As reported in the Labor Network for Sustainability newsletter, “the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a union representing 900 family-owned fishing boats on the Pacific coast, is suing Chevron, Exxon, BP, Shell, and other oil and gas companies for covering up research that warned about the dangers of burning fossil fuels. The union wants compensation for damage caused by global warming and to meet the cost of new infrastructure to cope with the climate crisis. They also demand changes in fossil fuel industry behavior.” The suit is summarized by The Guardian in “Toxic waters devastated Pacific Coast fisheries. But who’s to blame?” (Nov. 20) . The PCFFA has published a report , “Combatting Global Warming and Acidic Seas” , which documents the impacts on the livelihoods of the fishers.
At the conclusion of COP26 on November 13, the world has been left with the Glasgow Climate Pact and numerous side deals that were made throughout the two weeks of presentations and negotiations. Carbon Brief notes that the final Glasgow Pact is actually set out in three documents –with most attention falling on this paragraph in the 11-page “cover document” (aka 1/CMA.3), which:
“Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards a just transition;”
Fortunately, Carbon Brief analyzed all three documents, as well as side events and pledges in its summary of Key Outcomes .The International Institute for Sustainable Development has also compiled a detailed, day by day summary through its Earth Negotiations Bulletin.
Reactions range widely, but the November 13 tweet from @Greta Thunberg captures the essence: “The #COP26 is over. Here’s a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah. But the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever.” Veteran climate reporter Fiona Harvey writes “What are the key points of the Glasgow Climate Pact?” in The Guardian, representing the more positive consensus about the success of diplomacy, and The New York Times provides overviews from a U.S. perspective in “Negotiators Strike a Climate Deal, but World Remains Far From Limiting Warming” (Nov. 13) and “Climate Promises Made in Glasgow Now Rest With a Handful of Powerful Leaders” (Nov 14). In contrast, George Monbiot argues that the Fridays for Future movement and civil society have demonstrated the power of a committed minority in “After the failure of Cop26, there’s only one last hope for our survival” and states: “Our survival depends on raising the scale of civil disobedience until we build the greatest mass movement in history, mobilising the 25% who can flip the system.
More details, with COP26 highlights most relevant to Canadians and workers:
The National Observer has compiled their coverage in a series of articles titled Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change – which includes a summary “Glasgow didn’t deliver on 1.5 C, but not all is lost” . A quick summary appears in The Toronto Star “What’s in the Glasgow Climate Deal and what does it mean for Canada” (Nov. 15). Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac) compiles a range of reactions in “Canadian civil society reacts to COP26: incremental inadequate progress; a reason to mobilize“.
On Just Transition:
In what could be considered progress, for the first time the language of Just Transition is included in the main text of The Glasgow Pact, as section 85 states that the Parties: “… recognizes the need to ensure just transitions that promote sustainable development and eradication of poverty, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs, including through making financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emission and climate-resilient development, including through deployment and transfer of technology, and provision of support to developing country Parties”
In addition, a Just Transition Declaration was agreed upon by 15 governments, including Canada, UK, USA, much of the EU, and New Zealand. The ILO played a key role in drafting the Declaration and released its own press release here . The Declaration itself cites the preamble from the Paris Agreement and the 2015 ILO Guidelines for Just Transition, and states:
“signatories recognize their role to ensure a transition that is “ fully inclusive and benefits the most vulnerable through the more equitable distribution of resources, enhanced economic and political empowerment, improved health and wellbeing, resilience to shocks and disasters and access to skills development and employment opportunities. This should also display: a commitment to gender equality, racial equality and social cohesion; protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples; disability inclusion; intergenerational equity and young people; the promotion of women and girls; marginalised persons’ leadership and involvement in decision-making; and recognition of the value of their knowledge and leadership; and support for the collective climate action of diverse social groups. Social dialogue as well as rights at work are indispensable building blocks of sustainable development and must be at the centre of policies for strong, sustainable, and inclusive growth and development.”
On November 10, the closing statement of the Trade Union Delegation to the COP26 Plenary session was delivered by Richard Hardy, National Secretary for Prospect union in Scotland, a member of the General Council of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, and a member of the Scottish Governments Just Transition Commission. From that statement:
“ I will speak on behalf of the 210 million workers in 165 countries represented by the global trade union movement …….. the global trade union movement is happy that “Just Transition” has finally found its way in the language used by many parties and observers. We saw and appreciate the adoption by donor countries of the declaration on “Supporting the Conditions for a Just Transition Internationally” and applaud the strong commitments made by signatories. We urge the parties to continue to work towards a Just Transition one that is about jobs, plans and investment. Once again, we call on parties to step up their NDCs and create the millions of good quality jobs and decent work with your climate policies and measures, good quality jobs and decent work which the world desperately requires…. Unions need a voice at the table in social dialogue processes that deliver on jobs, just transition plans and investments.”
Reaction from other unions: A joint statement by the UK Trade Union delegation to the COP President on November 10 calls for increased engagement on just transition, climate action, labour and human rights. Further, it states: “We applaud the UK COP Presidency’s role in preparing the Declaration on “Supporting the Conditions for a Just transition Internationally”, which was launched last week. But this is a parallel initiative, and not part of the binding UNFCCC agreements. Similar efforts need to be made to incorporate just transition and labour rights into the official COP26 negotiations.” The International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) reaction is here and here (Nov. 11), and from IndustriALL, here.
On Ending new fossil fuel production and subsidies:
In his opening address to COP26 on November 1, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada “will cap oil and gas sector emissions today and ensure they decrease tomorrow at a pace and scale needed to reach net-zero by 2050”. (a statement reviewed in “Amid urgent calls for action at COP26, Trudeau repeats pledge to cap oil and gas emissions” (National Observer, Nov. 1) . Before leaving COP, the Prime Minister also committed up to $1 billion in international funding for the transition away from coal. But when the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance was officially launched on November 10, it was the government of Quebec which joined (having pre-empted the launch with their announcement on November 4 ).
On November 4, a federal press release states that Canada has signed the Statement on International Public Support for the Clean Energy Transition, stating that …”Canada and other signatories will further prioritize support for clean technology and end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel sector by the end of 2022, except in limited and clearly defined circumstances that are consistent with the 1.5 degree Celsius warming limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement.” [emphasis by the editor]. Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac) sums up that commitment and hopeful reactions by many in “Canada joins historic commitment to end international fossil fuel finance by end of 2022” . However, for context, the CAN-Rac press release also notes Canada’s Big Oil Reality Check, a report released on November 3 by Oil Change International and Environmental Defence Canada. It assesses the climate plans of eight Canadian oil and gas producers (including Cenovus, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd , ExxonMobil and Imperial Oil ,and Shell Canada), and concludes that their current business plans to 2030 put them on track to expand annual oil and gas production in Canada by nearly 30% above 2020 levels. Also, at a COP side event on November 12, The Fossil Fueled 5 report called out the governments of Canada, the U.K., the United States, Norway, and Australia for the huge gap between their net zero targets and climate pledges and their public support for fossil fuel production. In the case of Canada, the report states that the government has provided approximately $17 billion in public finance to three fossil fuel pipelines between 2018 and 2020. The Fossil Fueled 5 was produced by the University of Sussex in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and their regional partners in each of the 5 countries – Uplift (UK), Oil Change International (USA), Greenpeace (Norway), The Australia Institute (Australia) and Stand.earth (Canada).
