New York marks Superstorm Sandy 5-year Anniversary in a big way: Climate Jobs Summit, Clean Energy Jobs Report, and expansion of New York’s Green Bank

Hurricane Sandy Oct 29 2012

Hurricane Sandy Oct 29 2012 – photo from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Climate Jobs Now! Summit was  held on October 27, in partnership with the Office of New York Governor Cuomo, Climate Jobs NY , and the Workers Institute, ILR Cornell University.  The event was built around the theme, Reversing Inequality and Combatting Climate Change: A New Era for States and Regions, with participants and speakers from New York labour unions, government, and climate advocates. The Closing Panel, “Fulfilling the Promise of a Just Transition for All New Yorkers through Clean Energy and Community Resilience” included John Cartwright, President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council.   Video of some presentations is available .

Also on October 27, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) released the 2017 Clean Energy Industry Report , which found that clean energy jobs employed 146,000 New Yorkers at the end of 2016, distributed as follows:  110,000 jobs in energy efficiency; 22,000 renewable electric power generation; 8,400 alternative transportation;  2,900 renewable fuels, and 1,400 in grid modernization and storage.  Employment growth in clean energy surpassed the economy as a whole, at  3.4% from December 2015 to December 2016, with projected growth to double again to 7% by the end of 2017.    The report also states that the demand exceeds the supply of clean energy workers, with employers reporting  the most difficult positions to fill are  engineers, installers or technicians, and sales representatives.   (In June, Governor Cuomo announced funding for  Workforce Development & Training Programs at campuses of the State University of New York).  

Finally on October 27, a press release  from the Governor’s office announced that the New York Green Bank is seeking to raise at least an additional $1 billion in private-sector funds to expand the availability of financing for clean energy projects. According to the press release, the Green Bank has had  strong interest “from third-party entities like pension funds and insurance companies seeking to use it as an investment vehicle for sustainable infrastructure projects”.  The additional capital  can be invested in projects across the U.S., and the Green Bank is prepared work with other states and NGO’s to establish their own Green Banks.

B.C. Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council established to guide provincial policy

BC Advisory CouncilOn October 23 , the British Columbia Government announced the appointment of  the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council, to “provide advice to government on actions and policies that can contribute to carbon pollution reductions and optimize opportunities for sustainable economic development and job creation. This includes working with industry and the federal government to address the competitiveness of emissions-intensive trade-exposed sectors, to help them reduce their emissions and continue to thrive economically.”  The formal Terms of Reference are here .   “B.C. Government sets up Climate Council”  in the Climate Examiner provides a  good summary:   “The new body is not intended to craft an entirely new climate change strategy for the nascent government, but rather advise on how to build on the previous climate team’s work, particularly with respect to decarbonizing the major sources of emissions in the province: transport, industry and buildings, the minister said. In addition, the council will offer advice on how to achieve a new mid-term emissions reduction target of 40 percent by 2030, legislation for which is to be introduced next spring.”

The Advisory Council is a permanent group comprised of  22 members, some of whom advised the Liberal governments’ 2016 Climate Leadership Plan;  members are appointed for two year, renewable terms.  The Co-Chairs are Merran Smith, Executive Director, Clean Energy Canada and Marcia Smith, Senior Vice-President of Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited. A full list of members is available –    notably, it includes Lee Loftus, Executive Director of the British Columbia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council, (a partner organization with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) project);  Gavin McGarrigle, BC Area director, Unifor; and  D.J. Pohl, president, Fraser Valley Labour Council.  Academic and activist members Nancy Olewiler, Professor, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University; Judith Sayers, Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria; Sybil Seitzinger, Executive Director, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, University of Victoria; Michelle Molnar, Environmental Economist, David Suzuki Foundation; and  Karen Tam Wu, Acting Director, Pembina Institute.

Ontario continues its commitment to nuclear power in newly-released 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan

On October 26, Ontario’s Minister of Energy  released the 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan – Delivering Fairness and Choice, an update of previous versions in 2010 and 2013.   Clean Energy Canada states “Ontario’s long-term energy plan provides more direction than details, but it stays the course in building a modern, affordable and flexible energy system.”  Others, such as the Ontario Clean Air Coalition,  have concerns that the continuing commitment to nuclear power generation comes at the expense of development of renewables.  While the policy seems to focus on the political task of making energy more affordable and giving consumers more energy options, some noteworthy goals relate to “ enhancing net metering by allowing more people the opportunity to produce clean energy and use it to power their homes and lower their electricity bills. ” … “Allowing utilities to intelligently and cost-effectively integrate electric vehicles into their grids, including smart charging in homes”   … and increased oversight of fees charged by private providers “strengthening protection for vulnerable consumers in condominiums and apartments to protect them from energy disconnection in winter.”  Key reading from the LTEP: Chapter 6 Responding to the challenge of climate change  . The next step is for the Ontario Energy Board and the Independent Electricity System Operator to submit implementation plans to the Minister of Energy for approval.

The LTEP summarizes Ontario’s energy policies to date and forecasts demand for the future. For more detail and analysis on those aspects, see the CBC,  or  “Hydro Prices to keep rising just a bit more slowly” in the Ottawa Citizen (Oct. 26) which points out that the province is forecasting almost flat demand for electricity for the next 20 years, as conservation and efficiency savings are traded for  increased demand for electric vehicles and transit. (the report assumes  2.4 million electric vehicles will be on the roads by 2035).

Controversy surrounds the role of nuclear power in the plan.  The Power Workers Union,  which continues to lobby for nuclear power , calls the new LTEP “good news for the environment and the economy”  in their press release , stating:    “Today’s latest provincial Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) confirms the pivotal role nuclear energy will play in Ontario’s clean energy future.  Recognizing the significant environmental and economic benefits that this safe, reliable generation delivers, the provincial government remains committed to refurbishing all of Ontario’s publicly-owned nuclear reactors and to the four-year extension of the operations of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station to 2024”.  In contrast, the Ontario Clean Air Coalition reacted with “Ontario doubles down on obsolete nuclear – and you’re paying for it” , which states: “Ontario’s fixation with obsolete nuclear energy is to say the least puzzling, but what is clear is that this fixation is going to cost us dearly. Please sign our petition calling on Premier Wynne to make a deal with Quebec to lower our electricity costs and to open the way for a modern renewable energy system. ”  In a similar vein, the David Suzuki Foundation press release states:  “Ontario’s new Long-Term Energy Plan is both encouraging and worrisome. The former because it recognizes the importance of clean air and addressing climate change; the latter because of its embrace of nuclear power and its lack of a road map to expand renewable energy.” … “ the province’s continued reliance on nuclear for about half its power is troubling. In addition to concerns around uranium mining and waste disposal, nuclear has not proven to be cost-effective.”

 

Darlington_Nuclear_Masthead

$13 Billion Darlington Nuclear Plant refurbishment is reportedly over budget

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.”