Newfoundland and Labrador approves $35 million to support offshore oil and gas, then strikes a new Net-Zero Advisory Council

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the formation of a new Net-Zero Advisory Council in a press release on December 13.  The Council will focus on how to achieve the 2030 and net-zero targets through “ near term and foundational actions the government and others can take”.   The goal is “to grow the green economy, while considering a just transition and affordability. The Council will also advise on global trends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the importance and use of carbon sinks.”   The eight members of the Advisory Council are mainly from business and academic backgrounds, including  Newfoundland-born Angela V. Carter,  Associate Professor at University of Waterloo and author of Fossilized: Environmental Policy in Canada’s Petro-Provinces (UBC, 2020).  

This may prove to be a heavy lift for the Advisory Council, given the November announcement by the Newfoundland Premier that $35-million from the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Oil and Gas Industry Recovery Assistance Fund has been directed toward 26 projects connected to the offshore oil and gas industry. The investment is forecast to create or maintain a total of 230 jobs . A CBC article reports on the NDP criticism of the announcement, emphasizing the timing, just 10 days after the end of COP26. The article also quotes the  Newfoundland Premier’s sales pitch for Newfoundland offshore oil:  “We have an incredible product that is incredibly valued because of its low carbon footprint. It’s not landlocked and…we can deliver that to the world right now during this transition over time.” 

Labour unions, pension funds and divestment: resolutions from Alberta, Ontario conventions and a U.S. report from Stand.earth

Labour Confronts the Climate Crisis” appeared in the November issue of Our Times magazine, written by James Hutt of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). He highlights the notable speakers from the November convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour, but states that the main discussion at the convention focused on if and how unions can fight climate change through divestment, ethical investing, and active involvement in their pension fund management.

From the article :  

“  Many speakers underlined that divestment may have limited financial impact but can be very effective as a political tool. Democratic institutions, in particular unions, can use it to make a powerful statement and undermine the social legitimacy of the fossil fuel industry…

…. speakers concluded that there are a number of important actions unions should take regarding their pension funds, including demanding transparency and input into how funds are being invested. Unions can also advocate for investing in community-led renewable initiatives, and they can help these initiatives scale up.

The final panel recognized that while pensions do have a role to play, ultimately our true power lies elsewhere. As workers and unions engaged in the climate fight, it’s clear that we must go beyond pension-board tables and the confines of capital markets.”

At its annual convention held in early December, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)  passed three environmental resolutions, announced and summarized in a press release (Dec. 4).  These included calls for 1.  just transition for workers,  2. a green new deal that includes providing union jobs through an expanded public sector,  modernizes public infrastructure , recognizes Indigenous rights and treaties; and builds a just society, and 3. a  call for the  Alberta Investment Management Corp.  (AIMCo) to “quantify the climate risks of its investments and adopt a path to net zero” in the pension funds it manages.  Response from AIMCo is presented in an article in Benefits Canada , which notes that AUPE members have a seat on the AIMCo sponsors’ Board through their membership in the Local Authorities Pension Plan.   

AUPE members are right to be concerned with the performance of AIMCo – as described in the report published on December 15 by the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta. Can AIMCo be Fixed?  traces the controversial moves by the UCP government to take control of public sector pensions, as well as AIMCo’s risky volatility trading strategy (VOLTS), which led to a $2 billion loss in 2020.  The authors at Parkland conclude that “A thorough rethink of AIMCo’s board of directors and ownership structure is required in light of the troubling actions by the UCP government, AIMCo’s poor performance as an investment manager in recent years, and the serious structural weaknesses of AIMCo”.  The report makes five policy recommendations for change, none of which relate to its management of climate risks, but focus on the ownership and governance structure, including: Eliminate the Crown’s sole ownership of AIMCo and “Implement a new ownership structure with the government holding a minority position to prevent governments using AIMCo funds for their own political purposes”.

The Parkland report is the latest of several which have condemned the Alberta pension manager for its bias to oil and gas investments, described in a previous WCR article when it invested in the Coastal GasLink pipeline in 2020, and in the 2019 report from Progress Alberta, Alberta’s Failed Oil and Gas Bailout .

From the U.S., a new report released by Stand.earth and the Climate Safe Pensions Network argues for the importance of divestment.  The Quiet Culprit: Pension Funds Bankrolling the Climate Crisis  details the fossil fuel exposure of 14 public pension funds, revealing that  $81.6 billion is invested in coal, oil, and gas. The report notes, for example, that nine of the fourteen funds  have invested over $281 million in TC Energy, the company behind the controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline violating Indigenous rights in Wet’suwet’en land. The pension funds also have over $3.24 billion invested in big tar sands miners Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Suncor.  The conclusion?  “With over $46 trillion in assets worldwide, pension funds are among the largest institutional investors in fossil fuels. These investments have dangerously underperformed the rest of the market, making public pensions’ fossil fuels investments inherently risky….The fastest way for pensions to address climate change is to divest fossil fuel holdings and invest in just and equitable climate solutions.”

Encouraging electric vehicles: U.S. Buy American policies threaten Canadian auto worker jobs

U.S. President Biden’s Build Back Better Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in November, including  incentives to encourage adoption of electric vehicles: a consumer tax credit of $7,500 for electric vehicles made in the U.S., and an additional $4,500 tax credit if the vehicle was made with union labour.  The news was welcomed by U.S. auto workers’ union UAW, but in Canada, workers and the government are alarmed. A press release from Unifor, the Canadian auto workers’ union, is titled “President Biden needs to realize he is shooting U.S. auto sector in the foot” , stating: “The fact is U.S. assembly plants couldn’t survive without the engines and other components we make here. ….. For that matter, he can’t build a sustainable BEV industry without the nickel, cobalt, manganese and other minerals coming out of Canada, either.” The business-oriented Financial Post published “Why America’s rush to EVs might kill the entire Canadian auto parts business”. As reported by CBC News, federal government officials have threatened retaliatory trade measures, arguing that the Buy American provisions amount to a 34 per cent tariff on electric vehicles assembled in Canada and violate the terms of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) .  An alternate solution is described in  “Canada willing to ‘align’ EV incentives with U.S. to avert tax-credit crisis: Trudeau” (Toronto Star, Dec.13).  CTV  News offers an Explainer which also summarizes reactions from government, industry, and labour. 

In Ontario, where most Canadian auto jobs are located,  the provincial government announced on December 9 the creation of the Premier’s Council on U.S. Trade and Industry Competitiveness, to be chaired by Unifor National President Jerry Dias, working with the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. From the press release: “This new Council, with the full support of our government, will continue to advocate for Ontario against unfair Buy American policies by highlighting the cost of protectionism to businesses on both sides of the border and promoting a Buy North American approach to our auto sector.” 

