Unions well-represented on Canada’s new Task Force on Just Transition – including Co-Chair Hassan Yussuff, President of the CLC

Hassan Yussuff head shot

Hassan Yussuff, President, Canadian Labour Congress 

On April 25, Canada’s  Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced the members of the the Just Transition Task Force for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities, to be co-chaired by Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Lois Corbett, Executive Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.  Biographies are here , revealing that six of the eleven members of the Task Force are unionists: two from the CLC, the Alberta Federation of Labour,  United Steelworkers, Unifor, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  The press release by the Canadian Labour Congress states: ““The world is watching. By launching this task force, Canada has the opportunity to set an international example on how to implement progressive policy to reduce emissions while keeping people and communities at the centre”.

The full Terms of Reference for the Just Transition Task Force were originally published in February 2018, and include a mandate to make recommendations to the Minister via an interim report and a final report due at the end of 2018. Members of the Task Force will meet with government officials at the local and provincial level, workers, stakeholders, academics, and also make site visits to coal plants and communities that will be affected by the accelerated phase-out of coal power in Canada.  The Task Force will no doubt benefit from the work of  Alberta’s  Advisory Panel on Coal Communities , which also examined the impacts on communities and workers of an end to coal-fired electricity by 2030, and proposed strategies to support workers through the transition. The Alberta Panel issued its recommendations  in a brief report, titled Supporting Workers and Communities in November 2017, resulting in a number of provincial  programs, described here .

At the international level, Canada has been active since joining with the United Kingdom to launch the Powering Past Coal Alliance in November 2017 at the Conference of the Parties (COP23), in Bonn in 2017.  Updates on that initiative are available from this link.  As of April 2018, there are over 60 countries and private businesses in the alliance. An April 2018 release  reports that Canada and the U.K. will collaborate with Bloomberg Philanthropies on the goals of the Alliance, including to produce research and case studies on the issue.   Also, at the One Planet Summit in December 2017,  Canada announced its partnership with the World Bank Group and the International Trade Union Confederation, to accelerate the transition from coal-fired electricity to clean sources in developing countries.

Even before the Kinder Morgan fight, Canada is falling short on its climate goals

As we have noted in previous posts in the WCR  , many voices have warned that Canada’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is falling short of its commitments under the Paris Agreement.  Three recent reports provide more evidence.

On March 27,  Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada—A Collaborative Report from Auditors General—March 2018  was released by the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and for the first time ever, compiles the findings of the federal and provincial Auditors –General, with the exception of Quebec, which did not participate.  The results are presented for each province, and summarized as: Seven out of 12 provincial and territorial governments did not have overall targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; governments have different targets from each other, and of those that have targets, only two (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) are on track to meet their targets. Most governments had not fully assessed climate change risks, and their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consist of high-level goals, with little guidance on how to implement actions.  At the federal level, the report states: “ even though Environment and Climate Change Canada was the federal lead on climate change, the Department did not provide the leadership, guidance, and tools to other departments and agencies to help them assess their risks and adapt to climate change. Moreover, only 5 federal departments and agencies of the 19 examined undertook comprehensive assessments of the climate change risks to their mandates.”  There was limited coordination of climate change action within most governments. Some governments were not reporting on progress in a regular and timely manner.

The second analysis is from the Pembina Institute, which partnered with the Energy Innovation of San Francisco to develop the Energy Policy Simulator (EPS), an economic modelling tool to evaluate the effectiveness and costs of  energy and climate policies for Canada. Enhancing Canada’s Climate Commitments: Building on the Pan-Canadian Framework applies the Energy Policy Simulator to three different policy scenarios, including the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change   , and concludes “ that even if the PCF is fully implemented, 2030 emissions will exceed Canada’s goal by 161 million metric tons (MMT), a gap 3.7 times larger than the 44 MMT shortfall predicted by Canada’s government. Extending and strengthening PCF policies would allow Canada to come much closer to its target, save money, and save human lives.”  The Energy Policy Simulator is offered here  as a free, open-source app available for other researchers to use.