On Deforestation: The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use seems especially important to Canadians, given the current flooding and devastation in British Columbia which is part of a “Lethal Mix of cascading climate impacts” . The Declaration, endorsed by Canada, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is explained by The Narwhal in “COP26 deforestation deal could be a win for climate, but Canada needs to address true impacts of forest loss” (Nov. 10) and in “Leaders promise to halt ‘chainsaw massacre’ of world’s forests” (National Observer, Nov. 2). However, the New York Times exposes “The billions set aside in Glasgow to save forests represent a fraction of spending to support fossil fuels” ( Nov.2) and Energy Mix writes “Glasgow Forest Pact Runs Short on Funding while Canada ‘Gives Industrial Logging a Free Pass’” (Energy Mix, Nov. 3). The Energy Mix also notes the failure of previous such Declarations to make an impact on emissions – especially in Canada and Brazil – as explained in Missing the forest: How carbon loopholes for logging hinder Canada’s climate leadership, a report released pre-COP by Environmental Defence Canada, Nature Canada, Nature Québec, and Natural Resources Defense Council.
Zero Emissions Cars Declaration launched a coalition which includes six major automakers ( Ford, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors ,Volvo, BYD, and Jaguar Land Rover), and 30 national governments – including Britain, Canada, India (the world’s 4th largest market) , Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, Croatia, Ghana and Rwanda, and others. Sub-national signatories included British Columbia and Quebec in Canada, and California and Washington State. The federal U.S. government, China and Japan did not sign, nor did Toyota, Volkswagen, and the Nissan-Renault alliance. Signatories pledged to work toward phasing out sales of new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 worldwide, and by 2035 in “leading markets.” The New York Times has more here
Union participation at COP26:
A webinar in October, co-hosted by IndustriALL Global Union and IndustriAll Europe was titled ‘On the Way to COP26 – Industry, Energy and Mine Workers Demand Just Transition’, and saw the launch of a Joint Declaration on Just Transition by the two internationals. (IndustriALL also released its own Just Transition for Workers guide). From the International Trade Union Confederation, an overview of trade union demands going in to the COP26 meetings was released as The Frontlines Briefing document ; the ITUC also provides a schedule of the activities of the official Trade Union Delegation – at 25 pages, an impressive record of union participation in events and negotiations.
The Canadian Labour Congress sponsored a panel: Powering Past Coal with Just Transition: The Trade Union Perspective, with CLC Vice-President Larry Rousseau and Tara Peel joined by Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault, as well as Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation general secretary as moderator. Speakers included union leaders and government/ministerial representatives from Canada, South Africa and the US.
Another panel, Just Transition in the Steel and Energy Industry took place on November 8 and is available on YouTube . It launched Preparing for a Just Transition: Meeting green skill needs for a sustainable steel industry, a report written by Community Union and researchers from the Cardiff University School of Sciences. It reports on the views of 100 steelworkers in the U.K., revealing that 92% feel a green transition is necessary, 78% feel it will bring a radical transformation to their industry, and 55% feel they already possess the skills necessary to make the transition. 79% had not been consulted by their employers, leading to a recommendation for more worker voice. The survey also delved into what skills would be needed.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) mounted a focused campaign, including a new report co- released on November 10 with C40 Cities . Their original research modelled the impacts of doubling public transportation in five major cities – Houston, Jakarta, Johannesburg, London and Milan and demonstrated that it create tens of millions of jobs worldwide (summarized by an ITF press release and available as the full report, Making COP26 Count: How investing in public transport this decade can protect our jobs, our climate, our future .
Also on November 10, the ITF announced that a tripartite Just Transition Maritime Task Force will be formed, to drive decarbonization and support seafarers through shipping’s green transition. Official partners include the UN Global Compact and the International Labour Organization, as well as the ITF representing workers and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), representing ship owners. The ITF Sustainable Shipping Position Paper, titled The Green Horizon We See Beyond the Big Blue, is available from this link .
As it has for 26 years, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its Alternative Federal Budget, offering progressive, costed policy choices for Canada, along with a plan to pay for them. This year’s AFB, released on November 9, is titled: Mission Critical: A Just and Equitable Recovery, which focuses on key issues which include: strengthening and expanding the existing health care system, implementing universal public child care, reforming Canada’s income security system, addressing the housing crisis, and moving forward on reconciliation with First Nations peoples. Climate action is addressed in Chapter 7, “Physical Infrastructure for People, Biodiversity and Planet”, and relates to Chapter 6, “A Vision for Job Creation and Decent Work”.
Regarding climate action policies, the CCPA states “Building on the government’s own commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, this AFB ramps up the stringency of environmental regulations. It also takes a more hands-on approach to transitioning the economy away from the production and consumption of fossil fuels.” Specifically, the document calls for an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel extraction projects, and a phase- out of coal, oil and natural gas production for fuel by 2040. The ensuing disruption would require a permanent, independent Just Transition Commission, to oversee and co-ordinate the federal government’s just transition agenda for all sectors (not just fossil fuels), and to develop regional transition road maps. For workers affected by fossil fuel closures (and the disruption to ancillary businesses in those communities), the AFB calls for “generous and predictable benefits”, financed by a budget allocation of $100 million per year over 20 years (the estimated lifetime of Canada’s fossil fuel phaseout). This translates into a $2,000 monthly Just Transition Benefit to offset their income loss for as long as it takes them to find re-training and/or re-employment. For workers who are near retirement and cannot reasonably retrain for a new career, this benefit bridges their income till their pensions begin. The Commission would be supported by a $5 million per year budget, and would include the a wide variety of stakeholders, including labour unions, civil society groups, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, business associations, independent experts, and public servants from governments of all levels.
Other notable climate-related proposals: 1. Adjust the existing revenue-recycling formula for the national carbon pricing system by reallocating the majority of federal revenue away from middle-to-high-income households and toward emission reduction initiatives in the provinces where revenue is generated. 2. Establish a new federal economic diversification crown corporation which would prioritize direct public ownership of new infrastructure, funded by $15 billion per year over five years to allow it to invest at the required scale. 3. Reconstitute the Canada Infrastructure Bank to become a fully publicly financed bank with a mandate to invest in publicly owned and publicly operated infrastructure (and to require Community Benefits Agreements in those projects). The new CIB would also provide low-cost loans to municipalities, Indigenous governments, and other public bodies to scale up important infrastructure projects that are in the public interest, and would include the new Economic Diversification Crown Corporation.
In a speech to the Quebec National Assembly on October 19, Premier François Legault announced: “the Government of Quebec has decided to definitively renounce the extraction of hydrocarbons on its territory. We must therefore … capitalize on our strengths by fundamentally transforming our economy.” The move was not unexpected: an article in the Montreal Gazette in September forecast announcement, and linked it to the legal action brought by Utica Resources against the province when it refused an application for exploration in the Gaspé region. Although Quebec does not have a large fossil fuel extraction industry, it is the second largest Canadian oil and gas processor outside of Alberta.
Greenpeace Canada provides a compilation in of reactions from many of the grassroots groups in Quebec who have worked and lobbied for years for this result. Greenpeace also released a statement on October 20, titled “Many environmental groups and citizens call for no compensation for oil and gas”, which references a May 2021 report from the Center québécois du droit de l’environnement, which concluded that the government has the legal authority to legislate this ban without compensating fossil fuel companies. A Greenpeace spokesperson states further : “Rather, it is Quebec society that should demand compensation from oil and gas companies for the floods, heat waves and forest fires that we are suffering from as a result of climate change.”
At a press conference on October 13, representatives of Climate Action Network Canada , Blue Green Canada, United Steelworkers, and Unifor launched a new report, Facing Fossil Fuels’ Future: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers in Canada’s Energy and Labour Transitions. The report considers the challenges to the fossil fuel industry, including automation, and projects that 56,000 alternative jobs will need to be created for current Canadian oil and gas workers in the next decade. The report offers seven recommendations for a Just Transition, building on policy proposals from Canada’s Just Transition Task Force for Coal Workers and Communities, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, and Unifor (whose most recent statement is their submission to the Just Transition consultation process here. ) Key recommendations include: “Recognizing the expertise of workers, through consultation with workers and communities, Canada must create Just Transition policy / legislation that holds the government accountable to developing transition strategies. Similar policy / legislation should be adopted by all provinces with an emphasis on the oil and gas producing provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador.” Funding is seen to come from Covid recovery funds and the Infrastructure Bank, with another recommendation: “Tie public investments to employers meeting conditions on job quality, including pay, access to training, job security, union access and representation through mandatory joint committees.”
