Ørsted and U.S. Building Trades reach a national agreement for workforce planning in Offshore Wind

A November 18  press release from the North America Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and Ørsted Offshore North America  announces a “Landmark MOU for U.S. Offshore Wind Workforce Transition” , which “represents a transformative moment for organized labor and the clean energy industry. This framework sets a model for labor-management cooperation and workforce development in the budding offshore wind industry.”

According to the NABTU  press release, “The partnership will create a national agreement designed to transition U.S. union construction workers into the offshore wind industry in collaboration with the leadership of the 14 U.S. NABTU affiliates and the AFL-CIO.”    The newly-announced MOU is based on the model of an agreement developed by the Rhode Island Building Trades for the Block Island Wind Farm project – the first offshore wind installation in the U.S. which came online in December 2016, and is now operated by Ørsted .

No text of the new agreement is available yet, but the press release specifies:

“As part of this national framework, Ørsted, along with their partners, will work together with the building trades’ unions to identify the skills necessary to accelerate an offshore wind construction workforce. The groups will match those needs against the available workforce, timelines, scopes of work, and certification requirements to fulfill Ørsted’s pipeline of projects down the East Coast, creating expansive job opportunities in a brand-new American industry for years to come and raising economics for a just transition in the renewable sector…..Ørsted and NABTU, along with their affiliates and state and local councils, have agreed to work together on long-term strategic plans for the balanced and sustainable development of Ørsted’s offshore wind projects.”

North America’s Building Trades Unions is an alliance of 14 national and international unions in the building and construction industry that collectively represent over 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada.  Previous NABTU model national agreements are available here .  Labour-affiliated BlueGreen Alliance issued a press release immediately, “lauding” the agreement between NABTU and Ørsted .  BlueGreen is also a partner in  New England for Offshore Wind , a civil society coalition which advocates for regional collaboration in New England, and urges state Governors to make commitments to power one-third of New England with offshore wind by 2022.

The Block Island Wind Farm has been described as “a case study in high-quality job creation” by the Center for American Progress in Offshore Wind Means Blue-Collar Jobs for Coastal States  (April 2018). Massachusetts Offshore Wind Workforce Assessment,(2018) is a detailed  study by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Centre, focusing on job-related issues, and highlighting the experience of Block Island.

New report offers sector-based strategies for greening California with high road jobs

The Center for Labor Research at the University of California, Berkeley, was commissioned by the California Workforce Development Board under legislated mandate to provide strategies “to help industry, workers, and communities transition to economic and labor-market changes related to statewide greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.” The demand-side practices of community benefits agreements and project labour agreements were singled out for special attention.  The resulting 636-page report, Putting California on the High Road: A Jobs and Climate Action Plan for 2030 , was presented to the Legislature on September 3.  The official summary is here ; coverage in the Los Angeles Times is here.

The  High Road report is built on the framework of California’s 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan, which has target of  a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels. It incorporates existing academic research, economic models, and industry studies to present information about current labor conditions and the impact on jobs of California’s major climate measures. Most importantly, it provides strategic guidance and best practice examples for policymakers, agencies and institutions with a goal to “generate family-supporting jobs, broaden career opportunities for disadvantaged workers, deliver the skilled workforce that employers need to achieve California’s climate targets, and protect workers in declining industries.”  

Construction sector and blue-collar jobs are key

The Scoping Plan and the new report are organized into sectors based on the state’s major sources of greenhouse gas emissions: Transportation, Industry, Energy, Natural and Working Lands (including Agricultural Lands), Waste, and Water. The report notes the out-sized importance of the construction sector and of blue-collar work – defined as occupations in construction, production, transportation, maintenance, repair, and similar occupations, and specifically emphasizes that “blue collar” does not equate to “low skilled”. This has important policy implications, including the need for industry-based training, and emphasis on addressing job quality, because: “The quality of blue-collar jobs varies tremendously, even within the same industry, depending on the degree of subcontracting and outsourcing, ease of employment law enforcement, unionization rates, and other factors. These differences in job quality within industries and between high and low road employers are often difficult to discern from government data, which also is not able to capture wage theft and other employment violations. Examples are given of many sectors where greening of jobs may have resulted in lower emissions but not necessarily in job quality.

Recommendations

There are dozens of sector-specific recommendations, both demand-side and supply-side  including:

Expand the use of Community Workforce Agreements (CWAs) on climate investments involving large-scale construction projects;

Use inclusive procurement policies for public procurement of large capital equipment, contracts for public services, and in grant programs;

Include responsible employer standards in all climate incentive programs. Include skill standards to ensure safe and proper performance in programs receiving public or ratepayer funds; Incorporate wage and benefits standards and verification of compliance with all employment and labor law, including health and safety standards, into incentive program requirements.

Use metrics to measure the impact of climate policies on job growth, job quality, and job access.

Support existing apprenticeship programs and, where conditions are favorable, create new apprenticeship programs.

