Updated: Keeping up with COP23 in Bonn – what should Canadians know? what should workers know?

As anyone who reads the news must know by now, much of the  world’s climate change community has assembled for the 23rd annual “Conference of the Parties” (COP) in Bonn, Germany – from November 6 to 17. Following the flood of daily press releases and tweets from official meetings, side events, and protests can be overwhelming. Here are some helpful sources of events – most of which also provide Facebook and Twitter updates:  official COP23 press releases and documents in English  and in French ; Climate Action Network-International (CAN-I) daily coverage in English  and French . The International Institute for Sustainable Development formal  COP23 coverage of negotiations and side events , with more spontaneous  news at their  Climate-L site.  The official Canadian government statement of what Canada hopes to achieve at COP23 is here, and the government website for Environment and Climate Change Canada produces updates in English and French . Minister McKenna’s Twitter feed @ec_minister  is a fuller record of Canadian activity  .

Gil McKeown Just Transition at COP23

CLC Side Event re Just Transition at COP23, Nov. 13 2017

For more opinion and analysis, follow  Climate Action Network- Canada newservice CanRaction , which  produced a November 9 issue: “Paris Implementation Depends on a Just Transition for Fossil Fuel Workers” .  The National Observer has reported on Canadian activity from COP23 here .  Follow trade union updates via Twitter at #unions4climate  – the only way to find out about side events such as the Canadian Labour Congress event re #Just Transition on November 13.  Follow the flood of tweets from all points of view at #COP23.  For the progressive U.S. presence, follow #wearestillin on Twitter or visit the We are Still In website.

The meetings, although in Bonn, are officially hosted by Fiji, and will be governed by the principle of “talanoa” –  described by the Prime Minister of Fiji as “ a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue that builds empathy and leads to decision-making for the collective good.”  This aspiration for transparency and consultation will be applied to the key points of contention:  1).  “the “ratchet” – the means by which the national Paris pledges for emissions reduction will be increased in future years,  ( referred to in UN-speak as the “facilitative dialogue”; and 2).  Issues of adaptation and financing (with adaptation now being re-phrased as “resilience”).  As the first COP meeting since the Paris Agreement, the Bonn talks must begin to build the formal implementation structure – referred to as “The Paris Rulebook.”   For context, read:  “The COP23 climate change summit in Bonn and why it matters” in The Guardian ( a very quick overview laden to links with more information), or “Bonn climate talks must go further than Paris pledges to succeed”  .  The Heinrich Boll Foundation has published a very complete discussion, which includes the topics of human rights, just transition, and gender climate change, in The Fiji UN Climate Summit 2017, COP23: what is at stake in Bonn?  .

Below are a few documents relevant to Canada and working people:

Climate Action Network Canada Brief to the COP23 Meetings:  This policy paper specifies goals from the Canadian point of view, including #4, explicitly about Just Transition:  “Canada should work to ensure that global pursuits for just transition and decent work have a prominent place in relevant components of the Paris work programme as well as FD2018. Just transition for workers should be maintained as a permanent theme within the forum on response measures under the Paris Agreement. It is critical to have a dedicated technical space, where good practice or challenging situations can be presented and debated and then find a reflection in the work programme. Future work on this issue should be recommended to SBI/SBSTA as the Paris work programme is developed and implemented. As FD2018 invites parties to enhance NDCs, Canada should incorporate just transition commitments into its NDC and encourage other parties to do the same. NDCs supported by zero-carbon development roadmaps are critical for building a longterm vision for transforming our economy, as well as for driving sustainable investments. Factoring-in employment and just transition will align them with broader social priorities in each country.”

The ITUC Frontlines Briefing Climate Justice: COP 23 Special Edition. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is leading a delegation of 130 trade union members from 40 countries at COP, and posting updates from the meetings at  #unions4climate on Twitter. The  COP 23 Special Edition  (which includes special note of  the Columbia Institute Jobs for Tomorrow – Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions report ) fleshes out the top-level statement of  3 Trade Union Demands for COP23  : “• Raise ambition and realise the job-creation potential of climate action; • Deliver on climate finance and support the most vulnerable• Commit to securing a just transition for workers and their communities. ”

Disclosure of Climate-related Financial Information: Time for Canada to Act  a Policy Brief by the Centre for International Governance Innovation: presented at COP 23 and urging strong implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. It  provides a plan on how to integrate climate change into existing risk management and disclosure practices in Canada.

