Risk or reward? Securing a just transition in the north of England is a study released in late October by the Institute for Public Policy Research North (IPPR), based in Manchester and Newcastle of the U.K. – an area disproportionately at risk for job losses in the shift to a low carbon economy as it is the home of the majority of England’s coal and gas power stations. This Interim report estimates that approximately 28,000 jobs in the coal, oil and gas industries could be lost by 2030 as the low carbon economy grows. In 2017, the IPPR forecasts that up to 46,000 low-carbon power sector jobs and 100,000 jobs could be created by 2030 by its Northern Energy Strategy , including a Northern Energy Skills Programme .
Risk or Reward? forecasts job numbers, but also discusses the quality of jobs using compensation levels of representative energy jobs. The report concludes that “Fundamentally, there is a failure to incorporate a just transition into industrial strategy and decarbonisation policy more generally; but, even if it were acknowledged, the skills system is ill-equipped to provide support for those that need retraining or for the next generation. Compounded by the uncertainty of Brexit amidst international competition for labour and skills, there is a real risk that the transition to a low carbon economy will not be just.”
Risk or Reward is an interim report. IPPR promises a Final Report in 2019 which will recommend a strategy for government action, to put just transition “at the heart of decarbonisation and industrial strategy”, and to build a skills system capable of supporting existing and future workers through well-paid, skilled and secure jobs. “This strategy will also consider other challenges facing the low-carbon sector both now and in the future, including how to ensure it can deliver good working conditions and a diverse workforce. In addition, it will set out the crucial role of trade unions in delivering well-paid, secure and high skilled jobs, as well as a successful industrial strategy and improving productivity.”
Companion reading to Risk or Reward is the broader perspective of Prosperity and Justice: A plan for the new economy – the final report of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice , established in the 2016 in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. The Final Report is here; an Executive Summary is here. Prosperity and Justice presents a 10-part plan for economic reform and makes more than 70 recommendations – which it states “ offer the potential for the most significant change in economic policy in a generation”. It includes a chapter titled “Ensuring Environmental Sustainability” as fundamental to its economic goal of just growth. The IPPR Commission on Economic Justice published an Interim Report (2017), as well as discussion and policy papers – including including Power to the people: How stronger unions can deliver economic justice.
The new government of Spain, in power since May 2018, has reached a new Just Transition agreement with coal miners, to further the coal phase-out which has been underway since the early 2000’s. Approximately 1,000 miners and contractors at 10 mines will lose their jobs at the end of 2018, but according to a report in The Guardian (Oct. 26) “Unions hailed the mining deal – which covers Spain’s privately owned pits – as a model agreement. It mixes early retirement schemes for miners over 48, with environmental restoration work in pit communities and re-skilling schemes for cutting-edge green industries.” The cost of the program is estimated at 250 million Euros.
UPDATED: For the most detailed summary of this new agreement, see the press release from IndustriALL : “Spanish coal unions win landmark Just Transition deal” (Nov. 1) . It includes a link to the 37-page actual agreement – in Spanish only – and quotes the Sustainability Director of IndustriALL, who states that it is a model agreement, and “The deal sets a precedent for responsible transition through social dialogue.”
Spain’s coal industry employed more than 100,000 miners in the 1960s, but today only 2.7% of the country’s electricity is powered by coal. The country had already done a good job of its coal phase-out, according to Coal Transition in Spain, published in 2017 by The Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) and Climate Strategies Just Transition project. That report draws on Spanish language resources to provides a thorough overview of employment statistics, policy instruments and stakeholder positions from previous coal phase-out. It also evaluates the success of measures taken, including training and early retirement incentives, community and infrastructure investment. The press release from IndustriALL summarizes the history from a different, union viewpoint.
On October 30, DeSmog UK began a new series of reporting titled Just Transition, from Fossil Fuels to Environmental Justice , which it describes as “a comprehensive exploration of the UK‘s prospects for a just transition towards a sustainable future and environmental justice.” The first installment, Part One: Kingdom of Coal profiles Fife, Scotland: the history of its coal mine closures around 2002, and the transition to its current situation as the site of a gas extraction facility run by Shell and an ethylene production plant operated by ExxonMobil. The report states that the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has issued fines and final warning letters to both Shell and Exxon for the flaring conducted at the two sites; a SEPA investigation into the flaring is underway, with a report scheduled for November 2018. Finally, Kingdom of Coal discusses the prospects for a just transition for Fife to a renewable energy industry, in the context of the Just Transition principles proposed by the Friends of the Earth Scotland. The impending Brexit threatens funding from the European Investment Bank (which was used to build the Beatrice Wind Farm in the Moray Firth), and “wider economic insecurity makes longer-term investments, such as hiring more apprentices, growing the workforce and investing in new machines and premises, increasingly challenging.”
Update: Part 2 of the series, City of Oil appeared on November 7 and profiles Aberdeen Scotland. Employment there centres on the harbour and the specialist tasks associated with the North Sea offshore oil and gas industry – decommissioning oil platforms at the end of their life, laying sub-sea cables, servicing and maintaining offshore drilling platforms – and representing the new economy, the offshore wind turbines of the Vattenfall installation. Through interviews, the report describes the workplace issues of the workers on ships under flags of convenience in the North Sea , changes to shift schedules for oil rig workers, and a growing problem of poverty.