Support curriculum upgrades and teacher training for emerging technologies in occupations critical to the transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

Recommendations regarding Just Transition are: Short term: “Fully explore alternatives to plant closures when there are other strategies available that will achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions and local pollution abatement. Longer term: Convene an interagency task force to develop concrete, specific plans for short-term and long-term transition.”

The full report is 636 pages long, with Lead Author Carol Zabin, Director of the Green Economy Program at the Labor Center, University of California Berkeley. Co-authors include J. Mijin Cha , author of Chapter 4 on Just Transition.  Much of the research was undertaken in 2018, relying on data from 2017, though the report is dated June 2020, and was only publicly released in September 2020.  Previous related reports from the Green Economy Program are listed here. Other relevant articles by J. Mijin Cha include “Environmental Justice, Just Transition, and a Low-Carbon Future for California” in Environmental Law Reporter 2020 and “A just transition for whom? Politics, contestation, and social identity in the disruption of coal in the Powder River Basin” in Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 69, 2020. Both academic articles have restricted access to the full text.

Green New Deal for Public Housing Act provides concrete proposals and benefits

sanders cortezOn November 14, Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez led a press conference to announce the introduction of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act in the United States Senate, under Sanders’ sponsorship. The Bill would eliminate carbon emissions from federal housing, invest approximately $180 billion over ten years in retrofitting and repairs, and create nearly 250,000 decent-paying union jobs per year, according to the many summaries which appeared: for example, in Common Dreams . Bernie Sanders’ press release is here, linking to the legislation, summaries, and a list of  the 50 organizational supporters.  Co-sponsors named are Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

As stated in a press release,  progressive think tank Data for Progress “conducted policy and public opinion research to support this pathbreaking progressive legislation, which advances housing, racial, economic, environmental and climate justice together.” The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act can stand up to Scrutiny  reports the results of the political polling done by Data for Progress.  A related article, “Why Bernie Sanders and AOC are targeting public housing in the first Green New Deal bill” in Vox contends  “By starting with housing, the legislators appear to be trying to make inroads with a broad political base and avoid some of the more contentious aspects of the Green New Deal, like the transition away from fossil fuels. That issue in particular has divided labor unions because it would lead to the end of mining and drilling jobs.”

Data for Progress also conducted economic research which  “shows that a ten-year mobilization of up to $172 billion would retrofit over 1 million public housing units, vastly improving the living conditions of nearly 2 million residents, and creating over 240,000 jobs per year across the United States. These green retrofits would cut 5.6 million tons of annual carbon emissions—the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road. Retrofits and jobs would benefit communities on the frontlines of climate change, poverty and pollution and the country as a whole. Our analysis shows the legislation would create 32,552 jobs per year in New York City alone. A large portion of the jobs nationally—up to 87,000 a year—will be high-quality construction jobs on site at public housing developments.”  A Green New Deal for New York Housing Authority (NYHCA) Communities report is now available, and  a National report is forthcoming- until then, data is available here  .

New ILO report estimates productivity effects of working at over 35 degrees C.

ILO warmer planet coverReleased on July 1 by the International Labour Organiztion (ILO),  Working on a warmer planet: The impact of heat stress on labour productivity and decent work  presents estimates of the current and projected productivity losses at national, regional and global levels, and recommends policy and workplace actions.  The report  defines heat stress as “heat in excess of what the body can tolerate without suffering physiological impairment.” Roughly, it occurs at temperatures above 35°C, in high humidity. A growing body of research  show that it restricts workers’ physical capabilities and work capacity and thus, productivity, and can lead to  potentially fatal heatstroke.

The report projects that the equivalent of more than 2 per cent of total working hours worldwide will be lost every year by 2030. Agriculture and construction are the two sectors which will be worst affected , especially in south Asia, where job losses due to heat are projected to be 43 million jobs by 2030, and western Africa, where 9 million jobs are predicted to be lost. Other sectors especially at risk are environmental goods and services, refuse collection, emergency, repair work, transport, tourism, sports and some forms of industrial work. And as with so other climate change impacts, low-income countries are expected to suffer the worst, and people in the poorest regions will suffer the most.

Solutions:  From the report introduction: “Solutions do exist. In particular, the structural transformation of rural economies should be speeded up so that fewer agricultural workers are exposed to high temperatures and so that less physical effort has to be expended in such conditions. Other important policy measures that can help are skills development, the promotion of an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises, public investment in infrastructure, and improved integration of developing countries into global trade. At the workplace level, enhanced information about on-site weather conditions, the adaptation of workwear and equipment, and technological improvements can make it easier for workers and their employers to cope with higher temperatures. Employers and workers should discuss together how to adjust working hours, in addition to adopting other occupational safety and health measures. Accordingly, social dialogue is a relevant tool for improving working conditions on a warming planet.”

