Reducing emissions from Canada’s built environment – what is the government thinking?

green bibliotechqueIn 2015, Canada’s building sector  accounted for approximately 12% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment , a November 16 report from the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.   The report discusses “a wide range of policy tools and technology solutions that could lower building sector GHG emissions, including: national building codes; energy efficiency standards and labels; technology research, development, and demonstration; fuel-switching for space heating; federal investments in buildings; and, the role of cities and urban design.”  In its concluding statements, the Committee notes that the existing federal Build Smart Strategy faces pressures of climate-change related urgency, as well as the need to harmonize and work with the various provincial jurisdictions. In the discussion of energy efficiency, the report cites the testimony of David Lapp of Engineers Canada,  in which he states that each $1 million invested in energy efficiency improvements is estimated to generate up to $3 to $4 million in gross domestic product and up to 13 jobs.   The report provides links to the testimony of all witnesses who appeared before it – no unions or worker representatives appeared.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment  is the last of five interim reports by the Senate Committee regarding Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. A final report is scheduled to be released later in 2018, compiling all five studies and issuing recommendations for the government.

The government has already received recommendations on the topic, from the June 2018 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development:  Better Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future , and in French, De Meilleurs Bâtiments Pour un Avenir À Faibles Émissions de Carbone .   In October, the  Government released its  Response report  (French version here),  which included reaction to the Committee’s Recommendation # 4,  that “Employment and Social Development Canada ensure that programs exist or are established to address the labour transition required so that skilled personnel are available to implement net-zero energy ready codes.”  The Government response offers only a reaffirmation of its commitment to existing  skills training, upgrading and apprenticeship programs. What little new thinking there is comes in the statement regarding green jobs: “The Government is also supporting the development of specific skills required for employment in green jobs. For example, the Green Jobs Science and Technology Internship program is investing more than $16 million to create 1,200 jobs as part of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. This program provides opportunities for post-secondary graduates to gain relevant work experience through green jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields in the natural resources sector. NRCan is also exploring opportunities to collaborate with non-government organizations, trade associations and provincial and territorial governments to develop training resources to support implementation of net-zero energy ready codes by 2030.”

 

Position paper committed to centrality of unions in Just Transition and green industrial policy

New Economics Foundation 2018just_transition_briefing_coverWorking Together for a Just Transition  is a brief new position paper by the U.K.’s New Economics Foundation (NEF), in association with the London Office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung . The report was  released on November 14, to launch a new, multi-year “programme of work” on just transition. Some highlights: Low carbon industrial policy, if done well, offers “an opportunity to deliver pioneering models for wider systemic reform – power, democracy and ownership – that would perhaps be impossible without that sense of urgency.”  The report cites the Scottish Government’s  Just Transition Commission, established in September 2018, as “an exciting model” which the U.K. should follow.  Further,  “NEF and FES are strongly committed to the centrality of the union movement in delivering a stronger, fairer and more sustainable economy . We believe that unions must be actively involved in shaping a programme of green industrial strategy, retraining and shaping. Individual and collective power in the workplace is a vital means to securing other ‘good job’ characteristics, and greater ownership by employees and meaningful corporate governance are central parts of the economic rebalancing that is essential for the UK’s long-term prosperity.”

Regarding the Just Transition project as a whole,  New Economics Foundation  states: “Our interest is in the practicality of change: the policies, processes, narrative and investment needed to accelerate the UK’s progress on ​just transition’, here and now. Over the coming months and years we will be working at local and national levels to explore what is needed to build common cause and provide the right mixture of incentives and critical challenge to all parties to help unlock a new momentum for a ​just transition’ for the UK. “

Extended Producer Responsibility reduces waste and impacts the workplace

Cutting the wasteThe October 16  report from the Ecofiscal Commission ,  Cutting the Waste: How to save money while improving our solid waste systems  is a thorough examination of the issue of waste management in Canada, and while it discusses consumer behaviour (including single use plastics, briefly), the main focus is on municipal programs of disposal pricing ( tipping fees and  “pay as you throw”)  and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs shift the costs and responsibility for waste management from taxpayers and consumers to manufacturers.  Cutting the Waste  recommends expanding and harmonizing Canada’s EPR programs, stating…. “ “extended producer responsibility” programs … can improve the efficiency of recycling programs while also creating incentives to produce goods that generate less waste or goods that can more easily be recycled.”  The report provides a good overview of the history, structure, and efficiency of EPR programs in Canada, stating that there are over 120 such programs (both voluntary and legislated) in Canada, following an EPR Action Plan which was  developed through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) in 2009. Their most recent progress report on the Action Plan was conducted in 2014 .  The Ecofiscal Commission highlights British Columbia as having the most stringent and comprehensive plan, and states, “Alberta is the only province that does not have legislated extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs and is falling behind in its commitments under the Canada-wide Action Plan for EPR.”  EPR Canada , a non-profit association, also publishes Report Cards – their most recent was released in 2017.

