founding members are Canadian Hydropower Association, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Canadian Wind Energy Association, and Marine Renewables Canada. The council “aims to engage and educate Canadians on the opportunity to expand renewable electricity and strengthen our nation’s position as a global renewable-energy leader”. Each of the associations continues to maintain its own website, and the new Council website is available at http://renewableelectricity.ca/.
Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 , published by the International Energy Agency, “ provides a comprehensive analysis of long-term trends in the energy sector, centred on the technologies and the level of deployment needed”….. “Wind and solar PV have the potential to provide 22% of annual electricity sector emissions reduction in 2050 under the 2DS” (2 degree scenario). The report is accompanied by Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2015, which finds that “ the deployment rate of most clean energy technologies is no longer on track to meet 2DS targets”. ….. “Policy certainty, incentives, regulation and international co-operation are required to meet stated ambitions and transform the global energy system”.
In the U.S., the U.S. Department of Energy released Enabling Wind Power Nationwide , which supports the U.S. ambition to expand utility-scale wind energy to all fifty states. The Enabling report highlights the the need for technological advancements, especially taller wind turbine towers and larger rotors, currently under development by the Energy Department and its partnering national labs, universities, and private-sector companies. The DOE Wind Program website is available here . A similar focus on the need for research and technological advancement is found in The Future of Solar Energy report , released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative (MITEI) . Read also a related overview of current solar technology, Solar Power for CO2 Mitigation by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics.
The Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest international contest for grassroots environmental activism, was announced in April 2015. The North American winner was Marilyn Baptiste , an elected councillor and former chief of the 400-member Xeni Gwet’in First Nations, near Williams Lake, British Columbia. The award recognizes her leadership in the fight against the Prosperity Mine which would have destroyed Fish Lake, a source of spiritual identity and livelihood for First Nations. Baptiste presented and prepared comprehensive environmental, cultural and economic data at federal environmental hearings. She also initiated a one-woman blockade in 2011 that prevented construction crews from reaching the proposed mine site. Other winners are profiled at the Goldman Prize website.
The list to recognize all the efforts of Canada’s First Nations to protect our environment would be almost endless. Most recently, on May 14, the Lax Kw’alaams Nation rejected an offer of over $1-billion from Petronas LNG, in exchange for their consent to construction of an LNG export terminal on Lelu Island in the Great Bear Sea. See the DeSmog blog or the WWF reactions . Meanwhile, the government of B.C. signed an agreement with Petronas LNG which will promote such ventures. Read the Globe and Mail article, “ B.C. pushing ahead with LNG proposal despite Objections from First Nations” (May 20).
The stunning win by the New Democratic Party in Alberta’s election on May 5 2015 has prompted a flurry of articles, such as What the NDP’s Alberta Win Means for Energy and Climate Change ( May 6) at DeSmog Blog and Can the NDP get Alberta off the Rollercoaster at Environmental Defence . Sean Sweeney from the U.S. Trade Unions for Economic Democracy writes about the “Alberta election shock” in the context of other recent elections (India, Greece, Spain, UK), and suggests “ a new ‘class and climate politics’ could be on the rise.” The new Premier, Rachel Notley, will be held accountable to the NDP election platform, which included the following: “We will establish a green retrofitting loan program that will assist Alberta families, farms and small businesses to reduce their energy usage affordably, which will reduce environmental impacts and create jobs in the construction industry.” “We will phase out coal-fired electricity generation to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions and expand cleaner, greener sources, including wind and solar and more industrial co-generation in the oil sands”. For reaction by the oil industry, headquartered in Calgary, see “Boss of Biggest Oil Sands player calls for tougher action on Climate Change” in the Globe and Mail (May 22) ; and “Big Oil to Rachel Notley, Bring on Carbon tax ” at CBC website (May 23).
On May 19 2015, the “ Under 2 MOU” was launched with 12 founding signatories, collectively constituting the fourth largest economic entity in the world by GDP. The signatories included Ontario and British Columbia, as well as: California; Oregon; Vermont; Washington; Acre, Brazil; Baden-Württemberg, Germany; Baja California, Mexico; Catalonia, Spain; Jalisco, Mexico; and Wales, UK. The signatories commit to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 or achieve a per capita annual emission target of less than 2 metric tons by 2050. The pact also pledges enhanced cooperation amongst jurisdictions , for example, by sharing technology, scientific research and best practices to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy; collaborating to expand the use of zero-emission vehicles; ensuring consistent monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions; reducing short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and methane; and assessing the projected impacts of climate change on communities. The full text (44 pages) of the Global Climate Leadership Agreement is available here . See the B.C. press release or the California press release .
On May 15 2015, Canada’s Environment Minister announced the submission of Canada’s overdue Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCC , pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The government also announced that it will introduce regulations to reduce emissions from methane, chemical and nitrogen-fertilizers, and natural-gas fired electricity. Jeffrey Simpson’s article in the Globe and Mail (May 19th) sums up reaction: “Having utterly failed to meet its previous GHG reduction target, no one should put any credence in the Harper government’s latest one.” “Weak” and “Inadequate” were frequent judgments in other reactions to the announcement: from the the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions ; from Environmental Defence ; from Natural Resources Defence Council; from the Pembina Institute ; from the Climate Action Network ; from the World Resources Institute .