The report chapters include a global overview, as well as chapters for Africa, The Americas (composed of 4 sub-regions: North America, Central America, South America, and  The Caribbean) , Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia. The Americas discussion reiterates our favoured situation, with  low levels of heat stress and relatively high labour standards, although the patterns remain consistent:   “Whereas the impact of heat stress on labour productivity in Canada is practically zero, the United States lost 0.11 per cent of total working hours as a result of heat stress in 1995 and is projected to lose 0.21 per cent in 2030. The expected productivity loss in 2030 is equivalent to 389,000 full-time jobs. This effect is concentrated in the southern states of the country and concerns mostly outdoor workers, such as construction workers and farm workers in California.”

Outdoor workers and cancer:   Working on a warmer planet includes a highlight section regarding North American farm workers which cites the “Sun Safety at Work Canada” programme , which began in 2016 and is funded  by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.  In 2014, as many as 7,000 skin cancers in Canada were attributed to work-related sun exposure, and outdoor workers have a 2.5-3.5 times greater risk of developing skin cancer than indoor workers.  The Sun Safety at Work program focuses on skin cancer but also includes information about  heat stress and eye damage in its Resource Library  Downloadable publications for employers and individuals include fact sheets, videos and presentations .

Other recent, relevant reading: 

“Changes in Temperature and Precipitation Across Canada” : Chapter 4  in the federal government’s Canada’s Changing Climate Report, released in 2019. It assesses observed and projected changes for Canada.

The Urban Heat Island Effect at the Climate Atlas of Canada website discusses the issue and provides links to some of the adaptive municipal programs.

Healthy Climate, Healthy New Brunswickers: A proposal for New Brunswick that cuts pollution and protects health, by Louise Comeau and Daniel Nunes, released by The Conservation Council of New Brunswick on June 25. It predicts that  average temperatures in the 16 communities studied could rise 1.9 to 2.1 degrees Celsius between 2021 and 2050, and the number of days over 30 degrees are modelled to increase in the range of 122 to 300 per cent .

Life and Death under the Dome” (May 23) in the Toronto Star  , documents the summer of 2018 when at least  66  deaths in Montreal were attributed to heat.

Climate Change and Health: It’s Time for Nurses to Act   published by the the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions includes heat stress in its overview of health-related dangers of climate change in Canada, and highlights the heat waves in Ontario and Quebec in 2018.

Internationally: 

The Imperative of Climate Action to protect human health in Europe” released on June 3  by the European Academies Science Advisory Council  is mostly focused on the general population, but does include discussion of heat stress and of its effects on productivity.

Can the Paris Climate Goals Save Lives? Yes, a Lot of Them, Researchers Say” in the New York Times (June 5) summarizes an article from the journal Sciences Advances (June 5) .  “Increasing mitigation ambition to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal avoids substantial heat-related mortality in U.S. cities”  reviews the literature about heat-related mortality and concludes that achieving the 1.5°C threshold of the Paris Agreement  could avoid between 110 and 2720 annual heat-related deaths in 15 U.S. cities.

 

436,000 workers in energy efficiency jobs in Canada in 2018 – more than twice oil and gas industry

Eco Canada Energy-Efficiency coverOn April 29, Eco Canada released a new report, Energy Efficiency Employment in Canada , stating that “Canada’s energy efficiency goods and services sector directly employed an estimated 436,000 permanent workers in 2018 and is poised to grow by 8.3% this year, creating over 36,000 jobs.” According to the agency’s press release, this is the first report of its kind in Canada to offer  a comprehensive breakdown of revenue, employment figures, and hiring challenges.   One of the key takeaways of the report is highlighted in an article in The Energy Mix: “Energy Efficiency employs 436,000 Canadians – more than twice the total in oil and gas

Some highlights from Energy Efficiency Employment in Canada

  • Energy efficiency workers in 2018 were employed across approximately 51,000 business establishments across six industries:  construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, professional and business services, utilities, and other services.
  • Construction is by far the largest employer with 287,000 jobs across 39,000 establishments – 66% of the energy efficiency workforce. The next largest industry is wholesale trade, with 47,836 jobs (11%).
  • Among the direct and permanent energy efficiency workforce across all industries, approximately 29% spent all their time, 27% spent most of their time, and 44% spent a portion of their time on energy efficiency activities.
  • Just under one-fifth or 18% of workers were  female, and 2% were Indigenous, (both figures lower than national workforce averages).
  • Approximately 58% of energy efficiency workers were 35 or older.
  • 42% of energy efficiency workers were between ages 18 and 34  (compared to 33% in the national workforce).
  • Energy efficiency employment grew by almost 2.8% from 2017 to 2018, compared to 1.0% for all jobs nationally.
  • At 2.3% of Canada’s economy,  Canadian energy efficiency employment makes up a greater share of the economy than it does in the United States, at 1.9% .

