Canadian government is falling short of GHG emissions targets, needs a plan to phase out fossil fuel subsidies

On October 3, Canada’s  Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled highly critical audit reports in the House of Commons.  From the  Commissioner’s press release  : “the government’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have fallen short of its target and that overall, it is not preparing to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Only five of 19 government organizations had fully assessed their climate change risks and acted to address them.” … “Many departments have an incomplete picture of their own risks, and the federal government as a whole does not have a full picture of its climate change risks. If Canada is to adapt to a changing climate, stronger leadership is needed from Environment and Climate Change Canada, along with increased initiative from individual departments.”   The Commissioner also criticized the Department of Finance and Environment and Climate Change Canada for a “disconcerting lack of real results” towards meeting  Canada’s G20 commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

The CBC reports on reaction and press conference remarks; the National Observer ran two articles, “Watchdog finds Canada ‘nowhere near’ ready for climate risks” and  “Parliamentary watchdogs conducting nationwide climate audits“, which reports that, for the first time, Auditors General are conducting climate change audits of all federal, provincial and territorial governments, working together to develop reports for their respective jurisdictions and a summary report of national performance on mitigation and adaptation.

The October 2017 federal  audit reports are all available in English and in French. The relevant reports are: Progress on Reducing Greenhouse Gases—Environment and Climate Change Canada ; Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change; Funding Clean Energy Technologies; and  Departmental Progress in Implementing Sustainable Development Strategies. The archive of previous reports is here .

Victoria B.C. joins the movement for climate accountability, demanding compensation from Big Oil companies for climate change impacts

On October 12, the Council of Victoria B.C. voted unanimously to send a Climate Accountability Letter to twenty companies, including Exxon, Chevron and Shell, asking them to cover the costs the community is likely to  incur to plan for or recover from the impacts of climate change.  The motion also included an agreement to call upon fellow local governments across Vancouver Island, British Columbia and Canada to write similar letters. Such letters are part of  the Climate Law in our Hands campaign launched by West Coast Environmental Law and almost 50 other groups  in January 2017.

Accountability Letters may be seen as largely symbolic, but are a first step in the movement for legal action against these “Carbon Majors”, which is the goal of the Climate Law in our Hands campaign.  The campaign and the movement is based on the work of Richard Heede, whose 2013 research identified 90 entities (producers of oil, natural gas, coal, and cement) that are collectively responsible for almost two thirds of human-caused greenhouse gases historically. Heede updated his research in July 2017 –  naming the 10 oil and gas companies who are responsible for 26% of all fossil fuel emissions since 1988.  See the Climate Accountability Institute , where Heede is Director, or see  West Coast Environmental Law for a spreadsheet with details about each company, as well as model letters for municipalities who want to join the campaign. Andrew Gage of WCEL compiled an excellent overview of new research and legal developments about Climate Accountability in September .

In September, San Francisco and Oakland, California became the latest and largest cities to sue the Carbon Majors: see “California leads the way: San Francisco and Oakland the latest to sue fossil fuel companies” . (They  join the California counties of Marin, San Mateo and San Diego and the city of Imperial Beach).  The press release from the City Attorney’s Office outlines their case against Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell  : “The lawsuits ask the courts to hold the defendants jointly and severally liable for creating, contributing to and/or maintaining a public nuisance, and to create an abatement fund for each city to be paid for by defendants to fund infrastructure projects necessary for San Francisco and Oakland to adapt to global warming and sea level rise. The total amount needed for the abatement funds is not known at this time but is expected to be in the billions of dollars.”

Trade unions in the U.K. actively engaged in climate change policy, advocating for environmental representatives

Trade Unions in the UK: Engagement with climate change is a new report, based on research conducted between September 2016 and January 2017 by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group . The report asks:  what are the driving forces behind trade union engagement in climate change issues, and what are some of the barriers and difficulties for trade unions?  It summarizes the results of interviews with policy officers and environmental activists from the largest 15 unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), as well as two smaller but active unions: Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). The report is also based on the results of systematic searches of the unions’ websites and relevant policy documents (with links to key documents).  It reveals an overview of the diversity and context of trade union climate policy, focusing on issues such as environmental representatives, energy supply, airport expansion, fracking and divestment from fossil fuels. The report summarizes the positions on these issues, union by union, but for those who want even more detail, there is a supplementary inventory .

