Clean Energy B.C. : reports reflect little progress in jobs and training; new Climate Solutions Council appointed

cleanbc logoAt the showcase Global 2020 conference in Vancouver on February 10, the government of British Columbia released the  2019 CleanBC Climate Change Accountability Report, titled Building a Cleaner, Stronger  B.C.. The report  is a comprehensive summary of the policies under the Clean BC plan, especially focused on energy efficiency in the built environment, waste management,  and electrification of transportation. Amongst the statistical indicators reported: The carbon intensity of B.C’s economy has gone down 19% over the last 10 years while jobs  in the environmental and clean tech sectors have doubled. The report provides detailed emission forecasts and breakdowns by sector. Ironically, given the current Canada-wide protests in solidarity with the Coastal GasLink dispute with the Wet’suwet’en people,  Section 7 highlights co-operative relations with Indigenous People.  Section 4 reports on the oil and gas industry.

Jobs and job training under Clean BC: 

The 2019 Accountability Report  briefly mentions the “CleanBC Job Readiness Plan”, for which consultations were held for one month, in November 2019 (discussions archived here) . It states: “Our job readiness plan will respond to feedback from stakeholders, assessments of labour market conditions and economic trends in a low-carbon economy—providing a framework for sector-specific actions and guiding investments in skills training. Consultations will continue into 2020.” The named sectors of interest are: clean buildings and construction, energy efficiency, transportation, waste management, sustainable tourism, sustainability education, and urban planning.

Indicators to measure “affordability, rural development, the clean economy and clean jobs, reconciliation and gender equality ” are promised for future reports.  Until then, there there are no statistical measures of the impact of the CleanBC policies on jobs, incomes, or workers.  In Appendix A, which summarizes current initiatives and their GHG emissions reduction impact, the category of “Economic Transition” does not measure jobs or income. Another sector- specific chart in Appendix A includes the category:  “Helping people get the skills they need”, but it does not quantify how that would impact GHG emissions reduction, and  consists of two entries: • “Develop programs like Energy Step Code training and certification, and Certified Retrofit Professional accreditation • Expand job training for electric and other zero-emission vehicles.”  Elsewhere in the text, two programs are briefly highlighted:  the new EV Maintenance Training Program at B.C. Institute of Technology, and the Sustainable energy engineering program at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus.  On page 64, the report highlights skills training programs for small business, citing the BC Tech Co-op Grant, ( up to $10,800 for hiring new coop students in clean tech).

Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council releases a final report and recommendations to end its mandate; New Climate Solutions Council appointed

The February 10 government press release also announced the appointment of a new Climate Solutions Council to act as an independent advisor, and to track progress on Clean BC Phase 2.  The new Council replaces the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council, which completed its 2-year mandate at the end of 2019 with the publication of a final report and recommendations, here . While attention now shifts to the new Council, the detailed recommendations of the original Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council merit consideration – although they reflect a primary concern with business, and particularly natural resources (worth noting here: the Council was co-chaired by the Senior VP, Sustainability & External Affairs of Teck Resources – the same company whose controversial Frontier oil sands mine project in Alberta is awaiting a  federal cabinet decision in February 2020.)   The voice of labour comes through most clearly in the Recommendations regarding the proposed Implementation Plan (p. 7), which calls  for “ Stronger focus on just transition planning, including the Labour Readiness Plan: Government needs a stronger plan for labour readiness and adjustment. This would take the form of more funding and details regarding the assessment, timeline, output and desired outcomes, and the Ministry or Ministries responsible.” The Council also notes that “enduring support will necessitate ongoing engagement with Indigenous and nonIndigenous communities, industry, civil society, youth and young adults, organized labour, and utilities.”

The new Climate Solutions Council  is Co-chaired by Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, and Colleen Giroux-Schmidt, vice-president of Corporate Relations, Innergex Renewable Energy Inc.  Along with environmentalists, First Nations, and academics such as Marc Jaccard and Nancy Olewiler, the new Climate Solutions Council includes Labour representation by David Black, (President of MoveUP), and  Danielle (DJ) Pohl , (President of the Fraser Valley Labour Council).  Industry representatives include Tom Syer, (Head of Government Affairs , Teck Resources),  Skye McConnell, (Manager of Policy and Advocacy, Shell Canada), and Kurt Niquidet, (Vice-President of the Council of Forest Industries).  All members are listed and profiled here  .

Is the Just Transition fund in Europe’s Green New Deal funded adequately?

Europe’s landmark Green New Deal was unveiled on December 11 2019, but eu flag heldcriticisms abound over the structure, ambition, and particularly the funding.   “Question marks raised over scale of EU’s new climate fund” in Euractiv (Jan. 14) discusses the Just Transition Mechanism funding, and “Commission warns of Green Deal failure if Transition Fund not well financed” ( February 12) states that the European president warned Members of the European Parliament that “she would ‘not accept’ any result that does not guarantee at least 25% of the budget devoted to the fight against global warming and to proper funding of a just transition for regions and workers.”