Eco Canada infographic Enegry-Efficiency-Employment-The report is a result of a comprehensive survey conducted in the Fall 2018 with 1,853 business establishments, and also relies on Statistics Canada data. It tracks the methodology of the United States Energy Employment Report (USEER), to make comparisons consistent. The research is funded by Natural Resources Canada and the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

 

Job shifting effects of carbon pricing policy, with a focus on the Canadian construction industry

Construction and Carbon: The Impact of Climate Policy on Building in Canada in 2025  is a report released on May 1 by the Smart Prosperity Institute, with a title that doesn’t reflect the full range of the study.  The report actually models the effect of carbon pricing on GDP and employment in six sectors, although construction is the focal point since the research was financed by the Canadian Building Trades Unions.  Author Mike Moffatt uses the general equilibrium model gTech  to project two scenarios for the medium term (2025) :  a “business as usual” case (which assumes federal and provincial carbon policies as they existed in 2018) and an “aggressive” case, which assumes carbon prices increasing over time so that Canada would achieve its  Paris Agreement commitment to reduce  greenhouse gas emissions  by 30% by 2030.

Smart Prosperity emphasizes that “the construction sector is one of the ‘winners’ of carbon pricing, as escalating carbon prices unleash a wave of business and household investment.”  Specifically, raising the stringency of carbon prices (the aggressive scenario) shows that the total number of jobs in Canada would  increase by an 39,500 – 19,000 of which would be in construction, and 55,000 of which would be in services. These gains are offset by job losses in the other sectors: utilities, resources, manufacturing, and transportation. smart prosperity map re construction reportProjections are broken down by province: showing that for construction jobs, Saskatchewan would see the greatest growth, followed by Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta, and British Columbia.

The report also provides forecasts for: Investment by sector; Impact of Higher Carbon Policies on Business Investment by Type (e.g. renewable energy, CCS, public transit); and  Impact of Higher Carbon Policies on Household Investment by Type (building efficiency, low-carbon vehicles).

The differentiated effect of carbon taxes by sector is a theme explored in an earlier Smart Prosperity working paper  Do Carbon Taxes Kill Jobs? Firm-Level Evidence from British Columbia , released in March 2019 as part of the Clean Economy Working Paper series.  The Smart Prosperity Institute is based at  the University of Ottawa.

A Roadmap to improve green building skills in Ontario

CAGBC trading upA report released by the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) at the end of  January is called “ an action plan to close the low-carbon building skills gap in the Ontario construction industry”.  Trading Up: Equipping Ontario Trades with the Skills of the Future  estimates that the skills gap is costing Ontario C$24.3 billion in annual economic activity, and limiting the province’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report identifies where shortages in low-carbon skills training currently exist, and defines specific actions that labour, governments, post-secondary institutions and industry organizations can take to optimize green building skills training.  Although it focuses on the skilled trades, the report also calls for skills upgrading for designers, architects, engineers, buildings officials and buildings managers, highlighting that  “Changes to the larger construction approach and acknowledgment of soft skills are necessary to deliver high-performing buildings. We therefore need to increase overall levels of ‘green literacy’ .”   The 6-page Executive summary is here  .

The CaGBC also released the  2018  LEED Impact Report for Canada  in January 2019 providing  statistical snapshots of  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified and Zero Carbon building in each province and territory – with measures for energy savings, GHG reductions, water savings, recycling, and green roofs.

On February 13, the U.S. Green Building Council released its annual ranking of  the Top 10 countries and regions of the world (excluding the U.S.) which have the highest  cumulative gross square meters of construction which are LEED-certified.  Canada ranked 2nd   in terms of  gross square metres of LEED certified space, after China,  and ranked first in the number of certified projects, with 3,254 certified projects.

How local government policies can encourage energy efficiency jobs and training

Through the Local Government Lens: Developing the Energy Efficiency Workforce, is a report released on June 13 by the American  Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  It cites  data from the  2018 U.S. Energy & Employment Report, which reported  that there are 2.25 million efficiency jobs in the U.S. currently – 1.27 million of which are in the construction trades, followed by 450,000 in professional and business services.  The report dives more deeply into the demographics and characteristics of the energy efficiency workforce, and discusses the unique challenges of workforce development policies – the need to replace a retiring workforce, funding uncertainty for job creation and infrastructure, a need to encourage diversity, and a complex set of stakeholders,  given that there is no single educational or skills path for efficiency workers. The report includes unions and union-led training in its discussion of stakeholders and in its recommended strategies for workforce development policies.

Case studies with various approaches are presented from across the U.S., with the sole Canadian example of Vancouver, B.C.  For example: Boston, where training in energy building management is provided to city and utility workers at local community colleges;  New Orleans, where the city coordinates with U.S. Green Building Council, local community colleges, the New Orleans Office of Supplier Diversity, and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide efficiency-related training to low-income community members and minority- and women-owned businesses; and Los Angeles, which has established a Cleantech Incubator to attract new businesses and private-sector investment to the city. Other U.S. cities discussed are New York City, Orlando Florida, and  Columbus Ohio.