On October 17, Ontario had announced Phase 2 of its Driving Prosperity – The Future of Ontario’s Auto Sector  policies “to secure production mandates for hybrid and electric vehicles, create a domestic battery ecosystem, and strengthen Ontario’s position as a North American automotive and electric vehicle (EV) innovation hub.”   To date, the Ontario government strategy has been to incentivize manufacturers but resist the kinds of consumer incentives Biden has proposed, as described in “Doug Ford talks big on EVs but won’t reintroduce rebates”  (National Observer, Dec. 13).

Increasing Heat stress as an occupational health issue

A new report from the European Trade Union Institute is a call to action for preventive management of extreme heat conditions as part of occupational health and safety policies for government and workplaces.  Heatwaves as an occupational hazard: The impact of heat and heatwaves on workers’ health, safety and wellbeing and on social inequalities was released on December 2, and argues that heat impacts go far beyond heat illnesses such as heat stroke, since workers are exposed to other factors of heat stress and also because heat exacerbates other underlying conditions and other occupational hazards. The report includes appendices, for example:  the “Resolution on the need for EU action to protect workers from high temperatures”, adopted at the Executive Committee Meeting of the European Trade Union Confederation in December 2018, (pages 60-61) and “An agreement for a company action plan” (page 62-65), a detailed guide for developing workplace action plans, to be developed in cooperation with companies, workers, and workplace representatives.   

Although the ETUI report includes summary statistics about occupational heat stress, the latest facts and statistics about all the health impacts of climate change appear in the 2021 edition of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, released in October just before COP26.  Amongst the highlighted findings: Indicator 1.1.3: the past four decades saw an increase in the number of hours in which temperatures were too high for safe outdoor exercise; Indicator 1.1.4: “In a rising trend since at least 1990, 295 billion hours of potential work were lost across the globe in 2020 due to heat exposure—ie, the equivalent to 88 work hours per employed person.” (Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India had the greatest losses – with the equivalent to 216–261 hours lost per employed person in 2020).  Indicator 4.1.3 discusses  loss of earnings from heat-related labour capacity reduction, finding that that the impact on workers’ earnings is significant, both for the worker and for the GDP of countries.

The Lancet Countdown report analyses all health impacts, including extreme weather events, forest fires, vector-borne diseases etc. and overall, concludes that  “As with COVID-19, the health impacts of climate change are inequitable, with disproportionate effects on the most susceptible populations in every society, including people with low incomes, members of minority groups, women, children, older adults, people with chronic diseases and disabilities, and outdoor workers.”  It provides sophisticated data analysis on  44 indicators, organised in five “domains”: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerabilities; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement.

Surveys of oil and gas workers show their willingness to retrain and move to clean energy jobs

International recruitment firm Brunel International and Oilandgasjobsearch.com released the latest version of their annual survey on November 30, showing key employment trends such as recruitment challenges, compensation, energy transition, job engagement, and retention in the global energy sector.  Energy Outlook Report 2021-2022  is summarized with key highlights here , including that more than half of the oil and gas workers surveyed want to work in the renewable energy sector – a sentiment stronger amongst workers ages 25 – 29 years old.   The survey also highlights a high degree of “job volatility” in the wider energy and extraction sector, with 44% of workers in oil and gas, 42% each in mining, power, and renewables, and 39% in nuclear saying they were looking for a career change in the next five years.   The full survey is available for download here.

Although not as widely reported, a Canadian survey in the summer of 2021 showed a similar appetite for career change. Iron and Earth, the Canadian organization of fossil fuel workers whose mission is “to empower fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers to build and implement climate solutions” , commissioned Abacus Data to conduct a survey of 300 Canadians working in the oil, gas or coal industry. The survey report probed general attitudes to a net zero economy, but more particularly asked about attitudes and motivations to skills training and retraining, with breakdowns by age, gender, Indigenous/minority status, and region.  The  top level finding:  69% of all the workers surveyed were very interested or somewhat interested in  “making a career switch to, or expanding your work involvement in, a job in the net-zero economy”.   These findings are consistent with an anecdotal report “Workers Pick Job Stability Over Higher Wages as Oil Rig Operator Scrambles for Crews” (The Energy Mix, Sept. 14), which reports on the recruitment difficulties of the oil and gas industry. The article quotes the head of the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors, who speaks of shift in the industry, “citing the premium many younger workers place on work-life balance, along with the federal government’s talk about just transition legislation.”

That same Canadian Association of Energy Contractors released their industry forecast for 2022 in November.  It reports that  drilling activity for oil and gas wells has “bounced back” from an all-time low in June 2020, and “total jobs in 2021 were up 54 per cent year-over-year from 2020, with an increase of 9,734 jobs. In 2022, CAOEC expects another increase of approximately 7,280 total jobs to 34,925, a 26 per cent increase year-over-year.” However, clearly oil and gas workers are right to be concerned about job stability, as the CAOEC continues: “In comparison to 2014, we anticipate total jobs will still be a loss of 56 per cent from the peak of 78,793 total jobs in 2014.”

Audit of coal workers’ transition promised in 2022; audit of green recovery funds finds job retention not measured

The federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development  tabled several reports in the House of Commons on November 25, including  Report 5—Lessons Learned from Canada’s Record on Climate Change. Well-documented and concise, it summarizes the history of climate policies and international agreements over the last 30 years, and concludes: “Repeated commitments, strategies, and action plans to reduce emissions in Canada have not yielded results…..Despite progress in some areas, such as public electricity and heat generation, Canadian emissions have actually increased by more than 20% since 1990.” The report identifies the central flaw of “policy incoherence”, highlighting the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Onshore Emissions Reduction Fund as examples.  Eight “lessons” are discussed, with accompanying opportunities for the future, with an overarching lesson which calls  for greater leadership and coordination amongst all levels of government . Lesson 2 states that “Canada’s economy is still dependent on emission‑intensive sectors” and in a section entitled “Shielding workers and communities”,  the report highlights the findings of the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities. Most importantly, the Commissioner promises a performance audit to Parliament in 2022,  “examining Canada’s just transition for coal workers.”  In the discussion about the need for a national energy policy, and report  poses  “Considerations for parliamentarians” which include:  “How much financial support does Canada provide to the oil and gas industry? Could this support be reallocated to workers?” and “How can the federal government identify and assist communities and workers most affected by the transition to a low‑carbon economy?”