Finally, the devil is in the details when author Barry Saxifrage of the National Observer took a close look at the federal government’s report to the UNFCC in December 2017, the 7th National Communications report. In “Canada’s climate gap twice as big as claimed – 59 million tonne carbon snafu” (March 27)  , the author contends that “The Trudeau government says its proposed climate policies will get Canada to within 66 million tonnes of our 2030 climate target. That’s already a big gap, but the federal accounting also assumes we can subtract a huge chunk of Canada’s emissions.”  That “huge chunk” refers to a further 59 MtCO2 of carbon emissions which the government omits to tally as part of our Canadian emissions, presuming that offsets will be purchased by Ontario and Quebec through their participation in the cap and trade market of the Western Climate Initiative with California. So far, the U.S. has not agreed to such an arrangement.

On a more optimistic note, a new report states:  “Canada can reach its 2030 target if the federal, provincial and territorial governments implement climate policies in a timely and rigorous way. The Pan-Canadian Framework has the policy tools needed to achieve the target but measures will have to be ratcheted up to fill the 66 million tonne gap.” In  Canada’s Climate Change Commitments: Deep Enough?  ,authors Dave Sawyer and Chris Bataille use economic modelling to show that Canada could honour its Paris GHG reduction commitment (30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030) and still achieve GDP growth of at least 38 per cent. They compare this to a GDP growth of 39% if Canada took no action to reduce greenhouse gases.   The report calls for transformation changes, specifically: Building exclusively net-zero energy homes, i.e. buildings that generate as much energy as they consume. • The electrification of transportation, so that cars, trucks and trains can be powered by renewable energy rather than oil, which contributes to climate change. • Wholesale shifts away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. • Driving down energy needs by making industry, buildings and vehicles more energy efficient. • Embracing the full potential of energy storage to maximize the use of renewable electricity and building infrastructure to trade  that electricity between jurisdictions.

Canada’s Climate Change Commitments: Deep Enough?  was released on April 12 jointly by four environmental advocacy organizations: Environmental Defence, Climate Action Network, The Pembina Institute, and the Conservation Council Of New Brunswick.

 

Federal budget gets high marks for conservation initiatives but disappoints on green economy spending

Budget 2018, Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class   was tabled by the federal government on February 27.  The Globe and Mail published a concise overview in  “Federal budget highlights: Twelve things you need to know” .  A compilation of reaction and analysis from the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis is here , including statements from CCPA partner organizations such as the United Steelworkers   and the Canadian Labour Congress.

budget_analysis 2018The section of the Budget which relates most to a low carbon economy is in Chapter 4: Advancement .  The Budget commits an unprecedented $1.3 billion over 5 years for conservation partnerships and the protection of lands, waters, and species at risk – prompting the Pew Trust in the U.S. to call the biodiversity targets “an example to the world” in  “With earth in peril, Canada steps up” .  Responses from the 19 environmental advocacy members of the Green Budget Coalition are compiled here , applauding the  “historic” and “landmark” investments in the Budget.  DeSmog Canada summarizes the provisions, which aim to protect 17 per cent of land and 10 per cent of oceans by 2020 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and commit to recognizing  Indigenous leadership.

But on the climate change front?

The National Observer writes: “Budget delivers new conservation fund but avoids climate commitments” (Feb. 27) , highlighting the Budget allocations announced for the  the  $2.6 Billion Low Carbon Economy Fund  (announced in 2016) : $420 million will go to Ontario, for retrofitting houses and reducing emissions from farms;  $260 million will go to  Quebec for farming and forestry best practices, as well as energy retrofitting, and incentives for industry;  $162 million will go to British Columbia, partly for reforestation of public forests; $150 million will go to Alberta for energy efficiency programs for farmers and ranchers, for  renewable energy in Indigenous communities, and for restoring forests after wildfires;  $51 million is going to New Brunswick and $56 million to Nova Scotia for energy retrofitting. Allocations for Manitoba will be announced later, and for Saskatchewan if it signs on to the Pan-Canadian Framework.