English_Bay,_Vancouver,_BCVancouver, B.C. launched several initiatives to teach skills required to build in accordance with its Zero Emissions Building Plan, approved in 2016.  The city plans to subsidize training  for builders and developers to learn more about passive house design standards, technical building requirements, economic and energy impacts, and energy modeling tools.  Vancouver will also contribute funds to the Zero Emissions Building Centre of Excellence, a nonprofit-run collaborative platform that will compile and disseminate zero-emission building educational resources to the local building industry.

A blog summarizes the report; it is available free from this link, registration is required.

How to increase women`s representation in green industries

women in trainingTwo  new reports were released in May in the Smart Prosperity Clean Economy Working Paper Series.  Identifying Promising Policies and Practices for Promoting Gender Equity in Global Green Employment by Bipasha Baruah, synthesizes and analyses existing literature  on women’s  employment in manufacturing, construction and transportation –  “brown” sectors which are important in the transition to a green economy. From the paper: “The literature points to four overarching barriers that exist for women who seek to enter and remain in these fields: lack of information and awareness about employment in these sectors, gender bias and gender stereotyping, masculinist work culture and working conditions, and violence against women. … Most policies designed to address women’s underrepresentation in these fields tend to be reactive responses that do not engage adequately with broader societal structures and institutions that produce and maintain inequality. Improving lighting in construction sites in order to prevent sexual assaults against women and requiring women to work in pairs instead of alone are classic examples of reactive policies that end up reinforcing social hierarchies rather than challenging them… …. Raising broader societal awareness about the benefits of gender equity, and about women’s equal entitlement to employment in all fields, is as crucial as policy reforms and state or corporate actions that protect women’s interests and facilitate their agency. “ The discussion includes interesting observations about women’s challenges  in engineering professions and in apprenticeships.

The second paper, also by Bipasha Baruah, is  Creating and Optimizing Employment Opportunities for Women in the Clean Energy Sector in Canada .  This paper has been released previously and was highlighted in April 2018 in the Work and Climate Change Report, along with  Women and Climate Change Impacts and Action in Canada: Feminist, Indigenous and Intersectional Perspectives , published by Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces in Canada`, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women and the Alliance for Intergenerational Resilience. Both reports note the underrepresentation of women in the clean energy industry and call for improvements in workforce training and hiring; the working paper by Bipasha Baruah emphasizes the need for change in societal attitudes.

The publisher, Smart Prosperity is  based at the University of Ottawa, and announced major new funding at the end of  March 2018 , which will enable new research in a “Greening Growth Partnership” initiative.  Click here for information about the funding and the international experts who will be participating in Smart Prosperity research.

Decarbonizing Canada’s economy offers huge construction job opportunities

Columbia Institute jobs for tomorrowA July report asserts that Canada’s ability to meet our climate goals will be based on multiple paths to decarbonization, including construction of new electricity-generation facilities using renewable sources, including hydro, wind, solar, tidal, biomass and geothermal energy. In addition, it will require the construction and maintenance of more efficient buildings, and transportation infrastructure. The tradespeople who can build such low-carbon solutions include masons, boilermakers, pipefitters, insulators, electrical workers, glaziers, HVAC, linemen, ironworkers and others .

The July report,  Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions   makes job creation projections for construction occupations, based on an aggressive emissions reduction target of Net-zero emissions by 2050  (Canada’s current national emissions reduction commitment is 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030) . Overall, the report concludes that the Net-zero emissions reduction target could generate nearly 4 million direct building trades jobs, and 20 million indirect, induced and supply chain jobs by 2050. Some examples from the report:  building small district energy systems in half of Canada’s municipalities with populations over 100,000 would create over 547,000 construction jobs by 2050. Building solar installations would create the next-highest level of construction jobs: 438,350. Building $150 billion of urban transit infrastructure (rapid transit tracks and bridges, subway tunnels, and dedicated bus lanes) would create about 245,000 direct construction jobs by 2050.

Jobs for Tomorrow is much more than a laundry list of job projections. Authors Tyee Bridge, Richard Gilbert, and Charley Beresford were supported by advisers Lee Loftus, President BC Building Trades; Bob Blakely, Canadian Operating Officer, Canada’s Building Trades Unions; and Tom Sigurdson, Executive Director, BC Building Trades. As a result, the report provides a depth of understanding of the construction industry, which is put in the context of solidly researched overviews of Canada’s current economic and climate change policy.  The report was commissioned by Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU), an umbrella organization affiliated with 15 international construction unions, and released by the Columbia Institute, Vancouver. A French version, Les emplois de demain : Les métiers de la construction du Canada et les émissions nettes zero  is available here   .