Also of interest: The Commissioner’s Report #4:  Emissions Reductions Fund – Natural Resources Canada, which is a scathing rebuke to the department and a catalogue of poor, hasty design and inaccurate measurement of the impacts of the Onshore Emissions Reduction Fund. The Fund, launched in 2020 as part of the federal Covid-19 Economic Response Plan, offered $675 million in the form of interest-free loans and non-repayable grants with the stated goals of helping land-based oil and gas companies attract investment, retain jobs, and reduce emissions. Amongst the failings:  Natural Resources Canada failed to use recognized GHG accounting principles to measure the GHG reductions, and awarded maximum grants to all applicants without assessing value for tax-payers money.  Further,   “Natural Resources Canada indicated that one of the rationales for the Onshore Program was to help maintain jobs in the oil and gas sector. However, we found that the department did not include job retention as a feature in the program’s design. For example, it did not list job retention as an eligibility condition or an assessment criterion for funding decisions. The department also did not include job retention or creation in the oil and gas sector as a performance indicator for the Onshore Program. However, it planned to request this information from funded companies as part of the contribution agreements’ reporting requirements.”  Natural Resources Canada has accepted this criticism and promises to  “provide annual and periodic reporting on greenhouse gas emission reductions and jobs (direct and indirect) from ERF‑funded projects, as new information becomes available.”   The new Minister of Natural Resources , Jonathan Wilkinson, announced a review of the program on November 26  

COP26 takeaways for Canada and the labour movement

At the conclusion of COP26 on November 13, the world has been left with the Glasgow Climate Pact and numerous side deals that were made throughout the two weeks of presentations and negotiations. Carbon Brief notes that the final Glasgow Pact is actually set out in three documents –with most attention falling on this paragraph in the 11-page “cover document” (aka 1/CMA.3), which:

“Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing  targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards a just transition;”

Fortunately, Carbon Brief analyzed all three documents, as well as side events and pledges in its summary of Key Outcomes .The International Institute for Sustainable Development has also compiled a detailed, day by day summary through its Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

Reactions range widely, but the November 13 tweet from @Greta Thunberg captures the essence:  “The #COP26 is over. Here’s a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah. But the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever.”  Veteran climate reporter Fiona Harvey writes “What are the key points of the Glasgow Climate Pact?” in The Guardian, representing the more positive consensus about the success of diplomacy, and The New York Times provides overviews from a U.S. perspective inNegotiators Strike a Climate Deal, but World Remains Far From Limiting Warming” (Nov. 13)  and  “Climate Promises Made in Glasgow Now Rest With a Handful of Powerful Leaders” (Nov 14). In contrast, George Monbiot argues that the Fridays for Future movement and civil society have demonstrated the power of a committed minority in “After the failure of Cop26, there’s only one last hope for our survival” and states: “Our survival depends on raising the scale of civil disobedience until we build the greatest mass movement in history, mobilising the 25% who can flip the system. 

More details, with  COP26 highlights most relevant to Canadians and workers:   

The National Observer has compiled their coverage in a series of articles titled Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change – which includes a summary “Glasgow didn’t deliver on 1.5 C, but not all is lost” . A quick summary appears in The Toronto Star “What’s in the Glasgow Climate Deal and what does it mean for Canada”  (Nov. 15). Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac) compiles a range of reactions in “Canadian civil society reacts to COP26: incremental inadequate progress; a reason to mobilize“.

Key Issues:

On Just Transition:

In what could be considered progress, for the first time the language of Just Transition is included in the main text of The Glasgow Pact, as section 85 states that the Parties: “… recognizes the need to ensure just transitions that promote sustainable development and eradication of poverty, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs, including through making financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emission and climate-resilient development, including through deployment and transfer of technology, and provision of support to developing country Parties”

In addition, a  Just Transition Declaration  was agreed upon by 15 governments, including Canada, UK, USA, much of the EU, and New Zealand.  The ILO played a key role in drafting the Declaration and  released its own press release here . The Declaration itself cites the preamble from the Paris Agreement and the 2015 ILO Guidelines for Just Transition, and states:

“signatories recognize their role to ensure a transition that is “ fully inclusive and benefits the most vulnerable through the more equitable distribution of resources, enhanced economic and political empowerment, improved health and wellbeing, resilience to shocks and disasters and access to skills development and employment opportunities. This should also display: a commitment to gender equality, racial equality and social cohesion; protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples; disability inclusion; intergenerational equity and young people; the promotion of women and girls; marginalised persons’ leadership and involvement in decision-making; and recognition of the value of their knowledge and leadership; and support for the collective climate action of diverse social groups. Social dialogue as well as rights at work are indispensable building blocks of sustainable development and must be at the centre of policies for strong, sustainable, and inclusive growth and development.”    

On November 10, the closing statement of the Trade Union Delegation to the COP26 Plenary session was delivered by Richard Hardy, National Secretary for Prospect union  in Scotland, a member of the General Council of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, and a member of the Scottish Governments Just Transition Commission.  From that statement:

“ I will speak on behalf of the 210 million workers in 165 countries represented by the global trade union movement …….. the global trade union movement is happy that “Just Transition” has finally found its way in the language used by many parties and observers. We saw and appreciate the adoption by donor countries of the declaration on “Supporting the Conditions for a Just Transition Internationally” and applaud the strong commitments made by signatories. We urge the parties to continue to work towards a Just Transition one that is about jobs, plans and investment. Once again, we call on parties to step up their NDCs and create the millions of good quality jobs and decent work with your climate policies and measures, good quality jobs and decent work which the world desperately requires…. Unions need a voice at the table in social dialogue processes that deliver on jobs, just transition plans and investments.”   

Reaction from other unions: A  joint statement by the UK Trade Union delegation to the COP President on November 10 calls for increased engagement on just transition, climate action, labour and human rights. Further, it states:   “We applaud the UK COP Presidency’s role in preparing the Declaration on “Supporting the Conditions for a Just transition Internationally”, which was launched last week. But this is a parallel initiative, and not part of the binding UNFCCC agreements. Similar efforts need to be made to incorporate just transition and labour rights into the official COP26 negotiations.”  The International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) reaction is here and here (Nov. 11), and from IndustriALL, here.

On Ending new fossil fuel production and subsidies

In his opening address to COP26 on November 1, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada “will cap oil and gas sector emissions today and ensure they decrease tomorrow at a pace and scale needed to reach net-zero by 2050”. (a statement reviewed in “Amid urgent calls for action at COP26, Trudeau repeats pledge to cap oil and gas emissions” (National Observer, Nov. 1) .  Before leaving COP, the Prime Minister also committed up to $1 billion in international funding for the transition away from coal. But when the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance  was officially launched on November 10, it was the government of Quebec which joined (having pre-empted the launch with their announcement on November 4 ).  