We Mean Business Blog:   Watch this blog for news and press releases representing the views and policies of the We Mean Business coalition, which represents over 620 multinational companies which support a low carbon transition.  Making the Paris Vision a Reality summarizes their policy goals.

UNEP The Emissions Gap Report 2017 . This 8th edition by the UNEP underlines the urgency and scale of the task at COP23 by stating that currently pledged emissions reductions, even if met, would result in  no more than a third of the emission reductions needed.  “If the climate targets in the Paris Agreement are to remain credible and achievable, all countries will need to contribute to significantly enhancing their national ambitions, augmenting their national policy efforts in accordance with respective capabilities and different circumstances, and ensuring full accounting of subnational action.”   The UNEP reviews recent studies to score the countries which are on track to meet their 2030 NDC targets – Brazil, China, India and Russia.  Those “likely to require further action in order to meet their NDCs, according to government and independent estimates” include Canada, along with  Argentina, Australia, the European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the Republic of Korea and the United States. Much of the UNEP report is based on data  from The Climate Action Tracker ; the New York Times interactive summary also relies on the Climate Action Tracker in the November 6 article, “Here’s how far the world is from meeting its climate targets” .

United States Fourth National Climate Assessment . Most attention went to the surprise that the Trump administration didn’t suppress this report , which represents a comprehensive, authoritative documentation of climate change science worldwide, with an emphasis on U.S. statistics and experience . It was released by the U.S. government, and in direct opposition to the Trump administration stance,  stated:  “This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

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.

Made-in-Manitoba Green Plan proposes a $25 per tonne carbon tax

Manitoba climate plan coverOn October 27,  the Conservative Government of Manitoba released  a discussion paper, The Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan , which announces a vision for the province  to be Canada’s “cleanest, greenest and most climate resilient province.”  It opens a brief  public consultation period  till November 30,  with proposals organized around four stated “pillars” : climate, jobs, water and infrastructure.  Although most of the attention has been focused on the carbon tax proposals, the Discussion Paper  proposes dozens of possible initiatives, including electrification of Winnipeg’s transit, encouraging biofuels (e.g. by raising the provincial biodiesel mandate from two per cent to five per cent), and improving waste management to reduce methane emissions, among many others.  Regarding jobs, the report states: “We need to focus on how to prosper through climate change and create new jobs and growth in the transition to a global low-carbon economy. Environmental services and clean technology are opportunity sectors for Manitoba companies.”  The report presents potential initiatives  to create jobs – (for example, reducing “green tape”, encouraging finance and capital markets) and to improve skills and training (e.g. through participation in the U.N. Green Youth Corps, or working with the private sector work “to develop a Clean Growth Talent Plan as part of a new Labour Market Strategy incorporating a focus on climate and sustainability jobs and skills. “)

The section on carbon pricing has attracted most attention because it so clearly misses the criteria laid out outlined by Environment and Climate Change Canada  in The Pan-Canadian Approach to pricing carbon pollution   (the Backstop plan)  and the  Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change . Manitoba’s Discussion Paper proposes  a carbon tax of $25 per tonne to remain in place till 2022 (only half of what the federal Framework Agreement calls for), with farm fuel use exempt.   In a shift of its earlier position, however, Manitoba acknowledges the federal government’s legal right to impose a carbon tax plan on the province,  but continues to insist on its uniqueness:  “Any carbon pricing system in Manitoba must recognize two essential facts: First, Manitoba is already ‘clean’ given our hydroelectricity system with 98 per cent of electricity generated from non-carbon emitting sources. Second, Manitobans have already invested billions of dollars in building our clean energy system and are still doing so with the Keeyask Dam and the Bipole transmission line. Adding a $50 per tonne carbon price on Manitobans at the same time Hydro rates are rising is neither fair nor sensible.”