 

How the B.C. Insulators Union fights climate change and promotes green awareness in the construction industry

The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change research project has released two  papers relating to the built environment, and more specifically, the accomplishments of one labour union in British Columbia to  promote major climate change improvements in the construction industry.  Evaluating the Impact of the BC Insulators’ Union Campaign to Promote Improved Mechanical Insulation Standards in BC’s Construction Industry   (April 2016) described the campaign by  BC Insulators union Local 118 to encourage municipalities in B.C. to require higher insulation standards in their building requirements and procurement contract tenders.  To do this, the union “funded independent, technical research papers, commissioned best practice manuals with detailed guidelines on installing MI and initiated an extensive and carefully organized public education campaign to pressure industry and government to raise standards. It approached municipalities, building contractors, government officials, property developers, industry professionals and trade organizations to alert them to the importance of reducing the energy footprint of buildings. It pressured governments to raise MI standards in procurement of new and refurbished buildings and implement tougher requirements in their building codes. And it introduced climate change literacy into the curriculum of the apprenticeship system it oversees.”

insulalater2-365x365The climate literacy curriculum is the subject of a new report released in April 2017: Promoting Climate Literacy in British Columbia’s Apprenticeship System: Evaluating One Union’s Efforts to Overcome Attitudinal Barriers to Low Carbon Construction   describes  the ‘Green Awareness’ course the union provides as part of the apprenticeship training for  all mechanical insulation trades workers in British Columbia. The two-module course was introduced in 2011 and is taught over the course of the first two years of the four-year program.  After conducting a review of the ‘Green Awareness’ course content, the research team performed qualitative interviews with a cohort of 2nd and 4th year apprentices to determine how effective the training had been.   These findings indicate the need for further refinements in the content and delivery of the ‘Green Awareness’ course material. The authors conclude that incorporating climate change-related course content into the training process is an important step in fostering climate literacy within the industry and should be encouraged in other trades. They caution, however, that its degree of impact will be limited unless more sweeping changes are made to the organization and culture of the construction industry itself.

Both papers were authored by John Calvert and Corinne Tallon.  The evaluation of the climate literacy program was presented at the International Labour Process Conference (ILPC), Sheffield, United Kingdom, April 4 – 6, 2017.

bcinsulaors118-logo

 

Jobs in Renewable Energy: the importance of Community Ownership, and the growth of good union jobs under California’s policies

At the end of June, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative (TREC) released a report outlining the environmental, social, and economic benefits of locally owned and operated renewable power. The Power of Community  calculates the direct and indirect economic impacts of a solar FIT community project and  SolarShare power projects in Ontario since the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, and emphasizes the superior results when projects involve community ownership and participation. The TREC report cites a 2016 report published by the Community Energy Association, QUEST, and Sustainable Prosperity.  Community Energy Planning: The Value Proposition — Environmental, Health and Economic Benefits   reported that, for every $1 million invested in building energy efficiency retrofits, over 9 person-years of permanent employment would be created within the province of Ontario.  The  TREC  report also cites a 2014 study by Institute for Local Self Reliance, Advantage Local: Why Local Energy Ownership Matters,  which states that community owned projects in the U.S. generally generate twice the number of jobs as commercially-run projects.

The Link Between Good Jobs and a Low Carbon Future ,  released in June by the Don Vial Center on the Green Economy at Berkeley’s Labor Center , examines large-scale clean energy construction projects in California.  The key finding of the report is that these projects are creating high-paying, long-lasting blue-collar jobs, the majority of which are unionized.  The report provides data measuring the quantity of job creation, but also pension and health insurance contributions as well as apprenticeship enrollments for the period 2002 – 2015. The situation is credited  to California’s unique Renewables Portfolio Standard, which allows for  Project Labor Agreements ( PLA’s) between employers and building trades unions.  Read the summary here .

Canadian Building organizations call for Zero Emissions by 2030, along with World Green Building Council. Vancouver and Victoria take action

In August, eleven organizations in Canada’s building industry released a public letter to the Ministers of Natural Resources and of Environment and Climate Change, calling on the federal government to develop “strong action and new policy for the buildings sector”. Their letter  calls for  a national plan with goals for 2030:  retrofitting so that 30 per cent of existing building stock achieves energy reductions of 25 to 50 per cent, and “nearly zero” for all new construction.  The letter also calls for a suite of policies relating to benchmarking, standards, building codes, and “support for education and training of professionals and trades involved in retrofit and new construction projects”.  Signatories to the letter are: Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance;Pembina Institute; Toronto Atmospheric Fund; Architecture Canada;  Association Québeécoise pour la Maîtrise de l’Énergie; BOMA Toronto;  Council for Clean Capitalism;  Environmental Defense; Équiterre;  MaRS Advanced Energy Centre; and Passive House Canada.

Canada was one of 8 countries named in a press release by the World Green Building Council on June 28, announcing the Advancing Net Zero Project.  Architecture 2030, a non-profit, is also a partner. The goal of the initiative is to meet the COP21 pledge to  reduce CO2 emissions from the buildings sector by 84 gigatonnes by 2050, through net zero buildings and deep renovation , including all new buildings and major renovations should be net zero starting in 2030 , all buildings should be net zero by 2050, and 75,000 professionals trained on net zero building by 2030, with 300,000 by 2050 .