Summaries of Facing Fossil Fuels’ Future appear in the press release from Climate Action Network, and in “With Canadian fossil fuel jobs about to be cut in half, it’s time to talk about a just transition” (National Observer, Oct. 15). The latter article highlights the enhanced impact of the bringing labour unions and climate activists together, and also emphasizes that workers must be included in all transition plans, using the cautionary tale of Algoma Steel. As explained in “Why Mike Da Prat boycotted the prime minister’s Algoma Steel announcement” (Soo Today, July 6 2021) the union was not adequately consulted on transition planning when the government awarded $420 million in July 2021 to help Algoma Steel transition from coal to greener, electric-arc furnace production.
Canada’s public consultation on Just Transition was launched on July 20 but was suspended during the election campaign. On October 1, Natural Resources Canada took to social media to announce that the consultation has been extended “until further notice”. A “What we heard” report had been scheduled for Fall, and until then, unfortunately, the consultation website offers none of the submissions, or even a list of participants.
Some news is dribbling out however:
- The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released their brief submission on October 1, written by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. The submission limits itself to answering the questions posed in the discussion paper, but makes a few key points: for example, “One specific concern in the context of a just transition is the definition of a worker in need of transition support. Fossil fuel workers are disproportionately high-income white men, but many other workers in fossil fuel communities who depend indirectly on the industry, such as food service and accommodation workers, are more likely to be women, immigrants, racialized workers and other marginalized people. If a “just transition” policy does not have broad coverage it can make inequality worse.” The submission concludes: “The regulatory phase-out of coal-powered electricity generation in Canada provides a very clear model for how this can and should be done. Once a clear deadline is set, firms and workers can begin to plan for the transition into new industries. In contrast, the absence of a clear end date for oil and gas production encourages firms and workers to continue to invest into what will inevitably become stranded assets and stranded careers.” A more complete discussion was published by the CCPA in Roadmap to a Canadian Just Transition Act: A path to a clean and inclusive economy.
The Energy Mix published “‘No Mention of Workers’ as Fossil Lobby Aims to Refocus Just Transition on Producers” on September 28, describing the campaign of Canada’s Energy Citizens, supported by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, to encourage and enable submissions to the Consultation process. Their website states: “Canadian oil and natural gas is some of the most sustainably produced energy in the world. If the world is going to demand energy and continue turning to coal, do we not have a responsibility to ensure our cleaner product is meeting demand?” Amongst their talking points: the federal government “….Should not lower Canadian standards of living or our capacity for investment in innovation. Canadian oil and gas jobs are some of the highest paying, middle class jobs in the country. It is not acceptable to cause the destruction of those jobs and to replace them with lower paying ones. This will hurt Canada’s middle class.”
Countering the CEC campaign, 350.org and Leadnow.ca provide an online submission form and talking points “to drown out the fossil fuel lobbyists, and push the government to implement a bold and just economic transition plan.” The talking points at 350.org are, not surprisingly, very similar to those offered by Clayton Thomas-Müller in op-ed for the Globe and Mail (restricted access). Thomas-Müller , a 350.org campaigner, calls for Canada to mark the occasion of its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 by affirming its commitment to a just transition for those most likely to be affected by the shift to a carbon-free economy—namely, rural, northern, and Indigenous communities. He calls for three conditions: 1. anyone who is facing job loss because of this transition is guaranteed a good, green, unionized job; a just transition must put people and communities first, over the interests of the oil industry; and the transition must be a matter of mind and spirit, aligning both with climate science and with ancestral Indigenous knowledge.
On July 14, Iron and Earth Canada released the results of online poll done on their behalf by Abacus Data , surveying 300 Canadians who currently work in the oil, gas, or coal sectors. The survey showed that 61% agreed with the statement: “Canada should pivot towards a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 to remain a competitive global economy”, and 69% answered “yes” to “Would you consider making a career switch to, or expanding your work involvement in, a job in the net-zero economy?”. The survey also measured workers’ interest in skills training and development for jobs in the net-zero economy, with 88% interested for themselves, and 80% supporting a National Upskilling Initiative .
Although workers reported a high degree of optimism for the future (58% agreed that “ I will likely thrive in a Canadian economy that transitions to net-zero emissions by 2050”), workers also expressed their concerns – with 79% of workers under age 45 worried about reduced wages, and 77% of workers under 45 worried about losing their job. 44% of all workers would not consider taking a clean economy job if it resulted in a wage cut.
The full survey results are here , with breakdowns by age, sex, province, occupation, and Indigenous vs. Non-Indigenous. Articles summarizing the survey appeared in The National Observer, The Narwhal , and The Energy Mix.
On a related note: many younger people are not attracted to a future in the fossil fuel industry, as described in the recent CBC News article “University of Calgary hits pause on bachelor’s program in oil and gas engineering” (July 8), and “U of C sees ‘remarkable’ drop in undergrads focusing on oilpatch engineering and geology “ (Oct. 6 2020).
Clean Energy Canada released a new report on June 17, projecting that Canada’s clean energy sector will grow by almost 50% (over 200,000 jobs) by 2030, to reach 639,200 jobs. The report states that this will far exceed the 125,800 jobs expected to be lost in fossil fuels. Surprisingly, the province with the greatest increase in clean energy jobs will be Alberta – forecast to increase by 164% by 2030. As the introduction concludes: “Oil and gas may have dominated Canada’s energy past, but it’s Canada’s clean energy sector that will define its new reality.”
The New Reality report is the latest in the “Tracking the Energy Transition” series, updating the 2019 report. It is based on modelling by Navius Research – presented in a technical report here. Employment and GDP numbers are considered under two policy scenarios: the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change (the Liberal government’s previous policy) , and the Healthy Environment, Healthy Economy policy, unveiled in December 2020. The definition of “clean energy jobs” is broad, and forecasting breaks down into industry sectors – for example, stating that jobs in electric vehicle technology are on track to grow 39% per year, with 184,000 people set to be employed in the industry in 2030—a 26-fold increase over 2020. The report also highlights specific examples of the pioneering clean energy companies in Canada.
May 26 will go down in history as a very bad day for the fossil fuel industry for three reasons: in the Netherlands, the courts issued a landmark decision that requires Royal Dutch Shell to cut its carbon emissions – including Scope 3 emissions – by 45% by 2030. Also on May 26, activist shareholders won separate victories at the corporate annual meetings of ExxonMobil and Chevron. Bill McKibben reflects on all three events in “Big Oil’s Bad Bad Day” in The New Yorker , and Jamie Henn wrote “A Landmark Day in the fight against fossil fuels” in Fossil Free Media.
The case of Royal Dutch Shell is summarized by Friends of the Earth Canada in their press release , which also links to an English-language version of the Court’s decision.
“On May 26, as a result of legal action brought by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) together with 17,000 co-plaintiffs and six other organisations the court in The Hague ruled that Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% within 10 years.
…..“This is a turning point in history. This case is unique because it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting company to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. This ruling may also have major consequences for other big polluters,” says Roger Cox, lawyer for Friends of the Earth Netherlands.
The verdict requires Royal Dutch Shell to reduce its emissions by 45% by the end of 2030. Shell is also responsible for emission from customers and suppliers. There is a threat of human rights violations to the “right to life” and “undisturbed family life”.