The Pembina Institute reaction is also fairly positive in  “Budget 2018 builds on last year’s commitment to climate change” . “We are pleased to see that Budget 2018 allocates $109 million over five years to develop, implement, administer, and enforce the federal carbon pollution pricing system. …Another $20 million over five years is allocated to fulfill the PCF’s (Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change) commitment to assess the effectiveness of its measures and identify best practices. ”

Less positive reaction:  “Council of Canadians disappointed by Trudeau government’s budget 2018” (Feb.27), which  points out that the government has allocated $600 million to host the G7 summit in June 2018 in Quebec,  yet the Budget fails to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, as it committed to at the G20 meetings and in the October 2015 election.  Elizabeth May of the Green Party also “laments squandered opportunities” and points out that “Budget 2018 does not touch subsidies to fossil fuels in the oil patch and for fracked natural gas”.

In advance of Budget 2018, the Canadian Labour Congress published “What Canada’s unions would like to see in the federal budget” – a broad perspective which included a call for “a  bold green economic program of targeted investments over the next five years for renewable energy development and infrastructure” … and “ the establishment of Just Transition training and adjustment funds for workers affected by climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy, automation, the digitisation of work, and job losses caused by trade agreements like CETA.” The CLC response  to the actual Budget emphasizes the positive  developments on issues like pharmacare and pay equity, but is silent on the green economy issues. Canadian Union of Public Employees’ reaction is similar.

 

Alternative Budget proposals for a Just Transition and a low carbon economy

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its 23rd Alternative Budget (AFB) on February 22 in Ottawa, in advance of the federal government’s February 26 Budget release. According to the summary at Behind the Numbers “Our budget puts forward bold progressive policy ideas rooted in a rigorous economic and fiscal framework. Our approach considers not just standard budget items but delivers a gender-based analysis, examines income distribution effects, and projects the impacts on poverty rates.” High priority areas for the CCPA include universal child care, pharmacare, gender equity, free tuition, and a green, low carbon economy.

The report argues that the current, relatively low unemployment levels make this an opportune time to begin  “in earnest, the just transition to a green jobs future.” In a section called  “Industrial Strategy and Just Transition” the report  calls for a National Decarbonization Strategy to be developed through broad consultation, and to act as a co-ordinating body for other AFB proposals – notably an enhanced Low Carbon Economy Fund to support cities and infrastructure investments, and a trade promotion strategy.  A new $500-million Just Transition Transfer (JTT) is proposed,  to flow federal funds to provinces –  for workers and communities  affected through actions under the  National Decarbonization Strategy or for existing provincial just transition programs, such as Alberta’s Coal Workforce Transition Fund.  Finally, the AFB calls for  a new $1Billion Strategic Training Fund to increase training capacity at colleges and trade schools  – with the funds contingent on improved representation of  women, racialized Canadians, immigrants, First Nations and other groups that have been historically excluded from the skilled trades.

Regarding the environment, some of the  top-level goals are : Remove all direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuel exploration, development and transportation; enforce a stringent national carbon pricing standard  (rising to $50 per tonne by 2020); contribute Canada’s fair share of global climate financing; improve energy efficiency for Canadian homes, with $600 million annually to offset the costs of  retrofitting and construction; create a network of protected areas covering 17% of Canada’s land and freshwater and 10% of its oceans; strengthen environmental protection laws and make advances toward sustainable fisheries, and invest $50 million annually for a stronger environmental data and science system at Statistics Canada.

Read the full Alternative Federal Budget 2018  in English  or in French.

