Over 400,000 Clean Energy jobs lost in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic

U.S. government employment figures for December 2020 show that the U.S. clean energy sector added 16,900 jobs in December. However, analysis released on January 13 reveals that the recovery is slow, and the industry now has its lowest number of  workers since 2015, having suffered a loss of over 400,000 jobs (12%) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clean Energy Employment Initial Impacts from the COVID-19 Economic Crisis, December 2020  was prepared by BW Research Partnership, commissioned by industry groups E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), E4TheFuture, and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) . The 17-page report provides data by state and by technology, with energy efficiency leading the losses with 302,164 total jobs lost nationally between February and December 2020. California was the hardest hit state. 

This is the latest in a monthly series of reports tracking the impact of Covid-19 on clean energy jobs – the series is available at the E2 website here. These reports document the dramatic shift in clean energy employment in the U.S; the E2 Clean Jobs America 2020 annual report  outlines the industry’s policy recommendations for recovery as of April 2020.     

  

New forum for human rights views on Just Recovery

Launched in December 2020, Just Recovery from Covid-19  is a new blog forum for the international human rights community. One of the first posts is  “A New Social Contract” by Sharan Barrow, Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Barrow reviews the impacts of Covid-19 and calls for a new global social contract, based on principles outlined in the 2019 ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work  – labour protections for all workers, universal social protections for all, a transformative agenda for women, and just transitions for climate and technology shifts.  Barrow reviews the current Just Recovery policy debate in Europe, and states: “At the heart of these measures sits the requirement for social dialogue to ensure trust in design and implementation.”

The Just Recovery blog series is hosted by The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR). It aims to open the door on the community of organizations and people seeking to promote human rights issues in business. For example, the CEO of the Institute for Human Rights and Business posted to the blog with “Building forward better: Thoughts on intergenerational justice “. (Other reports at the IHRB website include: Connecting the Climate Change and Business & Human Rights Agendas  (Dec 2020) and Just Transitions for All: Business, Human Rights, and Climate Action  (Nov. 2020). )

Another contributor to the Just Recovery blog is the CEO of Principles for Responsible Investment., with the post “Collaborating for a Just Recovery”  . PRI initiated the pioneering Blueprint for Responsible Investment  in 2017 and continues to work globally for transparency and environmental responsibility in the investment community.

International studies offer hope to reach Paris targets through Green Recovery plans

An October report, Assessment of Green Recovery Plans after Covid-19 , modelled Green Recovery plans globally and for the EU, Germany, Poland, Spain, the UK, USA, Japan and India. In all cases, the Green Recovery Plan produced the best results measured for GDP growth, employment impacts and emission reductions . The report assessed two paths to recovery, both of which have equal cost to government: 1. a ‘return to normal’ approach by reducing VAT rates and encouraging households to resume spending; and 2.  a ‘Green’ Recovery Plan that included a smaller reduction in VAT, but included public investment in energy efficiency and in upgrading electricity grids; subsidies for wind and solar power; a car scrappage program with subsidies for electric vehicles; and a tree planting program. The report was commissioned by the We Mean Business coalition and conducted by Cambridge Econometrics in the U.K.

Another report was announced in an October 28 press release:  Technical Report: The Case for a Green and Just Recovery, commissioned by the C40 Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force.  This report (with details of methodology here), estimates that investing COVID stimulus funds in green solutions would create 50 million jobs, prevent 270,000 premature deaths, and deliver $280bn in economic benefits globally.   Expressing concern that, “to date, only 3 – 5% of an estimated US$12 – $15 trillion in international COVID stimulus funding is committed to green initiatives”, the C40 Task Force  issued a Call to Action  for national governments, international institutions, businesses and world leaders. Noting that timing is consequential, the Task Force calls for “decisive climate action before COP26” , to embrace the principles of the Global Green New Deal coalition – turning away from “business as usual”, ending all public investments in fossil fuels, and pledging to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

The  C40 Mayors’ Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery  was launched in July, with support from civic society, labour unions and youth activists. A detailed  Implementation Guide was released in June with specific strategies.

