German Coal Exit Commission recommends Just Transition measures but a 2038 deadline

coal machine germanyOn January 26, the German Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment, (better known as the Coal Exit Commission) delivered its highly-anticipated report and a “roadmap” for lignite coal plant closures in the country. The report calls for Germany to end coal-fired power generation by 2038 – subject to reviews by independent experts in 2026, 2029, and 2032, when it  will be decided if the deadline can be advanced to 2035. The 28 official Commissioners, drawn from industry, unions, environmental NGOs, community leaders and government, negotiated for six months , with all but one voting in favour of the final recommendations. Greenpeace voted “yes”, but also issued a dissenting opinion, stating  “Germany finally has a road map for how to make the country coal-free. There will be no further coal plants. Greenpeace and other groups made sure that the commission has clearly supported keeping Hambach forest. However, the report has a grave flaw: the speed is not right.” Other participants, including Sir Nicholas Stern, also criticized the slow speed of the plan.  The Powering Past Coal Alliance , of which Canada and the U.K. were founding members, state that, in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement,  “a coal phase-out is needed by no later than by 2030 in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and in the European Union.”

A compilation of reactions from Commissioners is here. From Michael Vassiliadis, head of the miners’ union IG BCE :“We have found a compromise after 21 hours of negotiations that cannot make us happy, but leaves us overall satisfied. We managed to shield the employees in coal power generation from social hardships from the structural change. At the same time, the coal phase-out is closely tied to verifiable progress with the future energy mix, the expansion of renewables and the grids. The regions get money for structural change, to create new quality jobs. The commission laid the foundation for a new Energiewende of reason.”

The 336-page report is currently available in German only; , but it is well summarized in English in a Fact Sheet from Clean Energy Wire. According to CLEW, key issues addressed are the stability and pricing of energy supplies for Germany, CO2 reduction, and compensation to industry.  Regarding Just Transition for workers and communities, the report devotes almost 40 pages to the economic measures for the regional economies and workers. While the report itself doesn’t estimate those costs, an article in Der Speigel   states that communities will receive 40 billion euros in structural assistance over the next 20 years.  The Commission calls for the coal mining regions to remain energy-oriented, through the development of innovative technologies, such as electricity storage, renewable energy, or power-to-gas production .

The Commission’s recommendations are expected to be accepted by government, but there is a long road ahead in passing legislation and negotiating financing, as outlined in  “German government stands ready to move on coal exit proposal” (Jan. 29). The coal exit will be one part of the government’s Climate Action Law package, promised for the end of 2019.

Growth and diversity in the U.S.clean energy industry

Two new reports foresee employment growth in the U.S. renewable energy industry – despite the chilling effect of the tariffs on solar equipment imposed  by the Trump administration, as described in a Solar Energy Industry Association press release in December.   The first study, Clean Energy sweeps across rural America  (November 2018) by the Natural Resources Defence Council examines job growth in wind, solar, and energy efficiency in rural regions throughout the Midwest U.S., and finds that the number of clean energy jobs grew by 6 percent from 2015 to 2016 (a higher rate than the economic in general), to a total of  nearly 160,000 in 2017.  In 2017, in the rural parts of every midwestern state except North Dakota and Kansas, more people worked in clean energy than in the entire fossil fuel industry.  The report emphasizes the outsized impact of job opportunities in rural areas in which job growth is normally negligible or even negative. The report also profiles examples of  community solar programs operated by co-ops and investor-owned utilities.

A second report  models the impact of  replacing Colorado’s coal plants with a mix of wind and solar backed by battery storage and natural gas.  This report was prepared by consultants Vibrant Clean Energy and commissioned by energy developer Community Energy Inc., with a main focus on cost savings and carbon emissions.  However, it also forecasts job impacts under three scenarios (keeping coal plants to 2040, gradually retiring coal plants, and retiring all coal plants in 2025), and overall,  it forecasts a 52% increase in employment in the electricity industry.

The January 9 press release  quotes a representative from Community Energy Inc:  “The key to unlocking these benefits is to create a legal framework that enables utilities to voluntarily retire the coal plants. Otherwise, it could take years to negotiate or litigate utility cost recovery, replacement power costs and impact on local communities.” The full Coal Plant Retirement study is here .