German news organization Deutsche Welle offers an excellent, more thorough discussion in “Shell ordered to reduce CO2 emissions in watershed ruling”, which points out that the case was argued on human rights grounds – much like the precedent-setting Urgenda case and the recent German constitutional case. In those cases however, governments were called upon to defend the human right to a future safe from the dangers of climate change. The Shell case is the first time such an argument has been tried against a corporation – and is seen as a harbinger of future legal action. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) in Amsterdam also provides a succinct summary in “The Shell climate verdict: a major win for mandatory due diligence and corporate accountability: “Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by net 45% by 2030 (compared with 2019) regardless of the actions or policies of the Dutch government. But the ruling is historic for other reasons as well: the court based its verdict to a large extent on two soft law standards – the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines). In addition, it asserts that companies have an individual responsibility to combat climate change throughout their value chains, and it very clearly links climate change to human rights. This means the judgment is likely to play an important role in the realisation of mandatory due diligence legislation”.
An even more thorough review of the decision comes from the Columbia University Sabin Center Law Blog : Guest Commentary: An Assessment of The Hague District Court’s Decision In Milieudefensie et al. v. Royal Dutch Shell Plc .
Shareholder Activism at ExxonMobil and Chevron Oil Majors: “The Showdown over Exxon’s climate future is here” appeared in Axios on May 24, anticipating “ the highest-profile effort by climate activist investors to force any of the oil majors to diversify away from fossil fuels more quickly – targeting the highest-profile company.” The Washington Post also described the conflict in “The fight for the soul – and the future – of ExxonMobil” on May 22. As events unfolded at the annual shareholders meeting of ExxonMobil on May 26, the small activist investor group Engine No. 1 won a victory when two of the four Board members it nominated to the Exxon board were confirmed, against the company’s slate. (A third Board member was also subsequently confirmed). The victory was all the more impactful because Engine No. 1 was supported by the three biggest U.S. pension funds — the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the New York State Common Retirement Fund, as well as the giant BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. According to “Exxon activist wins board seats in historic climate victory” in The Financial Post (May 26) “The result is an embarrassment for Exxon, unprecedented in the rarefied world of Big Oil, and a sign that institutional investors are increasingly willing to force corporate America to tackle climate change.” The article concludes: “the message from shareholders is clear: The status quo cannot continue.” “After Big Oil’s very bad week, the message for Alberta is clear” by Mitchell Beer appeared in Policy Options (June 2), linking the May 26 events and the International Energy Association report, Net Zero in 2050: A roadmap for the global energy system.
While the Exxon battle grabbed most headlines because of the high-profile participants, a similar story played out at the Chevron Oil annual meeting, where 61% of shareholders rebelled against the company’s board by voting in favour of an activist proposal from Dutch campaign group Follow This to force the group to cut its carbon emissions. The press release from Follow This is here. The website of Follow This is titled: “Green Shareholders Change the World”. It states that “Follow This compels oil majors to commit to the Paris agreement.” and invites readers to “ Buy a green share and become a co-owner of an oil company. Together we file green resolutions and get a vote in the future of the oil industry.”
Much more will be written about these landmark events. For now, The Guardian offers : “Climate activist shareholders to target US oil giant Chevron” (May 20) and “ExxonMobil and Chevron suffer shareholder rebellions over climate”.
A report released at the end of April examines the performance and the links between Canada’s oil companies and the big banks which form Canada’s “comfortable oligopoly”: Royal Bank (RBC), Toronto-Dominion Bank ,Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and the National Bank of Canada. Fossilized Finance: How Canada’s banks enable oil and gas production is written by Donald Gutstein and published by by the B.C. Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as part of its Corporate Mapping Project. The report outlines the bank presence in the Canadian energy sector since the collapse of oil prices in 2014 – lending, underwriting, advising and investing. It also examines interlocking directorates, executive transfer, industry conference sponsorships and industry association memberships.This reveals different details than the international report, Banking on Climate Chaos, published by BankTrack in late March.
While acknowledging that the banks have begun to invest in some renewable energy projects, Fossilized Finance shows that this leopard has not changed its spots:
“In contrast to the need to reduce financing of fossil fuels, banks actually increased their lending and commitments to the industry by more than 50 per cent—to $137 billion—between 2014 and 2020. Toronto-Dominion, in particular, upped its lending by 160 per cent over the seven-year period, to nearly $33 billion in 2020. As well, banks have invested tens of billions of dollars in fossil fuel and pipeline company shares. Here, Royal Bank leads the pack with nearly $21 billion invested in the top 15 fossil fuel and pipeline companies as of November 2019. Banks continue to underwrite fossil fuel company stock and bond issues, and they continue to provide key advice on mergers, acquisitions and other corporate moves.”
Many of the researchers involved in the CCPA/Corporate Mapping Project have written chapters in Regime of Obstruction: How Corporate Power blocks Energy Democracy, a book edited by William Carroll and published by Athabasca University Press. Readers of the WCR may be particularly interested in Chapter 15, “From Clean Growth to Climate Justice” by Marc Lee, but all the excellent chapters are available for free download here. The publisher’s summary states: “Anchored in sociological and political theory, this comprehensive volume provides hard data and empirical research that traces the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry through economics, politics, media, and higher education. Contributors demonstrate how corporations secure popular consent, and coopt, disorganize, or marginalize dissenting perspectives to position the fossil fuel industry as a national public good. They also investigate the difficult position of Indigenous communities who, while suffering the worst environmental and health impacts from carbon extraction, must fight for their land or participate in fossil capitalism to secure income and jobs. The volume concludes with a look at emergent forms of activism and resistance, spurred by the fact that a just energy transition is still feasible. This book provides essential context to the climate crisis and will transform discussions of energy democracy.”
If you are outraged by what these researchers reveal, a personal option to switch banks is now made easier through the Bank Green website, launched in April in association with BankTrack. So far, Bank.Green covers more than 300 banks globally, including only two “ethical banks” in Canada: Vancity, and Duca Credit Union. The website provides information for customers and encourages them to switch banks and divest from fossil fuels.
Net Zero in 2050: A roadmap for the global energy system was released by the International Energy Agency on May 18, and has been described as a “bombshell”, and a “landmark”. Why? The normally conservative IEA describes the global energy future bluntly and urgently, calling for “…. from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants. By 2035, there are no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars, and by 2040, the global electricity sector has already reached net-zero emissions.”
This special report claims to be “ the world’s first comprehensive study of how to transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access, and enabling robust economic growth.” It sets out 400 indicators for “an economically productive pathway to 2050”, where energy production will be dominated by renewables instead of fossil fuels. The report also flags and discusses bioenergy, carbon capture, and behavioural changes as “key uncertainties” for the future.
Highlights from the discussion of employment in Chapter 4:
- In 2021, approx. roughly 40 million people work directly in the oil, gas, coal, renewables, bioenergy and energy network industries .
- By 2030 in the Net Zero scenario, 30 million more people will be working in clean energy, efficiency and low‐emissions technologies.
- By 2030, employment in oil, gas and coal fuel supply and power plants will decline by around 5 million jobs.
- Nearly two‐thirds of workers in the emerging clean energy sectors will be highly skilled by 2030, and the majority will require substantial training.
- The new jobs created in the net zero economy will have more geographic flexibility. Around 40% are jobs located close to where the work is being done, e.g. building efficiency improvements or wind turbine installation, and the remaining are jobs tied to manufacturing sites.
Summaries and reaction to the IEA report:
“Planet’s pathway to net-zero means no new oil and gas spending, IEA says” in the Globe and Mail
“Nations Must Drop Fossil Fuels, Fast, World Energy Body Warns” in the New York Times
“No new investment in fossil fuels demands top energy economist” in The Guardian
“IEA: Tripling the Speed of Efficiency Progress a Must for a Net-Zero Carbon World“ from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) outlines the report’s findings regarding energy efficiency
Reaction by Oil Change International describes the importance of the adjustment to the IEA modelling – it follows years of campaigning by climate advocates through the FixTheWEO campaign, calling for the IEA to align its annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) report with the 1.5 degree C Paris Agreement goals.