How does waste management translate into a greener workplace?  The automobile manufacturing industry provides a Canadian example, and in its 2011 Fact Sheet  “Taking Back our Jobs – Taking Back our Environment “ , the Canadian Auto Workers endorsed EPR, with concise arguments,  stating “The future job creation potential is enormous. The motor vehicle industry is one of the best examples of EPR job creation.”   (The Fact Sheet was republished by Unifor in 2013,  here).  From the company, the GM Landfill-free Blueprint (2018) makes a business case for reducing waste and includes the concept of employee engagement.

In September 2018 , one of  Canada’s Clean50 awards for 2019 went to the General Motors Assembly plant in Oshawa Ontario for its “zero waste to landfill” project   .  The announcement states:   “At the core of the success of General Motors Landfill-Free Project at GM Oshawa Assembly Plant initiative lies the fact that the “team” for this project numbers approximately 3,000.  …. it was the employees at the plant who were directly and indirectly part of the successful implementation of their project.”

According to a GM press ( February 2018) ,GM is now diverting 100 per cent waste from landfills at all Canadian manufacturing facilities;  St. Catharines Propulsion facility since 2008,  and CAMI Assembly since 2014.  The St. Catharines facility is also the proposed site of  Ontario’s first complete renewable landfill gas industrial co-generation system, which will use landfill gas from an offsite source, delivered via pipeline, to generate electricity and  reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the plant by more than 77 per cent. More details are here .  A caveat: although this project was projected to come online in mid-2019, it  was initiated under the previous Liberal government,  funded by cap and trade revenues through GreenON Industries, which is one of the programs cancelled by the current Conservative government.

Canadian Circular Economy coalition launched at G7 meetings

Circular economy group shot 2018The Circular Economy Leadership Council  (CELC) of Canada was launched at the Halifax meetings of G7 Environment, Energy and Ocean ministers on September 20, when the focus was on plastic pollution of our oceans.  The CELC is a Canada-wide, non- profit coalition which includes corporate and NGO leaders, think tanks, and academics,  with a dual goal “to eliminate waste and accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions from the Canadian economy.”  Their immediate objective is to develop and publish a Circular Economy Roadmap which will serve as a national strategy document. More details appear in their  bilingual brochure .

Co-chairs of the coalition are David Hughes, President and CEO of Natural Step Canada, and John D. Coyne, Vice-President and General Counsel of Unilever Canada.  Founding members are listed as: Unilever Canada • IKEA Canada • Loblaw Companies Limited • Walmart Canada • NEI Investments LP • International Institute for Sustainable Development • National Zero Waste Council     • Smart Prosperity Institute • The Natural Step Canada, and  • Institut EDDEC – Environment, sustainable development and the circular economy  in Quebec.  The CELC also declares strong working relationships with two well-established  Circular Economy organizations –  the Ellen MacArthur Foundation  based  in the U.K., and Sitra in Finland, which organized the first World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki in June 2017,  with 1,600 participants from  100 countries.  The 2nd World Circular Economy Forum will take place in Yokohama, Japan on 22-24 October 2018.

Global Renewable Energy industry lacks human rights and labour rights protections

Renewable energy BHRRC cover part 2London-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) released a new report on September 5th : Renewable Energy Risking Rights & Returns: An analysis of solar, bioenergy & geothermal companies’ human rights commitments  . The report analyses 59 companies’ human rights policies and practices on five key areas: human rights commitment, community consultations, grievance mechanisms, labour rights and supply chain monitoring. It concludes that  “The current level of commitment by the majority of renewable energy companies is insufficient to prevent, address and mitigate human rights harms, especially as the sector rapidly expands.”

Concerning labour rights, only 36% of renewable energy companies were found to have policies committing them to core labour rights such as collective bargaining and freedom of association, 42% commit to  the prohibition of child labour and 41% to prohibition of  forced labour and modern slavery.  An aspect with resonance for Canadians, in light of the recent federal Court of Appeal decision against the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the report found that “less than 30% (17 out of 59) of renewable energy companies have a stated commitment to consultation with communities affected by their projects. Only 8 companies reference indigenous peoples’ rights and 4 companies have a commitment to free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities.”  Overall,  47% of companies do not have basic human rights commitments or processes in place, and only 5 companies met a set of basic criteria on human rights, community consultation and access to remedy. These findings are consistent with a previous BHRRC  survey, reported in 2016.

Based  on its extensive research of the mining industry, BHRRC also states that “failure to respect human rights can result in project delays, legal procedures and costs for renewable energy companies, underlying the urgency to strengthen human rights due diligence.”   It calls for investors to step up their engagement in renewable energy companies to ensure better respect for human rights.

Read the press release here  for a summary of the report, and explore ongoing monitoring of human rights in the renewable energy sector here.