On November 4, a  federal press release states that Canada has signed the Statement on International Public Support for the Clean Energy Transition, stating that …”Canada and other signatories will further prioritize support for clean technology and end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel sector by the end of 2022, except in limited and clearly defined circumstances that are consistent with the 1.5 degree Celsius warming limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement.” [emphasis by the editor].  Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac) sums up that commitment and  hopeful reactions by many  in “Canada joins historic commitment to end international fossil fuel finance by end of 2022” . However, for context, the CAN-Rac press release also notes Canada’s Big Oil Reality Check, a report  released on November 3  by Oil Change International and Environmental Defence Canada. It assesses the climate plans of eight Canadian oil and gas producers (including Cenovus, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd , ExxonMobil and Imperial Oil ,and  Shell Canada), and concludes that their current business plans to 2030 put them  on track to expand annual oil and gas production in Canada by nearly 30% above 2020 levels.  Also, at a COP side event on November 12,  The Fossil Fueled 5 report called out the governments of Canada, the U.K., the United States, Norway, and Australia for the huge gap between their net zero targets and climate pledges and their public support for fossil fuel production. In the case of Canada, the report states that the government has provided approximately $17 billion in public finance to three fossil fuel pipelines between 2018 and 2020. The Fossil Fueled 5 was produced  by the University of Sussex in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and their regional partners in each of the 5 countries – Uplift (UK), Oil Change International (USA), Greenpeace (Norway), The Australia Institute (Australia) and Stand.earth (Canada). 

On Deforestation:  The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use seems especially important to Canadians, given the current flooding and devastation in British Columbia which is part of a “Lethal Mix of cascading climate impacts” . The Declaration, endorsed by Canada, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is explained by The Narwhal in  “COP26 deforestation deal could be a win for climate, but Canada needs to address true impacts of forest loss” (Nov. 10) and in Leaders promise to halt ‘chainsaw massacre’ of world’s forests” (National Observer, Nov. 2). However, the New York Times exposes “The billions set aside in Glasgow to save forests represent a fraction of spending to support fossil fuels”  ( Nov.2)  and Energy Mix writes  “Glasgow Forest Pact Runs Short on Funding while Canada ‘Gives Industrial Logging a Free Pass’” (Energy Mix, Nov. 3). The Energy Mix also notes the failure of previous such Declarations to make an impact on emissions – especially in Canada and Brazil – as explained in Missing the forest: How carbon loopholes for logging hinder Canada’s climate leadership, a report released pre-COP by Environmental Defence Canada, Nature Canada, Nature Québec, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

Zero Emissions Cars Declaration  launched a coalition which includes six major automakers ( Ford, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors ,Volvo, BYD, and Jaguar Land Rover), and 30 national governments  – including Britain, Canada, India (the world’s 4th largest market) , Mexico,  the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, Croatia, Ghana and Rwanda, and others. Sub-national signatories included British Columbia and Quebec in Canada, and California and Washington State.  The federal U.S. government, China and Japan did not sign, nor did Toyota, Volkswagen, and the Nissan-Renault alliance. Signatories pledged to work toward phasing out sales of new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 worldwide, and by 2035 in “leading markets.”  The New York Times has more here

Union participation at COP26: 

A webinar in October, co-hosted by IndustriALL Global Union and IndustriAll Europe was titled  ‘On the Way to COP26 – Industry, Energy and Mine Workers Demand Just Transition’, and saw the launch of a Joint Declaration  on Just Transition by the two internationals. (IndustriALL also released its own Just Transition for Workers guide).  From the  International Trade Union Confederation,  an overview of trade union demands going in to the COP26 meetings was released as The Frontlines Briefing document ;  the ITUC also provides  a schedule of the activities of the official Trade Union Delegation  – at 25 pages, an impressive record of union participation in events and negotiations.  

The Canadian Labour Congress sponsored  a panel: Powering Past Coal with Just Transition: The Trade Union Perspective, with CLC Vice-President Larry Rousseau  and Tara Peel joined by Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault, as well as Sharan Burrow,  International Trade Union Confederation general secretary as moderator. Speakers included union leaders and government/ministerial representatives from Canada, South Africa and the US.

Another panel, Just Transition in the Steel and Energy Industry took place on November 8 and is available on YouTube .  It launched Preparing for a Just Transition: Meeting green skill needs for a sustainable steel industry, a report written by Community Union and researchers from the Cardiff University School of Sciences.  It reports on the views of 100 steelworkers in the U.K.,  revealing that 92% feel a green transition is necessary, 78% feel it will bring a radical transformation to their industry, and 55% feel they already possess the skills necessary to make the transition.  79% had not been consulted by their employers, leading to a recommendation for more worker voice.  The survey also delved into what skills would be needed.   

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) mounted a focused campaign, including a new report co- released on November 10  with C40 Cities . Their original research modelled the impacts of doubling public transportation in five major cities – Houston, Jakarta, Johannesburg, London and Milan and demonstrated that it  create tens of millions of jobs worldwide (summarized by an ITF press release and available as the full report,  Making COP26 Count: How investing in public transport this decade can protect our jobs, our climate, our future .  

Also on November 10,  the ITF announced that a tripartite Just Transition Maritime Task Force will be formed, to  drive decarbonization and support seafarers through shipping’s green transition.  Official partners include the UN Global Compact and the International Labour Organization, as well as the ITF representing workers and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), representing ship owners.  The ITF Sustainable Shipping Position Paper, titled The Green Horizon We See Beyond the Big Blue,  is available from this link .

Canada signs on to COP26 Just Transition Declaration

At the end of week one of the Conference of the Parties in Glasgow (COP26),  Canada signed on to the Just Transition Declaration, along with 14 other countries, including the UK, USA, much of the EU, and New Zealand.  The declaration cites the preamble from the Paris Agreement and the 2015 ILO Guidelines for Just Transition,  and states that signatories recognize their role to ensure a transition that is

“ fully inclusive and benefits the most vulnerable through the more equitable distribution of resources, enhanced economic and political empowerment, improved health and wellbeing, resilience to shocks and disasters and access to skills development and employment opportunities. This should also display: a commitment to gender equality, racial equality and social cohesion; protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples; disability inclusion; intergenerational equity and young people; the promotion of women and girls; marginalised persons’ leadership and involvement in decision-making; and recognition of the value of their knowledge and leadership; and support for the collective climate action of diverse social groups. Social dialogue as well as rights at work are indispensable building blocks of sustainable development and must be at the centre of policies for strong, sustainable, and inclusive growth and development.  

We recognise that a just transition is not the replacement of one industry with another, but a diversification toward a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive economy overall. Lastly, we recognise the importance of facilitating the transition from the informal to the formal economy, through social dialogue, to ensure that no one is left behind, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  

The Declaration provides more details about each of the objectives, and concludes with a statement that:  “We intend to include information on Just Transition efforts, where relevant, in our national Biennial Transparency Reports in the context of reporting on our policies and measures to achieve our Nationally Determined Contributions.” The ILO, which played a key role in drafting the Declaration, released its own press release and summary here.  Reaction from the International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) is here .