Recovery Through Reform is a new series by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, assessing Canada’s green recovery spending from COVID-19 with a focus on the issue of fossil fuel subsidy reform, and an eye on the upcoming federal Budget 2021 consultations. The first of three Briefs, Assessing the climate compatibility of Canada’s COVID-19 response in 2020 evaluates energy-related spending in Canada in 2020 – specifically federal government commitments for electric vehicles, public transit, building retrofits, hydrogen, and fossil fuels. Using data from the global Energy Policy Tracker, the Brief quantifies federal government recovery spending, noting that transparency is a problem – especially in the case of the financing provided by Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada. Spending trends in Canada are compared to flagship policies France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – including a discussion of the financial support for fossil fuels. The Brief concludes with recommendations – including a call “to apply the principles from the IISD report Green Strings: Principles and Conditions for a Green Recovery From COVID-19 (2020), including transparency and inclusion of support for just transition for workers and communities. Other recommendations are to end fossil fuel subsidies, and to measure recovery ambition against international standards rather than “domestic precedence”.
The second Brief in the Recovery through Reform series is Advancing a Hydrogen Economy. This report examines the question of promoting and incentivizing hydrogen, and calls for the government to ensure that any subsidies for hydrogen are in line with the government’s commitments to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025” and meet net-zero by 2050. “Based on IISD’s analysis, subsidies for hydrogen based on natural gas without significant levels of carbon capture and storage (CCS) should not be eligible for government assistance. Subsidies for blue hydrogen should only occur if blue hydrogen can meet the same level of environmental performance (including emission intensity) and is at or below the cost of green hydrogen.” (a more thorough discussion appears in a January 2021 blog from IISD: Should Governments Subsidize Hydrogen? ).
The third report in the Recovery through Reform series is Export Development Canada’s role in fossil fuel subsidy reform, which argues that despite EDC’s well-known history as a supporter of the oil and gas industry, it could be an important actor in Canada’s green recovery. The Brief documents the existing situation of poor transparency and dirty investments, stating: the EDC “provides an average of over CAD 13.2 billion in support for oil and gas every year, representing over 12% of finance committed by the institution.” It also notes: “So far, EDC has provided over CAD 10 billion in loans for the Trans Mountain Pipeline and expansion via the Canada Development Investment Corporation.” Further, “When it comes to fossil fuel support, EDC is one of the worst-performing export credit agencies in the world, as it has provided more oil and gas finance than any other G20 export credit agency.” Despite this track record, the Brief calls on the EDC to change its ways by matching the performance of other international financial institutions, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, and setting clear targets for climate action-related investments.
A report commissioned by international union coalition Industriall examines the geopolitics of fossil fuel producing countries (mainly, the United States, China, Europe and Russia) and the investments and performance of the Oil Majors (Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Total, as well as nationally-owned PetroChina, Gazprom and Equinor). Energy transition, national strategies, and oil companies: what are the impacts for workers? was published in November 2020, with the research updated to reflect the impacts of Covid-19.
In addition to a thorough examination of state and corporate actions, the report asked union representatives from four oil companies about how workers understand the energy transformation and its impact on their own jobs, and whether the concept of Just Transition has become part of their union’s agenda.
Some highlights of the responses:
- “the union members interviewed showed little knowledge about either the risks that the current transition process can generate for the industrial employee, or about the union discussion that seeks to equate the concern with the decarbonisation of the economy with the notions of equity and social justice. In some cases, even the term “Just Transition” was not known to respondents.”
- Their lack of knowledge regarding the Just Transition can be justified by the fact that they do not believe that there will be any significant change in the energy mix of these companies.
- Regarding information about energy transitions within the companies, “Managers are included, but the bottom of the work chain is not”
- Lacking corporate policies or support, some employees feel compelled to take responsibility for their own re-training
Echoing results of a similar survey of North Sea oil workers in the summer of 2020, published in Offshore: Oil and gas workers’ views on industry conditions and the energy transition, one European respondent is quoted saying: “In the end, everyone is looking for job security, good wages and healthy conditions. It doesn’t matter so much if the job is in another area, as long as it is in good working conditions”.
The researchers conclude that: “Far from being just a statement of how disconnected workers are from environmental issues, these researches reveal a window of opportunity for union movements to act in a better communication strategy with their union members, drawing their attention to the climate issue and transforming their hopes for job stability and better working conditions into an ecologically sustainable political agenda.”
The report was commissioned by Industriall and conducted by the Institute of Strategic Studies of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (Ineep), a research organization created by Brazil’s United Federation of Oil and Gas Workers (FUP).
Economist Jim Stanford has written a timely new report which should be required reading for politicians setting their hair on fire about Joe Biden’s stated intention to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project on Day one of his presidency. Employment Transitions and the Phase-Out of Fossil Fuels, released on January 18, argues that “the actual number of fossil fuel jobs and the number of communities reliant on the industry is small enough that a just and equitable transition plan for workers is very feasible” – and the key is timing.
Stanford’s report begins by setting out the statistics regarding fossil fuel employment in Canada: “under 1% of total payroll employment in Canada (or about 160,000 jobs) is located in seven industrial sectors which together comprise most of the composite fossil fuel industry. “ Using 2016 Census data, the report discusses the distribution of fossil fuel jobs by province and community, showing that Alberta accounts for 75% of fossil-related jobs in 2016, but even there, only it accounts for 7% of all provincial employment. 18 fossil fuel-dependent communities are named, where fossil fuel jobs account for 9.5% of employment – including two well-known examples, Wood Buffalo/Fort McMurray in Alberta and Estevan in Saskatchewan. The report continues to compare employment in the fossil fuel industry and in the health care sector, Canada’s largest employer. The aim is not to diminish the importance of fossil fuel employment, but to illustrate that employment possibilities exist in other sectors, even within fossil fuel-reliant communities.
Stanford looks ahead and states: “given weakening global demand for fossil fuels, depressed prices, continued infrastructure constraints, and aggressive cost-cutting by fossil fuel employers (shedding labour to protect profits despite lower energy prices), fossil fuel industries will see continued downsizing of their employment footprint.” He summarizes the employment transitions of other sectors in Canada’s history, notably fisheries, auto manufacturing, manufacturing – as well as other sectors currently transitioning, including retail, transportation, and newspapers and media, and documents the overall dynamics which are always churning labour markets. All these arguments build to the report’s final section, which is to outline the principles and best practices for planning effective employment and community transitions for the inevitable decline of fossil fuels.
Principles and Best Practices for Transition
Repeating a point he made in a similar report about Australia, Stanford speaks out for younger workers: “Fossil fuels will disappear as a major source of energy within the foreseeable future. Given that reality, it is unhelpful, and indeed cruel, to encourage more workers – including some just entering the workforce – to try to build their livelihoods in an industry that will soon disappear.”
“ …in an effective, orderly labour market transition….. Most fossil fuel workers will not end up producing solar panels or windmills; in fact, if we manage this transition effectively, most fossil fuel workers will not need to find new jobs at all. As with the climate itself, the sooner we start this transition, the lower its ultimate costs will be, and the greater its net benefits. Delaying these necessary actions only makes matters worse – including for fossil fuel workers. In this context, statements of supposed “solidarity” with fossil fuel workers expressed by some business leaders and political representatives are entirely dubious. Pretending that fossil fuel industries can carry on as “normal” for decades to come (or worse could actually be expanded) is a cruel hoax.”
Employment Transitions and the Phase-Out of Fossil Fuels was published by the Centre for Future Work, which is a project of the Australia Institute – which also operates in Canada in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, housed in the CCPA’s Vancouver office. The report was commissioned by Environmental Defence Canada, which released its own graphically-enhanced summary version, Steady Path: How a transition to a fossil-free Canada is in reach for workers and their communities .