Just Transition, from Fossil Fuels to Environmental Justice is described by DeSmog UK as : “This powerful new series starts from the basis of understanding that current lifestyles are dependent on oil and plastic, and that we are all to some degree complicit and integrated into the present system. It looks at how the UK can achieve the immediate, transformative and radical changes to the economy and society necessary to address the climate crisis. And it addresses this transformation through the perspectives of the communities that will be most affected.”
On October 23, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will hold its resolve to impose a carbon pricing policy across all Canadian jurisdictions in 2019 – see the press release, “Government of Canada Putting a price on pollution” (Oct. 23). Key to the plan: the Climate Action Incentive, whereby all carbon revenue will go directly back to people in the provinces from which it was generated. David Roberts of Vox hits the nail on the head with “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is betting his reelection on a carbon tax” (Oct. 24) , stating, “It’s a thoughtful plan, remarkably simple, transparent, and economically sound for something cooked up in a politically fraught context. If it’s put into place (and stays in place), it would vault Canada to the head of the international pack on climate policy.”
Reaction from the Canadian mainstream media reaction: From the Globe and Mail, an Editorial: “For the Liberals, a spoonful of sugar helps the carbon tax go down” ; “Arguments against the carbon tax boil down to a desire to do nothing” (Oct. 24) by Campbell Clark ; “Carbon tax vs. climate change will be an epic contest” by John Ibbitson and “Trudeau’s carbon tax rebate is smart – but complicated” by Chris Ragan of the Ecofiscal Commission . From Andrew Coyne in the National Post: “Liberals’ carbon tax plan has its faults — but who has a better option?” and from Chris Hall of the CBC, “How the Liberals hope to escape the ‘Green Shift’ curse in 2019” (Oct.23) .
The National Observer provides some detail to the complex calculations of the backstop rebates of the Climate Action Incentive, but the detail is at the government’s webpage, Pricing Pollution: How it will work which provides links to individual explainers for each province and territory.
Other Responses: Rabble.ca ; Elizabeth May of the Green Party of Canada ; Canadians for Clean Prosperity ; and the Smart Prosperity Institute , which also provides a compilation of reaction and reports .
There seems to be general agreement that it is politics, not economics, which will determine support for the carbon plan. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been making the rounds with other Conservative politicians in Canada to coordinate their messaging and opposition to the federal carbon tax – culminating in the introduction of Bill No. 132—The Management and Reduction of Greenhouse Gases Amendment Act , 2018 in Saskatchewan on October 30, and on October 31, passage of Ontario’s Bill 4, The Cap and Trade Cancellation Act. The National Observer describes the events of October 31 and summarizes the recent political dance in “Doug Ford and Andrew Scheer play fast and loose with facts about carbon tax” . Other press coverage: from the CBC: “‘The worst tax ever’: Doug Ford and Jason Kenney hold campaign-style rally against carbon levy” on Oct. 5 ; “Doug Ford attacks ‘terrible tax’ on carbon alongside Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe” on Oct. 29; and “Doug Ford meets Andrew Scheer as carbon tax war heats up” on October 30, describing their meeting in Toronto. The gist of their arguments: the carbon tax is a money-grab which will “drive up the price of heating your home”, with Doug Ford stating “It’s just another Trudeau Liberal tax grab. It’s a job-killing, family-hurting tax. ” After the rebate details were announced on October 23, Ford has added that the promised rebates are “a complete scam”, “trying to buy Canadians with their own money.” But as iPolitics reported on October 26, “Ford gets his facts wrong while bashing federal carbon tax” and “Ford doubles down on falsehoods about federal carbon tax” . iPolitics cites the independent analysis of the carbon tax’s impact by Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer, which supports the federal government’s numbers, and differs from Premier Ford’s public statements. Meanwhile, the Ontario government promises to release their climate plan in November, according to the Toronto Star (Oct. 29), and Andrew Scheer also promises a climate plan “in 183 days”.
On October 30, the first Bill introduced to the new session of the Saskatchewan legislature was Bill No. 132—The Management and Reduction of Greenhouse Gases Amendment Act, 2018 , which, according to a Regina Leader-Post article , carries on Bill 95, which was introduced in 2009 by the previous government of Brad Wall . The government’s press release states that the new legislation: “provides the regulatory framework for performance standards to reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions, a provincial technology fund, performance credits and offset credits…. In addition to performance standards and compliance options, these amendments require large emitters to register with the province, provide for administrative efficiencies in governance of the technology fund, and enable associated regulations and standards. ” The press release carries on the province’s existing climate change strategy from December 2017, titled Prairie Resilience, which rejects carbon pricing.
“Saskatchewan introduces climate change legislation as feud with Ottawa continues” in the National Observer provides a summary; the “feud” referred to was most recently in the news on October 29, “Doug Ford attacks ‘terrible tax’ on carbon alongside Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe” .
As yet, the text of the Bill is available only through a two-step process: Bills are listed here , which lists a PDF file “ Progress of Bills 2018 – 2019” which includes a live link to Bill 132.