4th U.S. Climate Assessment provides new estimates of economic costs of climate change

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, a consortium of 13 federal government departments and agencies,  released volume 2 of the 4th National Climate Assessment  of Climate-change Impacts on the United States on November 23. This report is exceptional for the  unequivocal, comprehensive, and detailed information contained, and a new emphasis on the economic impacts of climate change, described as “broader and more systematic”, providing an advancement in the understanding of the financial costs and benefits of climate change impacts.  For example, the report estimates a worst-case scenario for 2090 where extreme heat results in “labor-related losses”  of  an estimated $155 billion annually;  also,  $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century. Other key themes: the negative impacts of climate change on trade, the disruption of supply chains for U.S. manufacturers,  likely loss of productivity for U.S. agriculture, unequal impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, and the impact on Indigenous peoples.

In an article from the New York Times, climate expert Michael Oppenheimer  says, “This report will weaken the Trump administration’s legal case for undoing climate change regulations and it strengthens the hands of those who go to court to fight them.”   Small wonder the administration chose to release it on the eve of American Thanksgiving, when public attention would be distracted.

Volume 2, just released, is based on the scientific findings of the  4th National Climate Assessment, Volume 1,  which was released in 2017.  Volume 2 is over 1500 pages, and is composed of 16 national-level topic chapters, 10 regional chapters, and 2 response chapters. Each of the 29 individual chapters is downloadable from this link.  The Overview is here.   A Guide  briefly explains the modelling assumptions and sources of information used; more specific detail is in Appendix 3: Data tools and  scenario products   .

Media reaction and summaries include: “Climate Change Puts U.S. Economy and Lives at Risk, and Costs Are Rising, Federal Agencies Warn” in Inside Climate News  (Nov. 23);  “New National Climate Assessment Shows Climate Change is a Threat to our Economy, Infrastructure and Health” from the Union of Concerned Scientists (Nov. 23);  “U.S. economy faces hit, climate change report warns”  from the New York Times, reposted to Portside (Nov. 24) ; or “3 big takeaways from the major new US climate report”  in Vox (Nov. 24) .

4th climate assessment labour

From the 4th National Climate Assessment U.S. – Chapter 1 Overview

 

Reducing emissions from Canada’s built environment – what is the government thinking?

green bibliotechqueIn 2015, Canada’s building sector  accounted for approximately 12% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment , a November 16 report from the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.   The report discusses “a wide range of policy tools and technology solutions that could lower building sector GHG emissions, including: national building codes; energy efficiency standards and labels; technology research, development, and demonstration; fuel-switching for space heating; federal investments in buildings; and, the role of cities and urban design.”  In its concluding statements, the Committee notes that the existing federal Build Smart Strategy faces pressures of climate-change related urgency, as well as the need to harmonize and work with the various provincial jurisdictions. In the discussion of energy efficiency, the report cites the testimony of David Lapp of Engineers Canada,  in which he states that each $1 million invested in energy efficiency improvements is estimated to generate up to $3 to $4 million in gross domestic product and up to 13 jobs.   The report provides links to the testimony of all witnesses who appeared before it – no unions or worker representatives appeared.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment  is the last of five interim reports by the Senate Committee regarding Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. A final report is scheduled to be released later in 2018, compiling all five studies and issuing recommendations for the government.

The government has already received recommendations on the topic, from the June 2018 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development:  Better Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future , and in French, De Meilleurs Bâtiments Pour un Avenir À Faibles Émissions de Carbone .   In October, the  Government released its  Response report  (French version here),  which included reaction to the Committee’s Recommendation # 4,  that “Employment and Social Development Canada ensure that programs exist or are established to address the labour transition required so that skilled personnel are available to implement net-zero energy ready codes.”  The Government response offers only a reaffirmation of its commitment to existing  skills training, upgrading and apprenticeship programs. What little new thinking there is comes in the statement regarding green jobs: “The Government is also supporting the development of specific skills required for employment in green jobs. For example, the Green Jobs Science and Technology Internship program is investing more than $16 million to create 1,200 jobs as part of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. This program provides opportunities for post-secondary graduates to gain relevant work experience through green jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields in the natural resources sector. NRCan is also exploring opportunities to collaborate with non-government organizations, trade associations and provincial and territorial governments to develop training resources to support implementation of net-zero energy ready codes by 2030.”