Finally, the Solar Energy Industries Association issued a press release in early December, highlighting its 2018 initiatives to improve gender equity and diversity – including the creation of the Women’s Empowerment Initiative, which includes summits to increase women’s leadership and various industry opportunities.  In September 2018,  the SEIA signed a Memorandum of Understanding  to help the solar industry recruit and employ more students from the 101 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  This will include hosting a national jobs fair, individual jobs fairs at the HBCU schools and bringing solar companies to campuses for recruitment.   A webinar series on diversity and inclusion is scheduled for SEIA member companies in 2019.

Talking Just Transition in the heart of coal country: COP24 delegates gather in Katowice, Poland

cop24 just transitionRepresentatives of almost 200 nations are meeting  at the 24th annual Conference of the Parties (COP24)  in Katowice, Poland from December 3 to 17.  Their goal is to negotiate a “rulebook” to turn the Paris Agreement pledges of 2015 into reality – basically, trying to find agreement on a host of implementation details so that the world can limit warming to 2, preferably 1.5 degrees C.

Katowice coal museum

Museum to coal mining in Katowice, Poland

With Poland as the host country and the  location of the meetings in the centre of the country’s coal region, it was inevitable that Just Transition would have a high profile at COP24 . The first day of the meetings at the Polish Pavilion was devoted entirely to discussion of the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration  which has been signed by Poland’s President and heads of 44 other countries. The Declaration states that social approval of changes is essential for the transition to a  low-carbon economy and the social security of workers in affected communities is the first and foremost policy goal. Although the International Trade Union Congress is meeting for its 4th World Congress in Copenhagen in the week of December 2,  it released a statement of support for the Silesia Declaration, stating “This declaration means that workers and their unions will have a seat at the negotiating table and workers’ voices will be heard when climate policies are developed and implemented. Good social dialogue processes are a crucial factor to make the changes to industries, sectors and national economies that will stop dangerous climate change and unleash a 65 million low-carbon jobs dividend by 2030. ”

Also at the ITUC World Congress, Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff delivered a speech (radio broadcast here ) on December 5 about on how Canadian unions are dealing with climate change.  The European Trade Union Confederation is also participating in the discussion on Just Transition –notably with participation in the  December 3 session  ‘Game changer for the future of work: Towards a just transition with gender equality’ . A list of ILO sessions and events regarding Just Transition and Decent Work is here .

December 10 has been designated as “Ambition and Just Transition Day”, and on December 13, Canada and the U.K. , as co-founders of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, will co-host a Side-event  to showcase the PPCA progress and to launch a new report on global coal economics by Carbon Tracker . mapping just transition 2018Already  launched at COP24:  Just Transition: Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low Carbon World , published by the Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC), part of the U.N. Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD). It focuses on Brazil, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, the United States, and Canada – with contributions from Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood.  The report discusses how differently Just Transition has been framed, and provides case studies of how it is being implemented in the six countries.

The Climate Action Network- Canada (CAN-Rac) is participating at COP24 and released a Brief which sets out five goals for the meetings, including  Just Transition goals. CAN-Rac calls for stronger institutional recognition of just transition – by  including a Just Transition commitment  in the official Nationally Determined Contribution, and by including it as a permanent theme within the COP meetings (which guarantees it status as an agenda item and as part of the official work programme). CANRac  supports the Polish Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration, recognizing the need for a carefully planned process built on social dialogue.  Within the Canadian context,  the Brief calls for an ongoing mandate for the federal Just Transition Task Force and an expansion beyond coal phase-out, to include all fossil fuel sectors. Finally it states: “The contribution of Indigenous communities in the creation and implementation of just transition policies and national plans is essential.”

What will Canada do at the COP24?  The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) makes its predictions in “The End of Coal? What to Watch for at the Upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP24)” . Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna will not arrive at the meetings until December 9 ; December 10 has been declared “Ambition and Just Transition Day”, and December 13,  “Coal-free Day”. On December 13,  McKenna , along with the other co-founder, U.K.’s Claire Perry, will co-host a Powering Past Coal Side-event to showcase the PPCA progress and spotlight a new report, Powering Down Coal  by Carbon Tracker.

In advance of leaving for COP24, the Minister pledged  that Canada will set more ambitious GHG emissions targets when the Paris Agreement begins in 2020 –  which is a good thing since recently released data from the Global Carbon Project shows Canada is one of the world’s top ten polluters, and the current target of reducing emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 is generally considered insufficient (even if we were to meet it).  The 2018 Emissions Gap Report from the U.N. documents just how insufficient the efforts of all countries have been.

