Hassan Yussuff, President, Canadian Labour Congress
On April 25, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced the members of the the Just Transition Task Force for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities, to be co-chaired by Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Lois Corbett, Executive Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. Biographies are here , revealing that six of the eleven members of the Task Force are unionists: two from the CLC, the Alberta Federation of Labour, United Steelworkers, Unifor, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The press release by the Canadian Labour Congress states: “The world is watching. By launching this task force, Canada has the opportunity to set an international example on how to implement progressive policy to reduce emissions while keeping people and communities at the centre”. A National Observer article provides context and background about the members of the Task Force, and some quotes from the press conference which announced it. A CBC report also includes a video of the press conference.
The full Terms of Reference for the Just Transition Task Force were originally published in February 2018, and include a mandate to make recommendations to the Minister via an interim report and a final report due at the end of 2018. Members of the Task Force will meet with government officials at the local and provincial level, workers, stakeholders, academics, and also make site visits to coal plants and communities that will be affected by the accelerated phase-out of coal power in Canada. The Task Force will no doubt benefit from the work of Alberta’s Advisory Panel on Coal Communities , which also examined the impacts on communities and workers of an end to coal-fired electricity by 2030, and proposed strategies to support workers through the transition. The Alberta Panel issued its recommendations in a brief report, titled Supporting Workers and Communities in November 2017, resulting in a number of provincial programs, described here .
At the international level, Canada has been active since joining with the United Kingdom to launch the Powering Past Coal Alliance in November 2017 at the Conference of the Parties (COP23), in Bonn in 2017. Updates on that initiative are available from this link. As of April 2018, there are over 60 countries and private businesses in the alliance. An April 2018 release reports that Canada and the U.K. will collaborate with Bloomberg Philanthropies on the goals of the Alliance, including to produce research and case studies on the issue. Also, at the One Planet Summit in December 2017, Canada announced its partnership with the World Bank Group and the International Trade Union Confederation, to accelerate the transition from coal-fired electricity to clean sources in developing countries.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its 23rd Alternative Budget (AFB) on February 22 in Ottawa, in advance of the federal government’s February 26 Budget release. According to the summary at Behind the Numbers : “Our budget puts forward bold progressive policy ideas rooted in a rigorous economic and fiscal framework. Our approach considers not just standard budget items but delivers a gender-based analysis, examines income distribution effects, and projects the impacts on poverty rates.” High priority areas for the CCPA include universal child care, pharmacare, gender equity, free tuition, and a green, low carbon economy.
The report argues that the current, relatively low unemployment levels make this an opportune time to begin “in earnest, the just transition to a green jobs future.” In a section called “Industrial Strategy and Just Transition” the report calls for a National Decarbonization Strategy to be developed through broad consultation, and to act as a co-ordinating body for other AFB proposals – notably an enhanced Low Carbon Economy Fund to support cities and infrastructure investments, and a trade promotion strategy. A new $500-million Just Transition Transfer (JTT) is proposed, to flow federal funds to provinces – for workers and communities affected through actions under the National Decarbonization Strategy or for existing provincial just transition programs, such as Alberta’s Coal Workforce Transition Fund. Finally, the AFB calls for a new $1Billion Strategic Training Fund to increase training capacity at colleges and trade schools – with the funds contingent on improved representation of women, racialized Canadians, immigrants, First Nations and other groups that have been historically excluded from the skilled trades.
Regarding the environment, some of the top-level goals are : Remove all direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuel exploration, development and transportation; enforce a stringent national carbon pricing standard (rising to $50 per tonne by 2020); contribute Canada’s fair share of global climate financing; improve energy efficiency for Canadian homes, with $600 million annually to offset the costs of retrofitting and construction; create a network of protected areas covering 17% of Canada’s land and freshwater and 10% of its oceans; strengthen environmental protection laws and make advances toward sustainable fisheries, and invest $50 million annually for a stronger environmental data and science system at Statistics Canada.
Read the full Alternative Federal Budget 2018 in English or in French.
On February 16th, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced amendments to existing regulations to phase out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030, along with new greenhouse gas regulations for natural-gas-fired electricity. The proposed regulations are open to comment until April 18, 2018.The government’s Technical Backgrounder is here.
In fulfilment of a promise made to Canadian unions at the COP meetings in Bonn in December 2017, the Minister also announced the creation of a Task Force on the Just Transition for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities. A detailed statement of the Terms of Reference calls for the Task Force to engage with specified stakeholder groups and provide policy options and recommendations by the end of 2018. The Minister will appoint 9 members and 2 chairs – with the strongest representation from labour unions, including a representative from the from the Canadian Labour Congress; from a provincial Federation of Labour in an affected province; from a union responsible for coal extraction; from a union in coal power generating facilities; and from a union in the skilled trades related to coal power. The rest of the Task Force will include a workforce development expert, a sustainable development expert; a past executive from a major Canadian electricity company or utility; and a municipal representative, identified in collaboration with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Reaction is generally supportive, as exemplified by the Climate Action Network, or the Pembina Institute. Members have not yet been named, although the expertise of the Coal Transition Coalition, chaired by the Alberta Federation of Labour, would appear to be essential. Their report, Getting it Right: A Just Transition Strategy for Alberta’s Coal Workers, was submitted to the Alberta Advisory Panel on Coal Communities in 2017, and recommended establishing an independent Alberta Economic Adjustment Agency to manage Just Transition.