Note that much more was said about Just Transition at COP26 – much of it at side events or smaller panels. One example, the COP26 panel on Just Transition in the Steel and Energy Industry on November 8, available on YouTube here.  This panel was the occasion for the launch of Preparing for a Just Transition: Meeting green skill needs for a sustainable steel industry, a report written by Community Union and researchers from the Cardiff University School of Sciences.  The report provides an overview of decarbonization in the steel industry, but most importantly reports on the views of 100 steelworkers in the U.K., revealing that 92% feel a green transition is necessary, 78% feel it will bring a radical transformation to their industry, and 55% feel they already possess the skills necessary to make the transition.  79% had not been consulted by their employers, leading to a recommendation for more worker voice.  The survey also delved into what skills would be needed.  

Worker’s events at COP26: virtual and in-person

The UN Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow begins on October 31 and runs until November 12, with the world’s media in attendance to chronicle if the high expectations are being met.  A good source of news from a Canadian perspective is Canada’s National Observer, which will send reporters to Glasgow, and whose coverage has already begun, here .  

Some news from a worker’s point of view:   

Climate Jobs: Building a workforce for the climate emergency  will be released  to coincide with COP26, by the Campaign against Climate Change, a coalition of U.K. unions .  As of October 26, two chapters of the new report are available for free download:  Warm homes, healthy workplaces: climate jobs in buildings  and Creating a green, affordable and accessible network for all: climate jobs in transport.  The new report updates their 2014 report, One Million Climate Jobs.

Another U.K. organization, the COP26 Coalition, is a broader, civil society coalition which includes environment and development NGOs, labour  unions, grassroots community campaigns, faith groups, youth groups, migrant and racial justice networks. Their statement of demands is here .  The Coalition is organizing a Global Day of Climate Justice on November 6 – with events in Canada happening in Toronto and in Quebec City , along with a related event in Sherbrooke Quebec on Nov. 5th .  

In addition, COP26 Coalition has organized a People’s Climate Justice Summit  in Glasgow, composed of 150 sessions which will focus on indigenous struggles, racial justice, youth issues, and worker and labour union perspectives.   Many, but not all, worker-related sessions will be held on November 8 as a “Just Transition Hub” –  a full day of sessions hosted by the Friends of the Earth Scotland, Just Transition Partnership, Platform, STUC, TUC and War on Want.   The full program, with the ability to register is here :   those unable to travel to Glasgow can register as  “Online-  only” to receive a Zoom link for a livestream of some of the sessions.  The online program includes the opening panel for the Just Transition Hub:  “Here and Everywhere: Building our Power”, to be led by Asad Rehman, (War on Want), Sean Sweeney,(TUED), Roz Foyer, (STUC), and Denise Christie, (FBU). Other sessions available online include  “UK climate jobs rooted in global solidarity and climate justice”  and “Just Transition in Latin America, from Decarbonization to Transformation”.  

In-person only sessions, which tend to have a U.K. focus,  include: “Lessons from the Frontline: Climate crisis resistance from around the world”; “Are green jobs great jobs, or are green jobs rubbish jobs?”; “The Lucas Plan for Climate? How workers are fighting to future-proof industry”; “Geared Up: Campaigns for Greener Transport”;  “Air tight: Campaigns for home retrofits”;  “Organising the unorganised: tactics and strategies for power in new industries”; and  “Changing workplaces, changing jobs: organising for power in unionised workplaces” – a training session led by Prospect union.  Other sessions, outside of the Just Transition Hub, ( in-person only), include “Trade Unions and Climate Action”, a training session led by the Ella Baker School of Organizing and “International Trade Union Forum on Social and Ecological Transitions: what’s next?”,  reporting on the International Trade Union Forum on Ecological and Social Transitions which took place for 6 days during June 2021, with more than 140 organizations from about 60 countries.

Canadians and Calgarians support Just Transition, end to fossil fuel subsidies in public opinion polls

Citizens of Calgary voted in municipal elections on October 18 and returned the city’s first female mayor, Jyoti Gondek .  As summarized by CBC, she promised to address “inclusive economic recovery, …. social disparities within communities and take action to address climate change.” In the lead-up to Calgary’s elections,  Alberta Ecotrust FoundationCalgary Climate Hub and Clean Energy Canada commissioned a poll, conducted in August 2021, with results announced on September 8th. The results show that 69% of Calgarians are concerned about climate change impacts. Some specific highlights:

73% agreed with the statement: “ It is important to recognize the future of fossil fuels and invest in transitioning oil and gas workers to other industries.”

 70% agreed that “The transition to renewable energy will ultimately improve the health and well-being of my family and me.”   

67% agreed that “Calgary should focus its economic diversification efforts in becoming a leader in addressing climate change”.

And when asked to choose between a path to more oil and gas investment or a clean energy path, 49% agreed with the statement: “The signal from investors and financial markets is clear as they divest of oil & gas assets, and Calgary should invest in the transition toward clean energy.”  (compared to 38% who favoured the old oil and gas economy). 

Environmental concerns were high, including: 79% who expressed concern about poor air quality from wildfire smoke, 75% concerned with protecting ecological sensitive areas, and 73% concerned with the increasing number of extreme weather events.

Across Canada:

Closely following the federal election on September 20, an Abacus poll was taken in the first week of October 2021, to measure expectations of the newly elected government. Results were released on October 14th, with a press release  from the new activist coalition, No More Delays.  Some highlights:

65% of all respondents want “a swift delivery on the promise of a Just Transition plan to help workers thrive in the net-zero economy” (with almost 50% of Conservative voters in agreement);

64% want the government to establish a cap on oil and gas emissions (even amongst Conservatives, this had 47% support);

62% want the government to establish a plan to stop taxpayer subsidies going to the oil and gas industry

The more detailed poll results are hereNo More Delays is a new initiative for climate action, supported by SumofUs, Stand.earth, Climate Emergency Unit, Équiterre, Greenpeace Canada, Council of Canadians, Citizens Climate Lobby Canada, Climate Reality Project Canada, Leadnow and Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac Canada).

Historical CO2 emissions: Canada tops the list as the highest per capita emitter

Which countries are historically responsible for climate change?  is a new analysis released by Carbon Brief on October 5, and Canada scores high: #10 in the world for total historical emissions, and #1 as the worst offender per capita (calculated as cumulative emissions in each year divided by the current population – which implicitly assigns responsibility for the past to those alive today). Time to finally lay to rest that old chestnut that Canada’s contribution to the climate crisis is relatively insignificant, and we should wait till the bigger countries act to cut our own emissions.

