Transform TO will reduce Toronto’s emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050

Toronto large

Old and new Toronto City Hall from Flickr

John Cartwright, President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, wrote  an Opinion piece “How Toronto could lead the climate change charge in Canadian cities” , which appeared in the National Observer on June 15.  The focus of Cartwright’s article is the  Transform TO   plan currently being debated  in Toronto City Council after two years of public engagement, expert input and in-depth analysis . Cartwright is  member of the cross-sectoral Modelling Advisory Group that informed the Transform TO project.  The  target is to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.  Given that half of the Toronto’s carbon emissions come from buildings, 41 per cent from transportation and 11 per cent from waste,  key Transform TO recommendations are:  100% of new buildings to be designed and built to be near zero GHG emissions by 2030; 100% of transportation options- including public transit and personal vehicles – to use low or zero-carbon energy sources, and active transportation to account  for 75% of trips under 5 km city-wide by 2050; and 95% of waste to be diverted by 2050  in all sectors – residential, institutional, commercial and industrial.

Details of the plan are presented in Staff Report #1, approved by City Council in December 2016, and Staff Report #2  , approved by the Environment and Parks committee in May, and slated for a Council vote in early July. Technical reports  are here .

An overview is available in 2050 Pathway to a Low-Carbon Toronto Report 2: Highlights of the City of Toronto Staff Report .  Report #2  highlights that Transform TO will provide significant community  benefits, such as improved public health, lower operating costs for buildings, and local job creation and training opportunities for communities that have traditionally faced barriers to employment – with an estimate that the planned building retrofits alone would create 80,000 person years of employment.

Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are members of  C40 ,  a network whose goal is to act on climate change and reduce emissions.   In cooperation with Sustania and Realdania  , C40 compiled case studies from 100 cities (including Toronto and Vancouver) , meant to showcase innovative programs. Their most recent blog, “Mayors lead the global response to Trump’s pull out of the Paris Agreement” is a blunt rebuke to Trump and a determination to continue to work at local solutions.   Similarly, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre repeated  that the mayors of the world would honour the Paris Agreement, as he welcomed more than 140 mayors and 1,000 international and local delegates gathered to the annual Metropolis World Congress from  June 19 to 22.

An agenda for U.S. progressive unions: Resist, reclaim, restructure for climate justice and energy democracy

Towards a Progressive Labor Vision for Climate Justice and Energy Transition in the Time of Trump  is  a new discussion paper by Sean Sweeney and John Treat,  acknowledging the work of the progressive unions affiliated with the Labor Network for Solidarity and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, and  proposing  an “ambitious and effective agenda for progressive labor to respond to the converging environmental crises, and to pursue a rapid, inclusive approach to energy transition and social justice.”   To set the stage, the authors acknowledge and describe  the divisions within the U.S. labour movement, especially those around the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.  They applaud Bernie Sanders for  breaking new ground in the 2016 Presidential elections by making climate change a central part of the progressive political agenda – notably his call  for a just transition for fossil fuel workers and for a national ban on fracking.  They label “Green Jobs” as  “a Tired Phrase, an Unconvincing Promise”, and find glaring problems with the existing blue-green alliance approach, stating that the accomplishments are not unimportant, “ but the “green jobs” narrative has failed to engage numerous constituencies of potential allies in the struggle for better health, workplace and environmental protections for all, and for broader social, economic and ecological justice.”