The online Climate Ambition Summit on December 12 marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, to be co-hosted by the U.N. and the United Kingdom and France, in partnership with Chile and Italy. It calls itself “a monumental step on the road to the UK-hosted COP26 next November in Glasgow….. countries will set out new and ambitious commitments under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and finance commitments. There will be no space for general statements.”
In the weeks before the meeting, intergovernmental agencies have released a number of reports documenting the urgency of the issue:
State of the Global Climate 2020 from the World Meteorological Organization – a detailed discussion of global climate change impacts related to temperature, ocean temperature, precipitation, storms, GHG emissions and Covid-19. The highlight: “The average global temperature in 2020 is set to be about 1.2 °C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C by 2024”.
The Production Gap Report measures the gap between the aspirations of the Paris Agreement and countries’ planned production of coal, oil, and gas. This year’s report concluded that countries plan to increase their fossil fuel production over the next decade – and singled out Canada, Australia and the U.S. in this regard. The takeaway message: “the world needs to decrease production by 6% per year to limit global warming to 1.5°C”. The report also outlines six areas of policy action needed in COVID-19 recovery plans, including reduced government support for fossil fuels, restrictions on fossil fuel production, and commitment to direct stimulus funds to green investments. The Production Gap Report is produced jointly by the Stockholm Environment Institute , International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute, and E3G, as well as the United Nations Environment Programme.
The Emissions Gap Report published on December 9 by the United Nations Environment Programme documents global greenhouse gas emissions: GHG’s have grown 1.4 per cent per year since 2010 on average, with a more rapid increase of 2.6 per cent in 2019 due to a large increase in forest fires. Even with a brief dip in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century. Hope lies in a low-carbon pandemic recovery which could cut 25 per cent off the greenhouse emissions expected in 2030. The report analyses low-carbon recovery measures so far, summarizes the scale of new net-zero emissions pledges by nations and looks at the potential of the lifestyle, aviation and shipping sectors to bridge the gap. It concludes with a chapter titled The Six Sector Solution to Climate Change, which argues that reducing emissions in the sectors of Energy, Industry, Agriculture and Food, Forest and Land Use, Transportation, and Buildings and Cities has the potential to limit emissions enough to hold the world temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.
The 2020 Arctic Report Card was published on December 8 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), written by 133 scientists from 15 countries. It finds that the Arctic as a whole is warming at nearly three times the rate of the rest of the world, owing to feedback loops between snow, ice and land cover. The report summarizes trends that are growing more extreme and have far-reaching implications for people living far outside the region. A Canadian view of this report appears in “Scientists Plead for Action as Soaring Temperatures Show Arctic in Crisis” in The Energy Mix (Dec. 11).
Ocean Solutions that Benefit People, Nature and the Economy is a report released by the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy in December as part of the launch of a new campaign, Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. Canada is among the 14 nations who are members of the Panel; the Secretariat is at the World Resources Institute. The report “ builds on the latest scientific research, analyses and debates from around the world—including the insights from 16 Blue Papers and 3 special reports commissioned by the Ocean Panel: ‘The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action’, ‘A Sustainable and Equitable Blue Recovery to the COVID-19 Crisis’ and ‘A Sustainable Ocean Economy for 2050: Approximating Its Benefits and Costs’. “ A compilation of the many reports of the Panel is here .
The key takeaway from a new flagship government report is that no new pipeline construction is needed in Canada, and the current pipelines under construction – the TransMountain Expansion, Keystone XL, and Enbridge Line 3 Replacement- are sufficient to accommodate all future crude oil production. The new report, Canada’s Energy Future 2020: Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2050, is the latest annual report by the Canada Energy Regulator CER- (formerly the National Energy Board) and discusses the future of all energy commodities under two scenarios – a Reference case and an Evolving Scenario, which includes a carbon price of $75 per tonne in 2040 and $125 per tonne in 2050.
Under the Evolving Scenario of increased policy intervention, Canada’s domestic fossil fuel consumption peaked in 2019 and by 2050, it will be 35% lower than the 2019 level. However, the report states that even under the Evolving Scenario, fossil fuel consumption is forecast to make up over 60% of Canada’s fuel mix in 2050. It is worth noting that these CER reports have been criticized in the past for overestimating fossil fuel demand – for example, by the Pembina Institute in 2019, in “Why Canada’s Energy Future report leads us astray” . In 2020, Pembina calls for changes to the modelling assumptions for future reports, saying “the scenarios modelled in the report are still not aligned with commitments set out in the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. This model of Canada’s energy future is not consistent with the future that Canada has committed to in the Paris Agreement.” Further, it points out “Canada’s Energy Future 2020 report does not reflect the range of recent scenarios for global oil demand, such as those recently released by the International Energy Agency and BP, where demand is predicted to fall by 50 to 75 per cent over the next 20 to 30 years in order to achieve net-zero emissions.”
Other reactions to the CER report focus on the forecast of declining need for pipelines , summarized in “No Future Need for Trans Mountain, Keystone XL Pipelines, Canadian Energy Regulator Report Shows” (The Energy Mix, Nov. 25), and even echoed in the conservative Financial Post . Followers of David Hughes will recognize this argument that he has made many times, most recently in Reassessment of Need for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project , published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives at the end of October .
The press release and summary from the Canada Energy Regulator report is here, with data sets and interactive tables here and an archive of past annual reports here. Beyond fossil fuel projections, this year’s Report includes a discussion of the transition to a Net-Zero Emissions energy system, focusing on personal passenger transportation, oil sands production, and remote and northern communities. It also briefly notes the impact of the Covid pandemic, stating “Canadian end-use energy demand will fall by 6% in 2020 compared to 2019, the biggest annual drop since at least 1990. Energy to move people and goods will fall the most due to less travel and increased remote work and learning.” (A report published by the World Meteorological Office on Nov. 23 provides preliminary estimates of a reduction in the annual global emission between 4.2% and 7.5% because of Covid).
Impacts of the Reimagine Appalachia & Clean Energy Transition Programs for Ohio: Job Creation, Economic Recovery, and Long-Term Sustainability was published by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) in October, written by Robert Pollin and co-authors Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty, and Gregor Semieniuk. To achieve a 50 percent reduction relative to 2008 emissions by 2030, the authors propose public and private investment programs, and then estimate the job creation benefits to 2030. “Our annual average job estimates for 2021 – 2030 include: 165,000 jobs per year through $21 billion in spending on energy efficiency and clean renewable energy; 30,000 jobs per year through investing $3.5 billion in manufacturing and public infrastructure. 43,000 jobs per year through investing $3.5 billion in land restoration and agriculture. The total employment creation through clean energy, manufacturing/infrastructure and land restoration/agriculture will total to about 235,000 jobs. “
There are almost 50,000 workers currently working in the Ohio fossil fuel and bioenergy industries, with an estimated 1,000 per year who will be displaced through declining fossil fuel demand. As he has before, Pollin advocates for a Just Transition program which includes: Pension guarantees; Retraining; Re-employment for displaced workers through an employment guarantee, with 100 percent wage insurance; Relocation support; and full just transition support for older workers who choose to work past age 65. The report estimates the average costs of supporting approximately 1,000 workers per year in such transition programs will amount to approximately $145 million per year (or $145,000 per worker).
Using an identical structure, the same authors modelled a Green Recovery program for Pennsylvania, released as a preliminary document, Impacts of the Reimagine Appalachia & Clean Energy Transition Programs for Pennsylvania. They estimate that, “as an average over 2021 – 2030, a clean energy investment program scaled at about $26 billion per year will generate roughly 174,000 jobs per year in Pennsylvania.”