In July,  the City of Vancouver released a  Zero Emissions Building Plan,   which states:  “this is an action plan to achieve zero emissions in all new residential and office building by 2025; high-rise multi-unit residential buildings will be required to achieve zero emissions by 2030.” (The Plan states that 82% of new development in Vancouver is residential, 1-2% is office space, and the remaining 16% miscellaneous building types). The Plan was developed in “close collaboration” and consultation with  other local governments, professional associations, academic institutions, non-governmental agencies, energy utilities and the development industry – but no unions were included in the process. “The Plan was also shaped and informed by ongoing discussions with the cities of New York and Brussels.”

One of the new tools announced is a Centre of Zero Emission Building Excellence which will be a physical space, and “will partner with professional and industry associations to host training events, courses, panels, and exhibits. In addition, the Centre could administer mission-related programs on behalf of partner organizations, such as energy-efficiency incentive programs.”  It is modelled on the examples of New York’s Building Energy Exchange (BEEx), and Wood Works B.C.  , hosted by the Canadian Wood Council .

Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy  , adopted in November 2015,  targetted 100% of the city’s energy to come  from renewable sources before 2050. Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is catching up to Vancouver with an August announcement of  a 100% renewable energy target , and a goal to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050.  Victoria has identified the priority areas of retrofitting buildings, developing new construction guidelines, encouraging renewable district energy systems, and facilitating a  shift towards active transportation. Next steps for Victoria: an action plan, task force,  and community and stakeholder consultation.

Building Workers as the Engine of a Just Transition to a Low Carbon Society

Construction Labour, Work and Climate Change”  appeared as a special issue of Construction Labour News, published by the European Institute for Construction Research in December 2015. Against the backdrop of the COP21 negotiations, the need for Just Transition policies is the overriding theme of the issue. In their introduction, editors Colin Gleeson and John Calvert highlight the importance of the building sector: ‘which employs at least 110 million construction workers worldwide, has the highest potential for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions in both industrialized and developing countries’ (ILO, 2013), and ‘emissions reductions in the building sector provide the greatest savings per unit cost’ (UNFCC 2007). Further, they state: “Construction trade unions and their allies must transform the image of construction to celebrate the building worker as the engine of a just transition to a low carbon society.” The editors propose four elements of a broad-based strategy to achieve that goal. Subject Articles include: “British Columbia Insulators Low Carbon Building Campaign” (by John Calvert);” On the Energy [R]evolution: Sustainable world energy outlook” (by Colin Gleeson); “Climate Protection Policy of IG BA” (by Dietmar Schäfers); “Just Transitions: Origins and Dimensions” (by Dimitris Stevis and Romain Felli), and “Low-carbon skills development in UK construction” (by Gavin Killip).

The Boom in Green Construction, and Energy Efficient Buildings

According to a report prepared for the U.S. Green Building Council by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the green construction industry is currently outpacing traditional construction, and will be responsible for 38% of all construction jobs in the U.S. by 2018. The 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study measures gross domestic product (GDP), jobs, labour earnings, individual states’ tax contributions and environmental indicators for green building and LEED construction, at the state and national level. The report is free, but requires registration to download.
 

Pembina Institute released a series of reports about energy efficiency and net-zero buildings  over the summer of 2015, to contribute to B.C.’s Climate Leadership consultations. The most recent, concerning passive houses, were presented at the North American Passive House Network conference in Vancouver in October. Barriers and solutions to near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) and High Performance envelope in Europe and North America notes the role of work practices, lack of training, and regulatory barriers. Programs or Policies in North America that have Encouraged Passive Houses lists examples of changes to procurement policies, building codes, and permitting practices which have encouraged the growth of passive houses; most examples are for Vancouver and the west coast of the U.S.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN ALBERTA & BRITISH COLUMBIA

In one of its first announcements, on June 4 the new Government of Alberta announced a $2 million investment in the province’s Municipal Climate Change Action Centre    to promote energy efficiency and conservation initiatives led by local governments. The Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance recently released a brief report, GHG Savings and Energy Efficiency High – Level Opportunity Analysis in Alberta  , which forecasts that over 15,000 new jobs could be created in one year, provincial annual GDP increased by $3 billion, and nearly $200 million/year in additional tax revenue could be raised , if the Alberta government were to invest in energy efficiency to a level equivalent to other provinces. The Alberta study uses the same methodology as a Canada-wide study released in November 2014 by the Acadia Center, Energy Efficiency: Engine of Economic Growth in Canada. A Macroeconomic Modeling & Tax Revenue Impact Assessment . The Canada-wide study found that, for every $1 million invested in efficiency programs, 30 to 52 job-years are generated. Both studies were prepared by Dunksy Energy Consulting.