In its place, the authors look internationally for inspiration, and propose “an ambitious, pro-active, independent, labor-led program of action” , built on actions  which “resist, reclaim, restructure”, with Just Transition, Solidarity,  and Internationalism as important  principles.  Some specific examples: “Resist : energy-related land seizures, despoliation, and violation of indigenous rights and territories; Resist shale oil and gas drilling and associated infrastructure (pipelines, export platforms, etc.), especially on federal and tribal lands.”  Reclaim: “ Fight to reverse state-level “electricity market restructuring” and to reform Investor Owned Utilities;  Review the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) in order to determine whether it should be repealed in order to restore States’ power to make their own energy choices; Re-invent regulatory bodies for the power industry, establish mechanisms for meaningful public involvement and democratic decision-making; Investigate and pursue new ways to use union pension funds in order to maximize their impact for a “public goods” approach to energy provision and climate change mitigation; Reinvent public infrastructure, beginning with the postal service in order to drive local renewable energy generation and to provide financial services for working class people who need them.”   Restructure: “Demand energy sector reform to allow for a just transition to renewables under public and community control; Demand establishment of dedicated, priority revenue streams for public renewables and a “just transition fund,” to be funded via a Financial Transaction Tax; Reject costly Power Purchase Agreements; Demand adequately funded, modern and available public transit systems, including the development of public fleets of electric vehicles for urban mobility.”

labor for our revolutionTowards a Progressive Labor Vision for Climate Justice and Energy Transition in the Time of Trump was released on June 1  by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, and submitted for discussion to Labor for Our Revolution , a network of unions  and labor activists engaged in campaigns to support workers’ rights and contribute to building a broader movement for social and economic justice. LFOR endorses the work of  Our Revolution , the network which grew out of the Bernie Sanders campaign in the U.S.. Our Revolution  states it  has three intertwined goals: “to revitalize American democracy, empower progressive leaders and elevate the political consciousness. “

ILO Director-General report identifies key themes in the greening of work, and worker delegates respond

The 106th Session of the International Labour Conference convenes fromILO 2017 conference  June 5-16 in Geneva – see an overview here .  To open the annual Conference, Director General Guy Ryder presented his report, Work in a changing climate: The Green Initiative  , and for those who question the role of the workplace in the fight against climate change, the report states: “… if climate change is a consequence of human activity, then that activity is, for the most part, work or work-related. It is no coincidence that climate change tends to be benchmarked against pre-industrial levels. And if work is the predominant cause of climate change, then inevitably it must be central to strategies to prevent, mitigate and adapt to it.”

The main body of the Director-General’s Report describes and updates the accomplishments of the  ILO Green Centenary Initiative, which  was launched in 2013, “to promote the considerable potential for creation of decent work associated with the transition to a low carbon sustainable development path and to minimize and manage the inevitable dislocation that will accompany it.” The report emphasizes the need for research and policy analysis, and announces that the 2018 edition of the ILO World Employment and Social Outlook Report will focus on “greening with jobs”, with sectoral and country-specific information.

Some important themes:  The report emphasizes the need for tripartite responses to climate change, and offers the examples of countries with tripartite consultations:  Chile, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru , South Africa, and Brazil, which developed its Intended Nationally- Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement with tripartite involvement.

Global carbon pricing is identified as “an outstanding question of the greatest magnitude –a political game changer in the eyes of some.” And, “Independently of the specific merits of taxing carbon, the general message is clear: predictable and appropriate regulation, together with informed tripartite involvement, are key ingredients for successful just transition.”

Regarding the greening of the work process, the report states: “The extraordinary process of structural transformation in production systems, made necessary by the fight against climate change, needs also to incorporate two further ingredients which have a proven record in facilitating socially acceptable and beneficial change at work: skills development and social protection.”

marie walker ILO VP 2017Canadian Labour Congress Secretary-Treasurer Marie Clarke Walker   was elected Vice-President (Workers) on June 5, and is a member of the ILO Governing Body.    Luc Cortebeeck,  Chairperson of the Workers’ Group, presented a Discussion of the Director-General’s report  on June 7. The 3-page discussion is generally constructive, for example, congratulating the ILO for its climate neutrality goals and its the recognition of the need to aim for zero emissions as soon as possible, and pledging support for Skills for Green Jobs initiatives.  However, it highlights differences about the goals for the future, stating:  “Such an ambitious assessment on the state of affairs does not seem to be followed by an equally ambitious take on future measures.”  Further, “The workers’ group regrets the absence of references to the importance of piloting in as many countries as possible the ILO Guidelines for a Just Transition, as a means to show they are a useful tool for tackling climate change in a socially progressive way.”  The Workers Group also considers it “vital” that the ILO develop and execute its own economic modelling research regarding the potentially negative distributional aspects of carbon pricing and regulation, and not rely on research by the  OECD  and other active agencies.