This first-ever report was released in August 2017, and since then, Unison has voted to campaign for pension fund divestment and the TUC adopted an historic motion for public ownership of energy at its September Congress.  Also at the Fringe Meeting of the September Congress, the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group presented its discussion paper  ‘Another world is possible: jobs and a safe climate‘. And most recently, the U.K. government at long last released its Clean Growth Strategy, to limited union approval.

 

“Historic” climate change resolution is passed unanimously at the 2017 Trades Union Congress in the U.K.

According to a  September 13 press release from Trade Unions for Energy Democracy :  “The annual congress of the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) has passed a historic composite resolution on climate change that supports the energy sector being returned to public ownership and democratic control. The resolution—carried unanimously—calls upon the 5.7-million-member  national federation to work with the Labour Party to achieve this goal, as well as to: implement a mass program for energy conservation and efficiency; lobby for the establishment of a “just transition” strategy for affected workers; and, investigate the long-term risks to pension funds from investments in fossil fuels.”   The “composite resolution”, Resolution 4, along with discussion and videos of the debate are here . The Bakers, Food and Allied  Workers Union (BFAWU) submitted the first resolution; the final composite resolution incorporated  amendments by the Communication Workers Union,  Fire Brigades Union, the train drivers union ASLEF, and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association.

A previous climate change resolution had been defeated at the 2016 annual congress.  What was different this time?  Speakers in the debate mentioned Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, the chaos of Brexit, and also Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, fresh evidence of the disasters of climate change.  Trade Unions for Energy Democracy credits the influence of the Labour Party, and in advance of the vote,  Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn received an enthusiastic response to his speech to the Congress.  The Labour Party Manifesto, For the Many, not the Few , had been released during the 2017 General Election, and highlighted the issue of energy poverty,  committing to “take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control.” It further called for the creation of “publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers.”  Another influential document, “Reclaiming Public Service: How cities and citizens are turning back privatization,” was published in June 2017 by the Transnational Institute, providing global case studies of  “re-municipalization” of public services, including energy.

The Trades Union Congress 2017 Congress website provides videos, reports, and an archive of documents from the meetings.  This blog post summarizes the General Council statement on workers’ rights and Brexit.

Why gender matters when dealing with climate change

Gender book coverClimate Change and Gender in Rich Countries:  Work, Public Policy and Action is a new book released in London by Routledge publishers, as part of its Studies in Climate, Work and Society series.  Reviewers call it “path-breaking”,”timely”, “exciting”,  “unique”, “excellent and wide-ranging”  and judge that it “moves beyond common perceptions of women as vulnerable victims to show there are no universal experiences of climate change. Gender is highly relevant but in complex ways.”

Editor Marjorie Griffin Cohen introduces the book by answering the question,Why Gender Matters when Dealing with Climate Change”.  18 chapters follow,  providing analysis and case studies from the U.K., Sweden, Australia, Canada, Spain and the U.S..  Some of the  chapters are: “ Women and Low Energy Construction in Europe: A New Opportunity?” by  Linda Clarke, Colin Gleeson and Christine Wall; “The US Example of Integrating Gender and Climate Change in Training: Response to the 2008–09 Recession”,  by  Marjorie Griffin Cohen; “UK Environmental and Trade Union Groups’ Struggles to Integrate Gender Issues into Climate Change Analysis and Activism”,  by  Carl Mandy; and “How a Gendered Understanding of Climate Change Can Help Shape Canadian Climate Policy”,  by  Nathalie Chalifour.

The book editor, Marjorie Griffin Cohen , is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and a Co-Investigator at the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project (ACW).  She was also an editor of “Women and Work in a Warming World (W4) ”  which appeared as Issue 94/95 in Women & Environments International Magazine  (2014/15).