Accelerating Energy Efficiency in BC’s Built Environment: Lessons from Massachusetts and California was released by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the end of May. The report compares the policy framework for energy efficiency in the three jurisdictions and concludes that B.C.’s Energy Efficient Buildings Strategy had merit when it was launched in 2008, but has lagged in success because it lacks accountability and public reporting mechanisms. Amongst the recommendations: “Appoint an expert, permanent and broad stakeholder representative Energy Efficiency Advisory Council to work with the province to develop, implement and ensure the delivery of an ambitious 20-year building energy efficiency strategy; Empower local communities via legislative changes to become niches for super-efficient buildings; Establish a transparent, deliberative process for setting utility energy savings targets that align with the province’s mitigation and market transformation goals.”

The Importance of New Skills Training for Construction, Managers and all Occupations, in a Low Carbon Europe

Greener Skills and Jobs, a joint publication of the the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), was released at the 2nd Green Skills Forum in Paris in mid-February.

The publication consists of papers presented by policy makers, researchers, experts from international ogreener-skills-and-jobs_9789264208704-enrganisations and academics at the first forum in 2012. With a focus on European experience, the papers are organized into three sections: Gearing up Education for Training and Growth; Enterprise Approaches For a Workforce Fit For a Green Economy; and Integrating Skills Into Local Development Strategies For Green Job Creation.

Beyond the expected overview of the quantity and quality of green jobs in the EU countries and the arguments for the need for labour market flexibility and retraining, the 228-page document also offers detailed and specific chapters, including: “Licensing and certification to increase skills provision and utilisation amongst low-carbon small and medium-sized enterprises in the United Kingdom” (a study of construction trades and the emerging energy efficiency jobs), and “Managerial skills in the green corporation”, which used case study interviews to confirm the importance of three competencies for middle and top managers: change management leadership, collaborative openness, and eco-innovative mindset.
The overall message is that green skills will be needed “in all sectors and at all levels in the workforce as emerging economic activities create new (or renewed) occupations”.

LINKS

Greener Skills and Jobs is available at: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/industry-and-services/greener-skills-and-jobs_9789264208704-en (read-only, or download with OECD credentials). It is not yet available in French. Links to all the OECD Green Growth Studies are available at: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/fr/environment/oecd-green-growth-studies_22229523

Meeting skill needs for green jobs: Policy recommendations (November 2013) is a related document published by the International Labour Organization, which describes the complex international policy environment related to green vocational education. It was prepared for the G20 Working Group relating to Human Resources Development. It is available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/—ifp_skills/documents/publication/wcms_234463.pdf

Release of 2011 U.S. Green Jobs Statistics Shows Growth; Future Surveys Cancelled

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published the results of the latest Green Goods and Services Survey on March 19, 2013, estimating that there were 3.4 million Green Goods and Services (GGS) jobs in the U.S. in 2011, with a growth rate of 2.6% from 2010 to 2011. The leading source of private sector green job growth from 2010 to 2011 came in the construction sector, with more than 100,000 jobs. California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio ranked highest in the number of GGS jobs.

See the 2011 survey results, supplemental tables, and the revised 2010 data archived at:http://www.bls.gov/ggs/news.htm. At the same time, the Bureau announced that one of the means by which it will meet its budget cut of more than $30 million, is to eliminate all the products associated with its “Measuring Green Jobs” program, including the surveys and the career information publications.

See the Sequestration announcement at:http://www.bls.gov/bls/sequester_info.htm.

U.S. State Department Releases New Jobs Estimates for Keystone XL Pipeline

The U.S. State Department released the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Keystone XL on Friday March 1, making no recommendations for or against approval of the pipeline project. A 45-day period has commenced to allow for public comments, with a final supplemental environmental impact statement to be released before a government decision, expected no earlier than Summer 2013.

Although mainly assessing environmental impacts, the report includes a socioeconomic section which provides new data: a wider view of impacts (including housing, public services support, fiscal revenues and private property valuations), and more detailed estimates about job creation and earnings impacts. According to the new estimates, 42,100 indirect jobs and 3,900 direct jobs would be created during the one- to two-year construction period, but the ongoing operation of the pipeline would only support 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, mostly for inspections, maintenance and repairs.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver summed up the Canadian government position on the Keystone XL pipeline when he traveled to Houston Texas on March 6 to address the Huston oil workers. He stated: “The oil sands generate jobs and economic prosperity both in Canada and in the United States. Currently, oil sands production supports 63,000 American jobs per year. With expansion through Keystone and other projects, the oil sands will support tens of thousands more on both sides of the border.”

LINKS

Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Keystone XL is available in a series of PDF files at: http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/draftseis/index.htm

Detailed Socioeconomic estimates, including employment and earnings, are published in Section 3.10 at: http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/205641.pdf and Section 4.10 at: http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/205612.pdf

All documents related to the project are posted on a dedicated State Department website at: http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/

Reactions to the statement from:
TransCanada Pipeline http://www.transcanada.com/6209.html;

National Resources Defence Council (U.S.) at: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/sclefkowitz/keystone_xl_tar_sands_pipeline_7.html;