The authors estimate that oil and natural gas consumption in Pennsylvania will fall by 40 percent by 2030, and coal will fall by 70 percent, resulting in the loss of 2,870 fossil fuel-based jobs per year between 2021 – 2030. Given the demographic composition of the workforce, they estimate that 1,056 workers in the industry will voluntarily retire – leaving 1,814 workers per year who will experience displacement (0.03 percent of the total workforce). Just Transition measures similar to those called for in Ohio are presented, with the statement that “the overall costs of providing these displaced workers with generous just transition support will be trivial relative to the size of Pennsylvania’s economy. The just transition program should be financed jointly by federal and state government funding sources.” More detailed costing is promised when the final study for Pennsylvania is released.
The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at University of Massachusetts has published related studies in a “Green Growth” series, available from this link. States studied are Colorado (2019) , Maine (August 2020), New York (2017), and Washington State (Dec. 2017). In September 2020, PERI released Job Creation Estimates Through Proposed Economic Stimulus Measures, in which Robert Pollin and Shouvik Chakraborty modelled the impact of a $6 trillion, 10-year economic stimulus program for clean energy and infrastructure across the U.S.
The complexity of the global energy landscape has been changed profoundly, according to the International Energy Association’s flagship publication, the Global Energy Review , released on April 30. It forecasts a minimum 6% decline in global energy demand for 2020, (9% in the United States and 11% in the European Union), stating, “The projected 6% decline would be more than seven times the impact of the 2008 financial crisis on global energy demand, reversing the growth of global energy demand over the last five years. The absolute decline in global energy demand in 2020 is without precedent, and relative declines of this order are without precedent for the last 70 years.” The accompanying press release describes the decline of fossil fuels as an “historic shock to the entire energy world” and “staggering”, especially for coal, oil and gas. The IEA forecasts that renewables will be the only energy source to grow in 2020.
Here are a few of the many recent news articles which sum up the dire impacts on oil and gas in Canada:
In “For oil and its dependents, it’s code blue” (The Tyee, April 18), Andrew Nikoforuk predicts that the “great price collapse of 2020 will topple companies and transform states”.
“Fossils Expect Permanent Losses, Renewables Keep Growing As Pandemic Crashes Global Energy Demand” in The Energy Mix (May 3);
“What rock-bottom natural gas prices mean for Canada’s aspiring LNG industry” in The Narwhal (May 1);
“‘We are in crisis mode’: Newfoundland calls on Ottawa to fund oil and gas exploration” in the Globe and Mail (April 29);
And Canadian Press stories reprinted by the National Observer on May 1 include: “Precision Drilling down almost 3000 employees due to oil and gas downturn” (May 1); “Oil and gas drilling forecast revised to 49-year low”; “Teck Resources leaves energy group CAPP citing cost cutting” ; and “Alberta oil and gas company reports include a loss of $1.3 billion for Vermillion Energy” (April 29) .
Fatih Birol, Director of the International Energy Agency has promoted clean energy in several public statements, including a March 14 commentary: “Put clean energy at the heart of stimulus plans to counter the coronavirus crisis”, which states, “Governments are drawing up stimulus plans in an effort to counter the economic damage from the crisis. These stimulus packages offer an excellent opportunity to ensure that the essential task of building a secure and sustainable energy future doesn’t get lost amid the flurry of immediate priorities ” The IEA promises a World Energy Outlook special report in June “that will quantify how clean energy policies and investments can create jobs, support economic recoveries and achieve emissions reductions. The report’s findings and recommendations will inform the high-level discussions at the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit on 9 July.”
Winding Down BC’s Fossil Fuel Industries: Planning for climate justice in a zero-carbon economy was released on March 4 by the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, as part of the Corporate Mapping Project. Authors Marc Lee and Seth Klein begin with an overview of the province’s fossil fuel industries (including locations, production and reserves) noting that all fossils produce one-quarter of B.C.’s GHG emissions, (most of which is from Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)). Calling the government’s current strategy of promoting LNG production through clean electricity “untenable”, the report proposes a four-point phase-out plan for all fossils over the next 20 to 30 years, including: 1. Establish carbon budgets and fossil fuel production limits; 2. Invest in the domestic transition from fossil fuels and develop a green industrial strategy; 3. Ensure a just transition for workers and communities; 4. Reform the royalty regime for fossil fuel extraction.
To design a Just Transition plan, the authors cite as “helpful” the examples of the Alberta coal phase-out and the 2018 coal phase-out agreement in Spain, as well as the existing Columbia Basin Trust example of community transition. In the long time frame of 20 to 30 years, they see the retirement of many existing workers, so that attrition will accomplish much of the job shedding. Although they say that Just-transition strategies “must include efforts to maintain employment in areas where jobs are likely to be lost” – implying reinvestment in resource-based communities – they also recognize the built-in gender bias of such a strategy and advocate investment in public sector jobs – such as child care and seniors services.
To secure Just Transition funding
The report states:
“ ….BC should aim to invest 2 per cent of its GDP per year … or about $6 billion per year in 2019, an amount that would grow in line with the provincial economy. Assuring such levels of investment should give comfort to workers currently employed in the fossil fuel industry. Revenues from higher carbon taxes and royalty reforms (described below) would be an ideal source of funds, and/or governments could borrow (through green bonds) to undertake high levels of capital spending on decarbonization initiatives. In contrast, the 2019 BC Budget lists total operating and capital expenses for CleanBC over the next three years at, cumulatively, only $679 million, less than one-tenth of a percent of BC’s GDP.”
Managing Income loss for transitioned workers:
The authors state: “On average, fossil fuel workers make 28 per cent more than workers in the rest of the economy, although this includes gasoline station workers who earn comparably low wages. Replacing more than $5 billion of income over the course of the wind-down period is therefore a central challenge”…. By assuming a 20 to 30 year time frame, they calculate a job substitution of 500 to 700 jobs per year, and state: “ There is no reason to believe that such a transition should be a problem if the right policy supports are implemented and a proactive green investment strategy is pursued to create alternative employment options.” Earlier in the report, the authors estimate that, assuming the province invests 2 per cent of its GDP annually (about $6 billion in 2019) in green job creation, at least 42,000 direct and indirect jobs would be created in a range of opportunities.
Oil, Gas and the Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits was published by the Global Gas and Oil Network (GGON) in December 2019. The report analyzes the expansion plans of the oil and gas industry in relation to the global Paris climate goal of a 1.5C warming limit, and concludes that “if the world uses all the oil and gas from the fields and mines already in production, it will push us beyond 1.5°C of warming. This is true even if global coal use were phased out overnight, and if cement emissions were drastically reduced.” This report is the latest to sound this alarm: for example, Oil Change International, part of the GGON , began to publish such warnings in 2016 with The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris Climate Goals Require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production , followed by Drilling towards Disaster in 2019.
Oil, Gas and the Climate states that from now until 2024, oil and gas companies are set to invest a further $1.4 trillion U.S. in new oil and gas extraction projects – with 85% of that expansion in North America, and with the impact of the U.S. alone putting a 2 degree warming target out of reach. Further, it states that over 90% of U.S. expansion would be shale production dependent on fracking. It highlights that the Permian Basin (west Texas and southeastern New Mexico) would account for 39% of new U.S. oil and gas production by 2050. “It holds the greatest risk for new oil and gas development in the United States and in the world.”
Projected Canadian investment is a distant second to that of the U.S., but even so, the report states that “new oil and gas development in Canada between now and 2050 could unlock an additional 25 GtCO2 , more than doubling cumulative emissions from the sector.” The report highlights the approved Exxon Aspen Oil Sands project and the pending Teck Frontier Mine, but warns “…Shale gas extraction, particularly the Montney Shale Basin in British Columbia, is a major focus of the industry…From 2020 to 2050, new gas projects could be responsible for as much CO2 as new oil projects.” (For a recent overview of the extent of Canada’s LNG infrastructure, see The New Gas Boom, published by Global Energy Monitor in June 2019).