 

Position paper committed to centrality of unions in Just Transition and green industrial policy

New Economics Foundation 2018just_transition_briefing_coverWorking Together for a Just Transition  is a brief new position paper by the U.K.’s New Economics Foundation (NEF), in association with the London Office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung . The report was  released on November 14, to launch a new, multi-year “programme of work” on just transition. Some highlights: Low carbon industrial policy, if done well, offers “an opportunity to deliver pioneering models for wider systemic reform – power, democracy and ownership – that would perhaps be impossible without that sense of urgency.”  The report cites the Scottish Government’s  Just Transition Commission, established in September 2018, as “an exciting model” which the U.K. should follow.  Further,  “NEF and FES are strongly committed to the centrality of the union movement in delivering a stronger, fairer and more sustainable economy . We believe that unions must be actively involved in shaping a programme of green industrial strategy, retraining and shaping. Individual and collective power in the workplace is a vital means to securing other ‘good job’ characteristics, and greater ownership by employees and meaningful corporate governance are central parts of the economic rebalancing that is essential for the UK’s long-term prosperity.”

Regarding the Just Transition project as a whole,  New Economics Foundation  states: “Our interest is in the practicality of change: the policies, processes, narrative and investment needed to accelerate the UK’s progress on ​just transition’, here and now. Over the coming months and years we will be working at local and national levels to explore what is needed to build common cause and provide the right mixture of incentives and critical challenge to all parties to help unlock a new momentum for a ​just transition’ for the UK. “

Newfoundland and Labrador announces its “lax tax” on carbon

offshore oil rigA “ Made-in-Newfoundland and Labrador Approach to Carbon Pricing” was announced and  described in a press release on October 23 , with a carbon tax rate of $20 tonne starting on January 1, 2019.  The details are many, as published here . Exemptions are granted for consumers (e.g. for home heating fuel) , and for industry – specifically “for agriculture, fishing, forestry, offshore and mineral exploration, and methane gases from venting and fugitive emissions in the oil and gas sector.”  These exemptions make sense in light of the province’s Oil and Gas  growth strategy announced in February 2018,  Advance 2030 , which aims for 100 new exploration wells to be drilled by 2030.

Despite the weakness of the provincial plan, it has been accepted by the federal government – thus, Newfoundland will avoid the stricter regime which would have been imposed by the federal backstop plan in 2019.  For a brief overview: “Why the lax tax? Finance minister says Muskrat burden played role in carbon pricing” (CBC) . In depth analysis appears in  “Newfoundland’s carbon tax gives ‘free pass’ to offshore oil industry” in The Narwhal.   (Nov. 9)

Just Transition proposals to protect workers’ interests in a report commissioned by Australia’s energy workers’ union

coal- from FOEAn October  29 report commissioned by CFMEU Mining and Energy union of Australia argues that  government will need billions of dollars for comprehensive  measures to support workers and communities  in a move away from coal-fired power generation. It calls for consultation and participation in planning, and an independent statutory Energy Transition Authority .  The Ruhr or Appalachia? Deciding the future of Australia’s coal power workers and communities  examines case studies from around the world – both successful and unsuccessful  – including South Wales (U.K.), Appalachia (U.S.), Singapore, Limburg (Netherlands) and the Ruhr Valley (Germany).  Within Australia,  the Hazelwood closure is judged as unsuccessful – due to a lack of advance planning – and the LaTrobe Valley experience as a positive model.  The report concludes that advance planning is essential to success, with a national framework …“ International evidence tells us that such a framework will require active participation from companies, workforce union representation, and government.”

The Ruhr or Appalachia?   report was written by Professor Peter Sheldon at the Industrial Relations Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. It includes an extensive bibliography of other studies of Just Transition. The report was commissioned by  CFMEU Mining and Energy union, which represents over 20,000 workers, mainly in coal mining and also in metalliferous mining, coal ports, power stations, oil refineries and other parts of the oil and gas production chain.  For briefer versions see the union’s press release “New Independent Authority Needed To Manage Transition For Energy Workers”, or a 4-page Executive Summary .