How to  Keep up to date with COP24:  The United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) website has comprehensive coverage including highlights, official documents, photos, and webcasts from the meetings.  The  International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) also provides detailed daily coverage, including photos, in its Earth Negotiations Bulletin  (and has also written a Short Guide to COP24  as an introduction to how it all works).  For media coverage:  Climate Home News has extensive and expert coverage of all aspects and The Guardian, as always, has strong coverage.  For the latest  developments, follow Environment and Climate Change Canada’s  Twitter feed here ;  also   #JustTransition  ; #Climate Justice ; and for a variety of views ,  #COP24Katowice .

 

Preview of the recommendations by Canada’s Just Transition Task Force

Hassan Yussuff head shotIn a November 5 article, “ Federal panel privately urges Trudeau government to do more for coal workers”  ,  National Observer reporter Carl Meyer reveals that the Just Transition Task Force Interim Report is already in the hands of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, though not yet publicly available. Canada’s Just Transition Task Force was launched in April 2018 – an  11-member advisory group co-chaired by Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff,  to “ provide advice on how to make the transition away from coal a fair one for workers and communities.”  The Task Force Terms of Reference   allowed for 9 months for the report; Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna said on  November 2 : “We’re still reviewing the report, but as we talk about the need to power past coal and our commitment in Canada to phase out coal by 2030, we know there has to be a priority to supporting workers and communities.” A formal response is expected in November, and given the Minister’s leadership role in the international  Powering Past Coal Alliance and the public spotlight of the upcoming COP24 meetings in Katowice Poland in early December, that deadline is likely to be met.

The National Observer article of November 5, along with an April 2018 article about the Task Force launch, provide good background to the Task Force.  The new article emphasizes the different needs of different provinces – notably Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.  Most of the article is based on interviews with a few Task Force members.

But what are the Report’s Recommendations?  One member states that  “A lot of the recommendations are directly connected to what we heard from municipalities, from workers, from unions and from communities.”  The comments about the actual  recommendations are far from earth-shattering, but include:  1. Just Transition policies should be enshrined in legislation so that they are not as vulnerable to changing governments; 2. The  government should commit to infrastructure funding for municipalities in order to attract other businesses and offset job losses; 3. Support to workers should be extended, to help people quickly and efficiently access benefits like employment insurance, retraining, and relocation assistance.  These fall along the same lines as the 2017 Recommendations from the Alberta Advisory Panel  on Coal Communities , which are more detailed and which also accounted for First Nations issues.

A list of Task Force members is here. In addition to co-Chair Hassan Yussuff, there are members from the CLC, the Alberta Federation of Labour,  United Steelworkers, Unifor, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

 

Updated: New Just Transition agreement for Spanish coal miners called a model for others

The new government of Spain, in power since May 2018, has reached a new Just Transition agreement with coal miners, to further the coal phase-out which has been underway since the early 2000’s.   Approximately 1,000 miners and contractors at 10 mines will lose their jobs at the end of 2018, but according to a report in The Guardian (Oct. 26) “Unions hailed the mining deal – which covers Spain’s privately owned pits – as a model agreement. It mixes early retirement schemes for miners over 48, with environmental restoration work in pit communities and re-skilling schemes for cutting-edge green industries.”  The cost of the program is estimated at 250 million Euros.

UPDATED:  For the most detailed summary of this new agreement, see the press release from IndustriALL : “Spanish coal unions win landmark Just Transition deal”    (Nov. 1)  .  It includes a link to the 37-page actual agreement – in Spanish only – and quotes the Sustainability Director of IndustriALL, who states that it is a model agreement, and “The deal sets a precedent for responsible transition through social dialogue.”

Spain’s coal industry employed more than 100,000 miners in the 1960s, but today only 2.7% of the country’s electricity is powered by coal.  The country had already done a good job of its coal phase-out, according to Coal Transition in Spain, published in 2017 by The Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI)  and Climate Strategies Just Transition project.   That report draws on Spanish language resources to provides a thorough overview of employment statistics, policy instruments and stakeholder positions from previous coal phase-out. It also evaluates the success of measures taken, including training and early retirement incentives, community and infrastructure investment. The press release from IndustriALL summarizes the history from a different, union viewpoint.