Those bigger countries don’t escape blame either: overwhelmingly, the U.S. continues to rank as the #1 country for CO2 emissions since 1850, responsible for 20% of the global total. In comparison, the next highest-ranked countries are China (11%), and Russia (7%). Calculations of rankings are complex and subject to the mists of time, given that the calculations date back to 1850, and the inclusion of deforestation and land use emissions for the first time has also made a difference –   bringing Brazil and Indonesia into the top 10 emitters, and raising Australia to 13th rank, from 16th.      

Media summaries include: “The countries most responsible for climate crisis revealed” reposted from The Guardian by the National Observer;  “Any way you slice it, Canada  is one of the worst emitters on the planet” (National Observer, Oct. 7) ; and “Historical emissions tally paints clearer picture  of climate responsibility” (Energy Mix, Oct. 12).

It is significant that this analysis was released in the Carbon Brief series of articles on Climate Justice, and in the lead-up to COP26 . Historical responsibility for the climate crisis and the North-South divide will be a key issue at COP26, as briefly discussed in   “Rich Economies Face Demands for Cash to Fix Climate Damage” (Bloomberg News, Oct. 11), and foreshadowed by the “fiery” speech about global inequality by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres in September. Shortly afterwards, U.S. president Biden addressed the U.N. General Assembly and  promised to double U.S. climate financing aid to $11bn by 2024.  According to  “Climate Finance Faces $75-Billion Gap as COP 26 Looms 1,000 Hours Away” (The Energy Mix, Sept. 21), Canada has one of the worst records for living up to its climate financing pledges, with an average contribution only 17% of its fair share in 2017 and 2018.

An article in Ricochet summarizes the Canadian record in “Repaying our climate debt” (May 2021),  with a focus on the African operations of Canadian countries. The Ricochet article cites other recent research on climate justice: “Quantifying national responsibility for climate breakdown: an equality-based attribution approach for carbon dioxide emissions in excess of the planetary boundary” in (The Lancet Planetary Health, September 2020)   and Confronting Carbon Inequality (Oxfam, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sept. 2020), which concluded that consumption by the richest 10% of the world’s population accounts for 24.5% of global emissions today, and half of those emissions are attributed to Canada, the U.S. and the EU.

IndustriALL Europe launches Just Transition campaign

On September 23, the global labour federation IndustriALL issued a press release   announcing that “IndustriAll Europe’s Executive Committee has agreed on a European campaign for a Just Transition for industrial workers.”  From 25 October to 10 November, member organisations will hold a variety of national campaigns and events, which will be accompanied by intensified political lobbying at EU level and a pan-European social media campaign. The campaign is planned to extend beyond the two-week action, with  a series of sectoral round table discussions at regional level and joint actions with IndustriALL Global in connection with COP26 in Glasgow. The political platform statement adopted by the European Executive Committee is titled Just Transition: ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us! . It includes 5 demands, including the completion of “a clear, granular mapping of the employment consequences of a shift towards climate-neutral industries”, and  a “European legal framework…. to ensure workers have the right to co-decision during the transition in their workplaces and regions, strengthening social dialogue and collective bargaining.”   A more complete statement of IndustriALL Europe’s priorities comes in the Strategic Plan 2021-2023  from their Congress in summer 2021.

TUC recommendations to prevent carbon leakage of jobs and “future-proof” manufacturing

Safeguarding the UK’s manufacturing jobs with climate action: carbon leakage and jobs  is a September Briefing paper from the U.K. Trades Union Congress. The report estimates that between 368,000 – 667,000  jobs could be offshored from Britain if industries fail to meet climate targets and the UK falls behind other countries on climate action.  The regions most at risk are the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and West Midlands; the industries with most jobs at stake are: iron and steel , glass and ceramics, and chemicals.  The report outlines the actions needed to “future proof” British jobs, specifically: 1.  Public investment, which the report states is too low, stating that  the UK’s green recovery investment plans are just a quarter (24%) of France, a fifth (21%) of Canada, and 6% of the USA’s plans (when adjusted for population size). 2. Clear policies on decarbonisation across the economy – aligning actual plans with targets; and 3. Rules on local content – specifically, a local content requirement for offshore wind of at least 80%, with local supply chain commitments required and stringently enforced for all energy and infrastructure projects.  In addition to the call for beefed-up local content requirements, the report calls on the government to: Implement the Green Jobs Taskforce recommendations in full; Level up investments in green infrastructure, including industrial decarbonization, in line with its G7 peers, extending to 2030; Establish a Just Transition Commission, including representation from employers and unions, to oversee the workforce aspect of the transition to Net Zero; • Introduce a permanent short-term working scheme to help protect working people through periods of future industrial change.

Just Transition consultation extended as fossils try to mobilize

Canada’s public consultation on Just Transition was launched on July 20 but was suspended during the election campaign.  On October 1,  Natural Resources Canada took to social media to announce that the consultation has been extended “until further notice”.  A  “What we heard” report had been scheduled for Fall, and until then, unfortunately, the consultation website offers none of the submissions, or even a list of participants.

Some news is dribbling out however:

  1. The  Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released their brief submission on October 1, written by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. The submission limits itself to answering the questions posed in the discussion paper, but makes a few key points: for example, “One specific concern in the context of a just transition is the definition of a worker in need of transition support. Fossil fuel workers are disproportionately high-income white men, but many other workers in fossil fuel communities who depend indirectly on the industry, such as food service and accommodation workers, are more likely to be women, immigrants, racialized workers and other marginalized people. If a “just transition” policy does not have broad coverage it can make inequality worse.”   The submission concludes:   “The regulatory phase-out of coal-powered electricity generation in Canada provides a very clear model for how this can and should be done. Once a clear deadline is set, firms and workers can begin to plan for the transition into new industries. In contrast, the absence of a clear end date for oil and gas production encourages firms and workers to continue to invest into what will inevitably become stranded assets and stranded careers.”   A more complete discussion was published by the CCPA in Roadmap to a Canadian Just Transition Act: A path to a clean and inclusive economy.

The Energy Mix published “‘No Mention of Workers’ as Fossil Lobby Aims to Refocus Just Transition on Producers” on September 28, describing the campaign of Canada’s Energy Citizens, supported by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, to encourage and enable submissions to the Consultation process. Their website states: “Canadian oil and natural gas is some of the most sustainably produced energy in the world. If the world is going to demand energy and continue turning to coal, do we not have a responsibility to ensure our cleaner product is meeting demand?”  Amongst their talking points:  the federal government “….Should not lower Canadian standards of living or our capacity for investment in innovation. Canadian oil and gas jobs are some of the highest paying, middle class jobs in the country. It is not acceptable to cause the destruction of those jobs and to replace them with lower paying ones.  This will hurt Canada’s middle class.”