Still advocating for Environmental Rights as Human Rights. Evidence from Alberta, and innovative proposals for Nova Scotia

The Pembina Institute recently compiled three case studies related to energy development in Alberta, in an effort to document the adverse effects on individuals, communities and regions that result from weak environmental laws or regulatory enforcement.  The Environmental Law Centre in  Alberta also  published a series of reports in late 2016, including a module, Substantive Environmental Rights , which discusses environmental rights as a human right. Since 2014, the Blue Dot campaign, led by the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice ,  has been advocating for environmental rights to be enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Now, from the Pembina Institute comes The Right to a Healthy Environment: Documenting the need for environmental rights in Canada.  It consists of:  Case Study #1:  Individual impacts of intensive hydraulic fracturing activity in rural Alberta   ;  #2 Community impacts of air pollution in urban central Alberta (related to coal-fired electricity plants), and #3 Regional impacts of oilsands development in northern Alberta   (which examines the rights of First Nations).

In Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Environmental Rights Working Group of the East Coast Environmental Law Association  released their proposed and innovative  Nova Scotia Environmental Bill of Rights  on April 21 2017.  The bill states that the people “have a right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment”, and that the “primary responsibility” to protect and conserve that environment falls to the province.  It also states that “there is a history of environmental racism in Nova Scotia that has disproportionately and negatively affected historically marginalized, vulnerable, and economically disadvantaged individuals, groups or communities, particularly Indigenous People and African Nova Scotians”.  The bill is based on the Precautionary Principle, the Polluter Pays Principle, the Non-Regression Principle, the Intergenerational Equity Principle, and the Principle of Environmental Justice and Equity.  Nova Scotians go to the polls in a general election on May 30; a guide to the policy positions of the Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties is here at the CBC website.  According to the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, the provincial NDP party has pledged to support an Environmental Bill of Rights .

 

 

 

 

A shorter work week can slow climate change in a post-growth economy

Two recent articles have been added to the long-standing discussion of the “degrowth” movement – including about the potential of a shorter work week to make an impact on climate change.  In relation to their recently published book, “Just Cool It! The Climate Crisis and What we can do , David Suzuki and co-author Ian Hanington posted a blog  item on on May 11: “Long work hours don’t work for people or the planet” . The article describes  “a seemingly endless cycle of toil and consumerism” which has been the norm throughout the 20th century,  and  says “It’s time to pause and consider better ways to live”.  They reference the U.K. thinktank New Economics Foundation, which in 2010 proposed “21 Hours – the case for a shorter work week” , arguing that a shorter work week would address a number of interconnected problems: “overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.”   The Suzuki/Hanington article also refers to “Reducing work hours as a means of slowing climate change”  published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C. in 2013. The author, David Rosnick, used economic modelling to argue that reducing average annual hours by just 0.5% per year through shorter workweeks and increased vacation would “likely mitigate one-quarter to one-half, if not more, of any warming which is not yet locked-in.”

Another recent article, “How to kick the growth addiction”  was posted at The Great Transition Initiative website and re-posted by Resilience on May 17.  The article is a transcript of an interview with  ecological economist Tim Jackson   , the author of the classic book,  Prosperity Without Growth: Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow. It provides some insight into Jackson’s latest thinking  about a “post-growth” economy .  He states: “Can we imagine an economy in which enterprise provides outputs that enable people to flourish without destroying ecosystems; where work offers respect, motivation, and fulfillment to all; where investment is prudential in terms of securing long-term prosperity for all humanity; and where systems of borrowing, lending, and creating money are firmly rooted in long-term social value creation rather than in trading and speculation?” The second edition of  Prosperity without Growth was released in 2017, discussing four pillars of a post-growth economy—enterprise as service, work as participation, investment as commitment, and money as a social good.