An optimistic view: Green Stimulus Funds can take us to 1.5C

Finally, “How the coronavirus stimulus could put the Paris Agreement on track” appeared in Carbon Brief , summarizing “Covid-19 recovery funds dwarf clean energy investment needs” , an academic article published in the journal Science  – (restricted access). The authors of the article argue that if just a fraction of Covid-19 fiscal stimulus – around 10%  – was invested every year, it  would be sufficient to fund the clean energy transition.  “Together with the $300bn annual increase into low-carbon energy, investments into fossil fuels need to be reduced by $280bn per year for a Paris compliant pathway”.  The optimistic conclusion: “In very concrete terms, our analysis shows that the more ambitious goal under the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5C is still within reach. Decisive leadership, swift action and sound use of scientific advice seems to be a good recipe for coping with both the Covid-19 crisis and our warming climate.”

 

 

Canadian Labour Congress calls for “a climate-action budget” for post Covid recovery

To coincide with Labour Day, the Canadian Labour Congress unveiled its new social media campaign, “Forward Together: A Canadian Plan” with a press release which says: “We need the government to reject calls for austerity and make real investments in our future. The only way to fix what’s broken is to invest,” …. “Workers are key to the recovery. The federal government can help alleviate a lot of anxiety by investing in jobs, making long-term care part of public health care, supporting a child care strategy, and implementing national pharmacare.”

The CLC campaign comes in advance of the federal government’s recovery plan, scheduled for release in the Throne Speech of September 23, and urges Canadians to contact their members of parliament. The campaign launched was amplified by member labour unions, and covered in mainstream press: for example, the Toronto Globe and Mail published an Opinion piece by CLC President Hassan Yussuff ; The Tyee published “Canada’s Top Labour Leader on Building a Better Life for Workers after the Pandemic”; the CBC posted “Workers’ group marks Labour Day with push for changes in Liberals’ throne speech”. In all of these articles, the focus was on the employment impacts of Covid-19 and recommendations to expand employment insurance.

CLC’s Pre-Budget Submission to the Government prioritizes Climate Action and Just Transition

This coverage doesn’t match up with the CLC’s associated pre-Budget Submission to the federal government in August, Forward Together: A Good Jobs and Climate Budget. It states : “Budget 2021 must be a Climate Action budget” and makes the first of its five recommendations: “Budget 2021 should set out a plan, with clear targets, benchmarks and timetables, for achieving Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, committing $81 billion over 5 years to expand renewable energy, home and building retrofits, public transit, and Just Transition measures supporting workers and their families.”   

In the full text of the Submission, under the heading “Climate Action and Just Transition”, the CLC states: “Budget 2021 must be a Climate Action budget. The CLC recommends that the federal government adopt a five-year plan setting out a bold plan with clear targets, benchmarks and timetables for accomplishing a systematic shift in Canada’s energy system, its transportation networks, and housing and building stock. Expanded public investments in renewable energy production, green building construction, and public transportation offer major opportunities for skills training and the large-scale creation of good jobs. Along with its partner organizations in the Green Economy Network, the CLC calls for investments of $81 billion over 5 years in order to develop renewable energy, home and building retrofits, and low-emissions public transportation in urban centres.

The CLC recommends that the federal government establish a Crown corporation mandated to overhaul and transform Canada’s energy industry in collaboration with provinces and territories. It would identify renewable energy projects and ensure that existing and new manufacturing sources increase capacity to supply parts, equipment and new technology to meet Canada’s renewable energy needs. Through direct investment and procurement policy, the federal government should support continued conversion of idle plant for the manufacture of medically-necessary and green economy products and equipment. Consistent with this, it should invest in the conversion of the General Motors Oshawa facility to produce zero-emission vehicles to electrify the Canada Post fleet.

Budget 2021 must significantly expand investments in Just Transition measures to assist workers, their families and their communities affected by climate change policy to access training and employment services, relocation, childcare and housing assistance to adjust to new jobs, and support for older workers to transition to retirement.

Following the experience of the European Union, the federal, provincial and territorial governments should establish a guarantee that all young people under the age of 25 will receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. This could include a focus on providing decent jobs in land remediation and restoration, climate adaptation, and energy efficiency. It should also include green skills training and learning opportunities through partnerships with public education and training providers, with an emphasis on women, marginalized, low-income and at-risk youth.”