Countering the CEC campaign, 350.org and  Leadnow.ca provide an online submission form and talking points  “to drown out the fossil fuel lobbyists, and push the government to implement a bold and just economic transition plan.”   The talking points at 350.org are, not surprisingly, very similar to those offered by Clayton Thomas-Müller in op-ed for the Globe and Mail  (restricted access). Thomas-Müller , a 350.org campaigner, calls for Canada to mark the occasion of its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 by affirming its commitment to a just transition for those most likely to be affected by the shift to a carbon-free economy—namely, rural, northern, and Indigenous communities.  He calls for three conditions: 1.  anyone who is facing job loss because of this transition is guaranteed a good, green, unionized job;   a just transition must put people and communities first, over the interests of the oil industry; and the transition must be a matter of mind and spirit, aligning both with climate science and with ancestral Indigenous knowledge. 

Electric vehicle lobby group launches in Canada as GM announces more EV truck production is coming to CAMI in Ontario

As reported in iPolitics on September 29, a new industry lobby group has launched in Canada:  Accelerate,  which describes itself as “ a 5-year national initiative bringing together key players across Canada, from mining to mobility, from R&D to commercialization, and from vehicle assembly to infrastructure. Accelerate will establish a forum for members to collaborate, strategize and advocate for priorities that will support the accelerated development of a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) supply chain in Canada.” One of the specific action areas is  “ to align current talent development with the future needs of the emerging ZEV supply chain. …. Accelerate will create a forum for collaboration and coordination between colleges, universities and industry. This will help universities/colleges develop their curricula in line with the needs of the industry, which benefits both prospective workers and employers.”   Member organizations of Accelerate include advocacy groups, manufacturers, as well as the union Unifor.  

More Electric Freight Vehicles coming to Canada

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency issued a press release in September which states that if all U.S. and Canadian medium- and heavy-duty trucks became electric, about 100 million metric tons of CO2 would be saved, without disrupting the flow of cargo. They make their claim based on data from the Run on Less-Electric test run concluded in September, in which 13 electric trucks were monitored for three weeks while they followed their regular routes delivering beer, wine, packages, electrical equipment, etc. From the press release: “It’s clear from the data collected during the Run that it is time for fleets to go electric in certain market segments, including the van/step van, medium-duty box truck, terminal tractor and short heavy tractor regional delivery segments.” More on how the test run was developed and how drivers were trained here . The test run results are discussed by Canary Media here (Sept. 23).

In Canada, GM BrightDrop, the electric vehicle arm of GM, is building the EV600 at the CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, beginning in November 2022. On September 28, BrightDrop announced that it will also produce a medium-sized delivery van, the EV410, with production at CAMI Ingersoll beginning in 2023. Unifor, which represents 1800 workers in Local 88, welcomed the news with this press release. In announcing the new model,  the CEO of BrightDrop drew a straight line between climate change and electric vehicles: “As e-commerce demand continues to increase and the effects of climate change are felt like never before across the globe, it’s imperative that we move quickly to reduce emissions. BrightDrop’s holistic delivery solutions are designed to help tackle these challenges head on.”

The EV600 has been sold to FedEx in the U.S., while the press release states that the new and smaller EV410 is  aimed at door deliveries for the food industry, or telecommunications repairs. Its first announced customer is Verizon U.S.    

World Health Organization issues new air quality standards in response to growing evidence of the health impacts of pollution

On September 22, for the first time in 16 years, the World Health Organization updated its Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) , based on the rapidly growing scientific evidence that air pollutants can effect human health at even lower concentrations than previously understood. WHO’s new guidelines recommend air quality levels for 6 “classic pollutants”: particulate matter (PM), ozone (O₃), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and carbon monoxide (CO), and also highlight good practices for the management of certain types of particulates for which there is not yet sufficient evidence to set guideline levels (for example, black carbon/elemental carbon, ultrafine particles, particles originating from sand and dust storms). The press release states: “Clean air should be a fundamental human right and a necessary condition for healthy and productive societies. However, despite some improvements in air quality over the past three decades, millions of people continue to die prematurely, often affecting the most vulnerable and marginalized populations.”  The accompanying Fact Sheet provides key statistics, and a report in The Guardian   summarizes some of the most shocking , including:

“Every one of the 100 most populous cities in the world exceeded the new WHO guideline for tiny particle pollution in 2020, according to Greenpeace analysis. This includes Tokyo, Shanghai, New York, Lagos, London, and Delhi, with the latter exceeding the limit by 17 times.”

And what is one of the most dangerous kinds of pollution, even in cities?   “Mortality risk attributable to wildfire-related PM2·5 pollution: a global time series study in 749 locations” is a pioneering study published on September 1 in Lancet Planetary Health. It analyzes data from 749 cities in 43 countries and regions during 2000–16 and concludes that while wildfires are far from the only source of PM 2.5 pollution in cities, the PM 2.5 exposure from wildfires was more deadly, and longer-lasting, than fine particle pollution from other urban sources – probably because of the chemical makeup and smaller size of the particles in wildfire smoke.   

Future job growth in the U.S. auto industry depends on supportive industrial and labour policies

As the inevitable transformation of the U.S. auto industry unfolds, supportive industrial and labour policy can help the industry reclaim its role as a source of well-paying, stable jobs, according to a report released on September 22 by the Economic Policy Institute.  “The stakes for workers in how policymakers manage the coming shift to all-electric vehicles” was written in collaboration with the BlueGreen Alliance, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, United Auto Workers, United Steelworkers, and The Greenlining Institute.   

Authors Jim Barrett and Josh Bivens report on the likely employment and job-quality implications of a large-scale shift to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) under various scenarios. Their key findings: employment in the U.S. auto sector could rise by over 150,000 jobs in 2030 under two conditions: 1. Battery electric vehicles rise to 50% of domestic sales of autos in 2030 and 2. U.S. production of electric vehicle powertrain components increases. Supportive policies are seen to make the difference between job losses and job gains. 

The report further states: “For the auto sector to continue providing good jobs for U.S. workers, strong labor standards—including affirmative efforts to encourage unionization—will be needed. … The jobs embedded in the U.S. automobile supply chain once provided a key foundation for middle-class growth and prosperity. A cascade of poor policy decisions has eroded employment and job quality in this sector and this has helped to degrade labor standards across U.S. manufacturing and throughout the overall economy …. The industry transformation coming due to the widespread adoption of BEVs provides an opportunity to reverse these trends. The transformations necessary to ensure that this shift to BEVs supports U.S. employment and job quality—investment in advanced technology production and strengthening supply chains—will redound widely throughout manufacturing and aid growth in other sectors as well.”  