A more general criticism comes in “The EU’s green deal is a colossal exercise in greenwashing”, an Opinion piece in The Guardian on February 7.  Authors Yanis Varoufakis and David Adler  compare the €1tn (over 10 years) allocated for the GND with an estimated €4.2tn spent to support the European financial sector after the 2008 recession.  Furthermore, they state that the  €1tn GND money “is mostly smoke and mirrors”…”composed of reshuffled money from existing EU funds and reheated promises to mobilise private-sector capital down the road.”  As for the Just Transition mechanism itself, they state: “the deployment of just transition funding in the green deal is a pork-barrel payoff to rightwing governments that supported Von der Leyen’s election and who she fears might throw a spanner into her signature proposal.”  (Euractiv helps to explain this in “Poland, Germany get largest slices of Just Transition Fund” ).

Yanis Varoufakis and David Adler are part of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025,  a coalition of European scientists, activists and trade unionists. Their Blueprint for Europe’s Just Transition  outlines a strategy for a radical, activist  pan-European movement for a Green New Deal: “The climate movement today — whether it takes the form of student strikes, Extinction Rebellion, or the Gilet Jaunes — has articulated a shared enemy: climate and environmental breakdown. But it has yet to come together to articulate a set of shared demands…. It advocates “ channeling the energies of activists across the continent to clash with the institutions that sit at the Belgian capital — through strikes and sit-ins, occupations and demonstrations: the full arsenal of direct action and civil disobedience.”

The Blueprint is built around three major actions: 1. Green Public Works: (“an investment programme to kickstart Europe’s equitable green transition”);  2. an EU Environmental Union: (“a regulatory and legal framework to ensure that the European economy transitions quickly and fairly, without transferring carbon costs onto front-line communities”); and 3). an Environmental Justice Commission: (“an independent body to research and investigate new standards of ‘environmental justice’ across Europe and among the multinationals operating outside its borders”).

Further, with emphasis on the democratic, grass-roots activism demanded:

  …. This Blueprint provides a general framework for Europe’s just transition, but it must be complemented by deliberation at the ground level to decide where the resources raised by the Green Public Works programme will be directed. No campaign, movement, union, NGO, or political party can devise a climate plan on its own; the People’s Assemblies for Environmental Justice offer a common process by which to develop it.

Fossil fuel and LNG subsidies in B.C., and an alternate viewpoint on the issue

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) maintains an ongoing initiative, the Global Subsidies Initiative , to research fossil fuel subsidies worldwide.  Their most recent publication relating to Canada is  Locked In and Losing Out: British Columbia’s fossil fuel subsidies. The authors calculate that BC’s fossil fuel subsidies reached  $830 million Cdn.  in 2017–2018, with no end in sight. Despite B.C.’s clean energy image, the report documents the significant new support granted by the current B.C. government to encourage the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.  Locked In and Losing Out calls for the provincial government to create a plan to phase-out its own subsidies, and coordinate with the federal government in its current  G20 Peer Review of fossil fuel subsidies, launched in 2019 and administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada.   In August 2019, the IISD also released its Submission to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Consultation on Non-Tax Fossil Fuel Subsidies calling for Canada to re-affirm its long-standing  G7 commitment to reform fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 and provide a detailed action plan to achieve the goal.  

new labor forumAn alternate view

Sean Sweeney of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy takes an alternate view on fossil fuel subsidies in “Weaponizing the numbers: The Hidden Agenda Behind Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform” appearing in the January 2020 issue of  New Labor Forum. As might be expected, Sweeney challenges the findings and assumptions of the International Monetary Fund (for example, in a 2019 working paper by David Coady ). He also takes issue with some progressive analysis – notably, he cites  Fossil Fuel to Clean Energy Subsidy Swaps: How to Pay for an Energy Revolution (2019) and Zombie Energy: Climate benefits of ending subsidies to fossil fuel production (2017)  – both published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).  After a brief discussion of the main concepts, Sweeney concludes:

“For activists in the North, making fossil-fuel subsidies a key political target is a mistake. It buys into the IMF’s obsession with “getting energy prices right” which targets state ownership and regulation of prices. Such an approach may lead to a more judicious use of energy, but it would not address the mammoth challenges involved in transitioning away from fossil fuels, controlling and reducing unnecessary economic activity, or reducing emissions is expeditiously as possible.

The problem is fossil fuel dependency, not underpriced energy. Raising the price without alternative forms of low-carbon energy available for all will not produce the kind of emissions reductions the world needs. This does not mean that progressive unions and the left should support subsidies for fossil fuels—especially when the beneficiaries are large for-profit industrial users or billionaire Lamborghini owners cruising the strips in Riyadh or Shanghai. But there is a need to be aware of what the IMF and the subsidy reform organizations are proposing, and what these proposals might mean for workers and ordinary people, especially in the Global South.”