A thorough discussion of the proposed carbon tax comes from the Ecofiscal Commission. Headlines reflect the reaction to the $25 per tonne carbon tax: at CBC News: “Manitoba thumbs nose at Ottawa, sets own carbon tax scheme” ,  and  “Proposed Manitoba carbon tax ‘will have to go up’: Federal environment minister”.   “Manitoba defies feds, unveils its own carbon pricing plan”  (Oct. 27) in the Winnipeg Free Press includes reaction from political parties and academics.  Also in the Winnipeg Free Press, “Details hazy in Made-in-Manitoba Green plan” – which calls the Green Plan “the political equivalent of a Rubik’s Cube. It’s colourful, intriguing and almost impossible to figure out.”  That was no doubt a topic at the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment conference in Vancouver on November 3.

Quebec Pension fund leads the way in low-carbon investing in Canada

The  Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) is Canada’s second largest pension fund, with $286.5 billion under management for the  public and parapublic pension plans of  Quebec workers. On October 18, the Caisse burnished its existing reputation as a responsible investor by releasing  “Our Investment Strategy to address Climate Change”,    a detailed strategy document which pledges to factor climate change into every investment decision.   The CDPQ will increase its low-carbon investments by 50% by 2020, and reduce the carbon intensity of its portfolio by 25% by 2025 across all asset classes.   According to an article in the Montreal Gazette , “the Caisse is the first fund in North America, and only the second in the world — after the New Zealand Superannuation Fund — to adopt this type of approach.” That article also notes that investment managers’ compensation will be tied to the emissions performance of their investments:  investment teams will be given fixed carbon budgets, “and their performance will be evaluated and remuneration linked to how well they stick to these budgets.” The announcement was also covered by the Globe and Mail  .

In contrast, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board , entrusted with the funds to support the public pensions of 20 million Canadians (the CPP), continues to invest in oil and gas ventures – and according to Bloomberg Research , is currently involved in a bidding process for an Australian coal operation owned by Rio Tinto .  Friends of the Earth Canada is advocating against the bid as part of its ongoing campaign, Time to Climate-Risk-Proof the CPP  .  The CPPIB describes its investment strategy regarding climate change here  .

It is worth noting that the Labor Convergence on Climate event  organized by the Labor Network for Sustainability in September included a discussion of how union leaders and rank and file members can work through their pension funds to join the movement to divest from fossil fuels and make green investments .

The role of the banking and investment community is important in policy development also; the case is most recently made in  “Three suggestions for for B.C.’s Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council” in the National Observer (Oct. 26). The article concludes:  “If the Advisory Council wants to see money move to support its policy aspirations they will have to find genuinely committed allies in the asset management and banking community. Action on climate change is great economic opportunity for British Columbia and Canada, and the financial sector must be brought into the discussion in order to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon energy system.”

How receptive is the Canadian investment community to considering and disclosing climate change risks and stranded assets? Two reports  by the UN-affiliated Principles for Responsible Investment ( PRI )   are relevant to this question. Fiduciary duty in the 21st century: Canada roadmap (Jan. 2017) makes recommendations for how Canadian pension fund and investment managers can catch up with the international community and implement the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) . The PRI Canada country review (June 2017) describes the current regulatory framework for environmental and social governance disclosure .  The Responsible Investment Association has  also published the 2016 Canadian Responsible Investment Trends Report .

Actors within Canada include the Canadian Securities Administrators , which began their own  review on climate-related financial disclosure practices in March 2017 , but have not yet reported.   A group of Canadian Chief Financial Officers launched  the CFO Leadership Network in March 2017, to focus on the role CFO’s play in integrating environmental and social issues into financial decision making. The Canadian CFO Leadership Network is the Canadian Chapter of The Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) CFO Leadership Network; in Canada, it operates in partnership with Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada , with support from The Prince’s Charities Canada.

Finally, SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research & Education), is a Vancouver-based organization which actively promotes sustainable and responsible investing. On October 12, it announced  that it is participating in an investor-led initiative which has written to the CEO’s of sixty of the world’s largest banks, including six Canadian banks, calling on them to adopt the landmark recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), released by the Financial Stability Board in December 2016 .  Specifically, they call for disclosure in four key areas: climate-relevant strategy and implementation, climate-related risk assessments and management, low-carbon banking products and services, and banks’ public policy engagements and collaboration.

 

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 .