National Energy Board is a casualty of Canada’s new legislation for environmental assessment

On February 8, following 14 months of consultation and review, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change introduced the mammoth Bill C-69 An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts  . The government press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada highlights these talking points about the proposed legislation-  It will:  Restore public trust through increased public participation; Included transparent, science-based decisions; Achieve more comprehensive impact assessments by expanding the types of impacts studied to include health, social and economic impacts, as well as impacts on Indigenous Peoples, over the long-term. Also, it promises  “One project, one review” – through a new Impact Assessment Agency, (replacing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) which will be the lead agency, working with a new Canadian Energy Regulator (replacing the National Energy Board), as well as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Offshore Boards.  Further, it will make decisions timely; Revise the project list; Protect water, fish and navigation ; and Increase funding.  The detailed government  explanation of the changes  is here ; other summaries appeared in the National Observer in “ McKenna unveils massive plan to overhaul Harper environmental regime”  ; “Ottawa to scrap National Energy Board, overhaul environmental assessment process for major projects”   in CBC News; and in the reaction by The Council of Canadians, which expresses reservations about the protection of navigable waters, and these “Quick Observations”:
“1- the current industry-friendly Calgary-based National Energy Board would be replaced by a proposed Calgary-based (and likely industry-friendly) Canadian Energy Regulator
2- it includes the ‘one project, one review’ principle as demanded by industry
3- assessments of major projects must be completed within two years, a ‘predictable timeline’ also demanded by industry
4- the bill notes the ‘traditional knowledge of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada’ but does not include the words ‘free, prior and informed consent’, a key principle of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
5- McKenna said that no current projects (including the Kinder Morgan pipeline which crosses more than 1,300 water courses) would be sent back to ‘the starting line’
6- the government is seeking to implement the law by mid-2019.”

An overview of other reaction appears in   “New Federal Environmental Assessment Law Earns Praise from Climate Hawks, Cautious Acceptance from Fossils” from the Energy Mix.  Reaction from West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) is here ; and from  Environmental Defence here .  The Canadian Environmental Law Association sees some forward progress but warns that “the Impact Assessment Act is marred by a number of serious flaws that must be fixed in the coming months.”    Reaction from the Pembina Institute says “Today’s legislation improves the federal assessment process by centralizing authority for impact assessment under a single agency; providing a broader set of criteria for assessing projects including impacts to social and health outcomes; and removing the limitations on public participation that were put in place in 2012…. Building on today’s legislation, we would like to see progress towards the establishment of an independent Canadian Energy Information Agency to ensure that project reviews include Paris Agreement-compliant supply and demand scenarios for coal, oil and gas.”

Companion legislation, also the product of the lengthy Environmental Regulation Review, was introduced on February 6, Bill C-68 An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence  (Press release is here ; there is also a Backgrounder comparing the old and new legislation). Most importantly, Bill C-68 restores a stronger protection of fish and fish habitat – the HADD provision – to the definition used before the 2012 amendments by the Harper government. (HADD = the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat).  Reaction is generally very favourable:   The David Suzuki Foundation says : “The most important changes we were looking for are part of these amendments” and West Coast Environmental Law says that the proposed legislation   “meets the mark”.  Reaction is also favourable from the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax . And from the Alberta Environmental Law Centre, some background in “Back to what we once HADD: Fisheries Act Amendments are Introduced” .

no consentAnd finally, where does the new environmental assessment process leave Canada’s Indigenous people?  The new legislation includes the creation of an Indigenous Advisory Committee and requires that an expert on Indigenous rights be included on the board of  the new Canadian Energy Regulator body, according to a CBC report, “Indigenous rights question remains in Ottawa’s planned environmental assessment overhaul” . Minister McKenna is also quoted as saying the government will “try really hard” to conform to the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples   – a statement that is not satisfactory to some Indigenous leaders.    See “Indigenous consultation and environmental assessments” (Feb. 7)  in Policy Options for a discussion of the issue of “free, prior and informed consent”.  On February 7, Private member’s Bill C-262, an Act to Harmonize Canada’s Laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed 2nd reading in the House of Commons.