 

 

 

Launch of Canadian Institute for Climate Choices promises “rigorous research and original analysis”

The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices  was launched on January 21 – described in their own press release  as an independent national institute with an aim “to establish a strong foundation for decision-making on climate change policies.” CBC commentator Aaron Wherry likens the new body to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), disbanded by the Harper government in 2013.

Supported by $20 million funding over 5 years from the federal government, the Institute promises to “Produce rigorous research, original analysis and evidence-based insight”. It will do this through engagement with experts, business and policy leaders, as well as Canadians – and by cultivating a national network of experts from a range of disciplines.

Those experts are currently organized into three Expert Panels ,to write and conduct peer review of the promised three research reports per year. Members named so far  include: Dale Beugin, Alain Bourque , Don Drummond, Stewart Elgie, Blair Feltmate, Kathryn Harrison, Sara Hastings-Simon, Glenn Hodgson, Mark Jaccard, Richard Lipsey, James Meadowcroft, Nancy Olewiler,  and Nic Rivers.

charting course framework diagramThe launch of the Institute was accompanied by a report, Charting our Course , which uses the extended metaphor of Canada as a ship navigating to safety on the stormy seas of climate change, and requiring “all hands on deck” to reach a safe destination. It is offered as a starting point for discussion, and includes a new analytical framework, visualized in the accompanying diagram (left).

Charting our Course makes four recommendations:

#1: Canadian governments should broaden objectives for climate policy – which acknowledges that all levels of government are involved, and their policy design needs “to go beyond the narrow lenses of mitigation, adaptation, and clean growth”…” By linking objectives more directly to the welfare of Canadians, this approach can also build a broader coalition of support for action.”

#2: Canadian governments should embrace Canada’s role in global outcomes.

#3: Canadian governments should expand the scope, scale, and pace of climate policies.  (“This means expanding the coverage of policies across regions, issues, and sectors, ramping up the magnitude of change, and tightening the timeframe for achieving results.”)

#4: Those analysing and developing policy options should seek out integrated solutions that drive multiple benefits.

Although funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Institute will operate independently, overseen by an eleven-member Board of Directors – including former Privy Council Clerk Mel Cappe, former Ecofiscal Commission Chair Chris Ragan, Dave Collyer, former president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Bruce Lourie, now President of the Ivey Foundation, and Sybil Seitzinger, Executive Director, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.  A separate Advisory Council includes Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of the Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat (CAN-Rac) Canada.

The Institute has already released six blogs to flesh out the general statements.  More details also appear in articles in the National Observer, the Toronto Star , the CBC, and The Energy Mix .

New Roadmap for German coal phase-out includes worker payments till 2043

After intensive negotiations, on January 16 the German government, its coal mining states and several major utilities agreed on a roadmap for shutting down the country’s lignite-fired power plants, making Germany the first country in the world with an actual plan to end both nuclear and coal-fired power production.  Most critics say that the roadmap deadline of 2038 is too slow, although it adheres to the deadline recommended by Germany’s Coal Exit Commission  in 2019.  Analysts also criticize an exception which allows a new coal-fired power plant – Datteln 4 –  to come online in summer 2020. (Activists pledge to oppose it). A summary of the agreement is provided by Clean Energy Wire, as well as in “Bye Bye Lignite: Understanding Germany’s Coal Phase-out”  in Deutsche Welle (Jan. 16), or  “How Hard Is It to Quit Coal? For Germany, 18 Years and $44 Billion” in the New York Times (Jan. 16) .  Reaction to the plan appears in  “Hambach Forest: Germany’s sluggish coal phaseout sparks anger” in Deutsche Welle which states that, although the iconic Hambach forest will be saved, activists and local residents are “appalled” because surrounding villages will not. General reactions from German media appear in English in  “’Historic compromise’ or “pact of unreason”? – media reactions to Germany’s coal exit deal” (Jan. 17).

An estimated 20,000 people are employed in Germany’s lignite industry — of which 15,000 work in open-pit mines and 5,000 in lignite power plants. For them,  adjustment payments (not yet quantified) will be provided until 2043, following the pattern of  provisions for workers in the hard coal sector phase-out which ended in 2018.  The coal workers’ union, Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie (IG BCE),  said the agreement would “set the benchmark” for a socially acceptable and climate-friendly transformation and would “lay the groundwork for linking social and climate justice.” The leader of the IG BCE stressed that the phase-out roadmap has to be complemented by a “phase-in roadmap” for renewables, which needs to be done urgently.

In addition to billions in compensation to the utility companies such as giant RWE, there are to be support payments for the affected states of Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia –  a total of 14 billion euros until 2038 for direct investments in the regions,  and another 26 billion euros provided by the federal government for  “further measures” to strengthen local economies.