The report is summarized in “What Will It Take for Electric Vehicles to Create Jobs, Not Cut Them?” (New York Times , Sept. 22) .

Medical journals around the world call climate change the world’s leading health risk

The world’s leading medical journals stepped into the climate change debate again with warnings of the dangers of climate change – grounded in health concerns but including concerns for equity, food security, and environmental destruction.  On September 4,  more than 220 leading medical, nursing and public health journals around the world published the same editorial, titled “Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health”.

An excerpt:

“Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades.  The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1·5°C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.

Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions. Reflecting the severity of the moment, this Comment appears in health journals across the world. We are united in recognising that only fundamental and equitable changes to societies will reverse our current trajectory.”

The comment continues to state that “Targets are easy to set and hard to achieve”, and calls existing actions “insufficient”.  It calls on governments to  make “fundamental changes to how our societies and economies are organised and how we live. The current strategy of encouraging markets to swap dirty for cleaner technologies is not enough. Governments must intervene to support the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, health systems, and much more. Global coordination is needed to ensure that the rush for cleaner technologies does not come at the cost of more environmental destruction and human exploitation.” 

The editorial initiative was coordinated by the U.K. Health Alliance. The list of journals in which this statement appears is here, and includes The Lancet, the British Medical Journal,  the New England Journal of Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, The Journal of Climate Change and Health, and more than 200 other titles.  Canadian participants include the Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy and the Canadian Medical Association Journal.    The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) did not participate (not having its own journal), but on September 7 issued a echoed the same urgent concerns  in “A vote against fossil fuel subsidies is a vote for our health”.

Canada’s public pensions at risk of stranded assets, as fund managers increase fossil investments

An Insecure Future: Canada’s biggest public pensions are still banking on fossil fuels  was released by the Corporate Mapping Project in mid-August . It examines the investments of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) over a five-year period from 2016 to 2020 – the two together manage $862.7 billion, which fund the pensions of over 26 million Canadians. The report finds that, despite public declarations and climate strategies, CPPIB increased the number of shares in oil and gas companies by 7.7 per cent between  2016 and 2020.  The CDPQ in 2017 pledged to increase its low-carbon investments by 50 per cent by 2020, but the authors calculate there was only a 14% drop in fossil fuel investments between 2016 and 2020, and also note that overall, the CDPQ holds over 52 per cent more fossil fuel shares than the CPPIB. The paper also highlights the funds’ investments in individual fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil ; TC Energy ; Enbridge; the world’s highest-producing coal companies, and in companies that are members of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.  The numbers are startling,  and demonstrate a high potential for stranded assets which will threaten Canadians’ pension security.

The authors propose a number of policy changes, including a call for Canadian public pension fund trustees/investment boards to “ Immediately design a plan to phase out fossil fuel investment in alignment with targets set by the Paris Agreement to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius” and re-invest in renewables.  Recommendations for  the federal government include :  “mandate a clear timeline for public pensions to withdraw from all fossil fuel investments. Define reinvestment criteria that support a just and equitable transition to a renewable-based energy system” .

The report is summarized in “For climate’s sake, Canada Pension Plan needs to take a serious look at its investments”  (National Observer, September 7th),  which also summarizes the “oily” corporate connections of the decision-makers of the CPPIB, and highlights the current election promises related to financial regulation of our pension funds.

Impact on labour of the electrification of vehicles: new reports from Canada and Europe

In late August, the Pembina Institute released Taking Charge: How Ontario can create jobs and benefits in the electric vehicle economy,  discussing the economic and job creation potential for Canada’s main vehicle manufacturing province. The report considers manufacturing, maintenance, and the development and installation of charging infrastructure.  Its modeling estimates that, “if Ontario were to grow its EV market to account for 100% of total light-duty automobile sales as of 2035, direct, indirect and induced economic benefits associated with EV manufacturing would include over 24,200 jobs, and over $3.4 billion in GDP in 2035. In this scenario, Ontario’s EV charger and maintenance sectors can additionally benefit from nearly 23,200 jobs, and over $2.7 billion in GDP in 2035.”

The report concludes with seven policy recommendations which centre on stimulating consumer demand and encouraging private capital to invest in electric vehicles and infrastructure, and which include the establishment of an Ontario Transportation Electrification Council. Such a council is seen as a coordinating body for “the departments responsible for transportation, economic development, energy, natural resources, and environment as well as labour, training, and skills development.”

Taking Charge includes a short discussion of the impacts on labour, relying largely on the analysis by the Boston Consulting Group, published in September 2020 as Shifting Gears in Auto Manufacturing.  That report states that the labour requirements to assemble Battery Electric Vehicles and Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles are comparable — with the example of such tasks as fuel-tank installation and engine wiring shifting to battery alignment and charging-unit installation during vehicle assembly.  However, the report sees a likely shift from assembly work to parts suppliers, in the likely event that automakers choose not to manufacture batteries in-house. In that scenario, The Boston Consulting Group analysis forecasts that labour hours would be reduced by 4%.  The Pembina discussion concludes with: 

“To maximize the potential for the shift to electrification to contribute to a just transition for autoworkers, policymakers should keep in mind changes in labour and skills requirements within the value chain, as well as the importance of keeping as much of the EV supply chain within the province as possible.”

In Europe:  The new Fit for 55 legislative proposals introduced on July 14, if approved,  will mandate that vehicles’ average emissions are reduced by 55 percent in 2030 and 100 percent in 2035. Several publications have followed, including: a Clean Energy Wire Fact Sheet,  “How many jobs are at risk from the shift to electric vehicles?”, which concludes that there is greater risk of job loss amongst the supply chain manufacturers than at the big assemblers such as VW Group (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat brands), Stellantis (Fiat, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel/Vauxhall), the Renault Group, BMW and Daimler (Mercedes).  

Trade magazine Automotive Logistics published “Electrifying Europe: EU ‘Fit for 55’ legislation will transform the automotive supply chain” on August  23(restricted access), emphasizing that the new policy would “completely transform” the industry.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) published  Making the transition to zero-emission mobility: Enabling factors for alternatively-powered cars and vans in the European Union , a thorough analysis of the entire supply chain.   And following  an “auto summit” in August, involving industry, unions, and senior German government officials including Chancellor Angela Merkel, the details of a  “future fund” of one billion euros by 2025 were revealed, as summarized in “Billions in taxes for e-mobility” (Aug. 18). Despite this support for the manufacturers, concerns remain regarding the capacity of charging infrastructure – summarized in “The loading chaos remains even after the car summit: More electric cars, too few charging stations” (Aug. 20).