A recent policy brief provides a thorough content analysis of recent literature concerning methods of measuring green job growth and the effects of labour market policies. The three-page bibliography is a comprehensive resource regarding international green job creation. Amongst the paper’s recommendations for improvement in green job research: improving and standardizing green job definitions, restoring the compilation of national green jobs statistics, notably in the United States and United Kingdom, and developing strategies for coping with employment losses in the sectors that will suffer from green growth policies. Looking for Green Jobs: The Impact of Green Growth on Employment was released in March 2015 by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and the Green Growth Institute in Seoul.
A recent article in The Nation online describes dozens of examples of cooperative actions by labour and environmental justice groups in the U.S. since the People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014. Author Jeremy Brecher, one of the founders of the Labor Network for Sustainability, highlights the work of LNS, which is “working to pull together a “convergence” gathering of trade unionists who want to make the labor movement a climate-protection movement” … “ Fortunately for labor-climate activists, there is no element of American society that will gain as much from such a program as the labor movement, and no force as crucial for bringing it about.” Read How Climate Protection Has Become Today’s Labor Solidarity here. Read another article by Jeremy Brecher , The Paris Climate Summit and the Power of the People here , and see his details of his newly-released book, Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival here (Paradigm/Routledge 2015).
In May, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions in Victoria B.C. released A Synthesis of PICS-Funded Social Mobilization Research: What works – and what doesn’t – for engaging people on Climate Change . The report summarizes the psychology of behaviour change, social movements, social learning, but mainly presents case studies of seven social mobilization projects in B.C. between 2010 and 2014. Based on those experiences, the report provides a range of recommendations—and pitfalls to avoid—for groups trying to mobilize their communities effectively on climate change. “ Overall the recommendations emphasize: (a) the importance of multiple social engagement methods; (b) the power of digital, visual and social media; (c) benefits of collective action at neighbourhood scale; and (d) the need for coordinated top-down/bottom-up action between citizens and government.”
At the end of April, the Canadian Labour Congress posted profiles of three green economy sectors under the banner Real Alternatives for a Green Economy. The series describes new initiatives across Canada, and call for public policy initiatives to support the growth of a green economy. Regarding Energy, the CLC calls for “public investments totalling $4.65 billion need to be made to simulate the development of renewable energy sources with a priority being put on public sector owned and operated wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal power. “ Regarding transportation , they call for investment in light rail transportation, with strong domestic content rules . One example given for transit is the Ottawa Light Rail transit project; a report for that project compiles estimates of economic benefits, including job creation, for light rail projects around the world. The third segment of the series looks at Green Construction. The CLC posts follow closely the information on the website of the Green Economy Network , an alliance of Canadian labour unions, environment and social justice organizations, of which the CLC is a member.
A May report by Prism Economics estimates that the hydroelectric sector contributed nearly US$31 billion to the country’s gross domestic product. Hydropower and the Canadian Economy: Jobs and Investment in Canada’s Largest Electricity Source also states that in 2013, “Canada’s hydropower industry’s investment and operations expenditures sustained an estimated 57,800 jobs (FTE) in Canada. When inter-industry purchases are factored in, the number of jobs rises to 100,000 jobs. In total, the investment and operations expenditures made by Canada’s hydroelectric power sector support over 135,400 (FTE) direct, indirect and induced jobs across Canada.”
In April, the Pembina Institute launched a new, interactive Clean Energy Map which quantifies the number of jobs in the clean energy sector in British Columbia, and maps where renewable energy projects are located. To date, it displays the electricity sector, where 14,100 jobs have been tallied; forthcoming updates will include jobs associated with energy efficiency, green buildings and clean transportation technologies and services. The project is funded by B.C. Government and Services Employees’ Union, City of Vancouver, Green Jobs BC, North Growth Foundation, Pembina Foundation and TIDES Canada . A text description of the project is available here.
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015 is the new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). It shows a growth of 18% in one year in the global workforce in renewable energy, and estimates that “doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030, would result in more than 16 million jobs worldwide.” Solar PV is the largest employer in the renewable energy sector, with 2.5 million jobs, mostly in China and the Asian countries. Solar PV employment in the European Union decreased by 35% to about 165,000 jobs in 2013. Countries highlighted in the Annual Review are China, India, Brazil, U.S., EU, Germany, France, Japan, Bangladesh. There are 140 member countries of IRENA , but Canada is not a member. The most recent information about Canada’s renewable energy jobs appeared in Clean Energy Canada’s December 2014 report, Tracking the Energy Revolution 2014 .
Nova Scotia’s legislative framework for marine renewable energy was tabled in the provincial Legislature on April 29. (For a plain language version of the Act, click here ) .The legislation implements the 2012 Marine Renewable Energy Strategy, and authorizes the development of regulations to govern the industry. Also in late April, a new report, commissioned by the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia (OERA), was released . Value Proposition for Tidal Energy Development in Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada and Canada forecasts that over the next 25 years, the tidal energy industry could contribute up to $1.7 billion to Nova Scotia’s gross domestic product, create up to 22,000 full-time positions and generate as much as $815 million in labour income. Annex 4 of the Report, provides a tabular analysis of supply chain requirements, including a general assesment of the skilled worker/knowledge worker requirements. The Annex is based on Module 9 of the Community and Business Toolkit for Tidal Energy Development prepared by the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute (ATEI) .