“A better future is possible”, and here’s how to get there:
Despite the grim projections, Oil, Gas and the Climate argues that “a better future is possible” and calls for “the launch of a well-planned phase-out of oil and gas production that addresses the needs of workers and communities impacted by fossil fuel developments. ” The report recognizes the impact of recent civil society actions such as Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion, and calls on governments and investors to catch up with such leadership.
Based on the findings of the report, Environmental Defence makes the following recommendations to support Canada’s phase-out:
Clear new federal rules under our environmental assessment law that review possible expansions of oil and gas projects against our commitment to climate goals. If we cannot credibly demonstrate how investing in a fossil fuel project is consistent with a 1.5C warmed world then the project should not be permitted to go ahead.
Institutional investors should apply a similar screen that will guide their decisions regarding whether to provide financing for new projects.
The federal government must invest in research and development of new energy technologies like geothermal electricity that have huge employment and energy production opportunities in places like Alberta and northern British Columbia. At a minimum, the government should make available an amount equivalent to the billions in subsidies that have been given to the fossil fuel industry through tax breaks or direct investment in pipeline infrastructure (e.g. Trans-Mountain) – subsidies that should be phased out rapidly. Success will create skills-linked jobs and massive supply of electrical energy for export to a North America that must replace the energy of fossil fuels.
Domestic demand for fossil fuels must be rapidly driven down through improved efficiency (e.g. buildings, appliances, manufacturing), electrifying transportation and home heating and increased renewables generation and storage.
The Oil, Gas and the Climate report is a project of the Global Gas and Oil Network , supported by Oil Change International; 350.org; Center for Biological Diversity; Center for International Environmental Law; CAN-Rac Canada; Earthworks; Environmental Defence Canada; Fundacin Ambiente y Recursos Naturales:FARN; Global Witness; Greenpeace; Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie); Naturvernforbundet; Observatorio Petrolero Sur; Overseas Development Institute; Platform; Sierra Club; Stand.Earth.
The long-awaited decision came on November 13, when the European Investment Bank (EIB) issued a press release announcing that “ We will stop financing fossil fuels and we will launch the most ambitious climate investment strategy of any public financial institution anywhere.” Also, “…..The EIB will work closely with the European Commission to support investment by a Just Transition Fund. The EIB will be able to finance up to 75% of the eligible project cost for new energy investment in these countries. These projects will also benefit from both advisory and financial support from the EIB.” The Guardian summarizes the policy here ; details are in the full document, EIB Energy Lending Policy: Supporting the energy transformation.
The decision ends a long and contentious review process which received more than 149 written submissions and petitions signed by more than 30,000 people. National members of the EU negotiated and compromised – the German government had been expected to abstain from the vote but ended by supporting the measure. A press release from WWF-Europe is generally supportive, stating “All public and private banks must urgently follow suit” – while pointing out that the decision postpones the end of financing for gas projects until 2021, and allows for further financing for any gas infrastructure that could potentially transport so-called “green gas”. A summary in Clean Energy Wire quotes Claudia Kemfert, climate economist at the German Institute for Economic Research, who calls the EIB decision “a game changer”, and says, “Even if there’s still a backdoor for fossil gas included, this is an important and necessary step in the right direction.”
Bank of Canada acknowledges climate change risks to the economy
On November 19, the Bank of Canada published its most complete statement to date about the transitions and risks which climate change will bring, in Researching the Economic Effects of Climate Change , a report prepared by Miguel Molico, senior research director at the bank’s Financial Stability Department. On November 21, the Governor of the Bank of Canada followed up on this by raising the issue of climate change and the risk of stranded assets during an address to the Ontario Securities Commission . The National Observer summarizes the development in “Bank of Canada warns of stranded assets and an abrupt transition to clean economy” (Nov. 23).
Also in Canada, on November 19, the Institute for Sustainable Finance was launched Housed at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario : “ The Institute for Sustainable Finance (ISF) is the first-ever cross-cutting and collaborative hub in Canada that fuses academia, the private sector, and government with the singular focus of increasing Canada’s sustainable finance capacity.” A more formal statement comes in the Institute’s launch report: Green Finance: New Directions in Sustainable Finance Research & Policy which states: “the Institute will span a continuum of expertise from across varying disciplines, including finance, economics, environmental studies, political science and others, in order to foster innovative research, education, external collaborations and partnerships. The Institute’s mandate is threefold:
- Generate innovative and relevant research on sustainable finance and effectively communicate this research to all pertinent stakeholders.
- Serve as a platform for collaboration between government, academia and industry.
- Provide educational opportunities and develop capacity in the field of sustainable finance.”
The Green Finance report summarizes the discussions by financial experts at a conference by the same name, held on June 14-15, 2019, following the release of the Report of the government’s Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance – Mobilizing Finance for Sustainable Growth. To help readers who are not financial experts, the Institute website offers useful “primers” to explain some fundamental concepts in sustainable finance, including Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, Divestment, and Transition Bonds. Not to be confused with Just Transition funding, the primer explains that “Transition Bonds” are corporate financing tools, and the companies who issue them must use the proceeds to fund a business transition towards a reduced environmental impact or reduction in carbon emissions. ( The example given is that a coal-mining company could issue a transition bond to finance efforts to capture and store carbon.)
As one of its first actions, the ISF established the Canadian Sustainable Finance Network (CSFN) an independent formal research and educational network for academia, industry and government to bring together a talented network of university faculty members and relevant members from industry, government and civil society. A list of members, here , includes multiple faculty from twelve Canadian universities, one from Yale in the U.S., and other individual academics from universities which are not institutional members (including UBC, HEC Montreal, and Memorial University).
As the Canadian federal election campaign counts down to October 21, The Narwhal’s Explainer from September remains one of the most readable and interesting overviews of the parties’ energy and environmental platforms; the survey responses from a consolidated questionnaire from the major environmental advocacy groups remains the most complete. Climate activism has been a backdrop to the campaign: according to Fridays for Future Canada, over one million Canadians in 245 communities participated in climate strikes between September 20 to September 27 (a summary from Energy Mix gives more details). On October 7, Extinction Rebellion began their demonstrations, blockading bridges in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Edmonton and Halifax – and according to the Vancouver Star, pledging to escalate actions.
New publications regarding the fossil fuel industry:
Canada’s relationship with its oil and gas industry was the subject of a country profile of Canada published by Carbon Brief on October 8, providing the basic facts and figures. The Narwhal published an Opinion Piece highlighting the issue of fossil fuel subsidies: “Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies amount to $1,650 per Canadian. It’s got to stop.” The article is based on a May 2019 report from the International Monetary Fund which estimated Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies at close to $60 billion in 2015, despite the government’s G20 commitments to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. A related report by Environmental Defence and the International Institute for Sustainable Development in February, Doubling Down with Taxpayer Dollars , examined $2Billion in fossil fuel subsidies in Alberta.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) Energy Platform – essentially a “wish list” from the fossil fuel industry – calls for expanded production for oil and gas and Liquefied Natural Gas. In report released on October 7, Environmental Defence estimates that the CAPP proposals would increase oil and gas emissions by 60% from 2017 to 2030. The report, The Single Biggest Barrier to Climate Action in Canada – the Oil and Gas Lobby, documents the two types of barriers created by the oil and gas lobby: 1. the actual carbon emissions of the sector, which are responsible for 27% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and for 80 % of the increase in Canada’s overall emissions; and 2. Industry campaigns and lobbying to block or weaken climate change policies.
Regarding the economic benefits which the oil and gas industry claims, Environmental Defence states: “… job creation in oil and gas is far from guaranteed even as the industry expands and reaps significant corporate profits. Despite growing production since 2014, almost 30,000 jobs (10 per cent of the workforce) have been axed in the oil patch in the following four years, with another 12,000 expected to be cut in 2019. That’s because oil and gas companies are moving increasingly towards automation, with the stated goal to “de-man” the industry. Meanwhile, the CEOs of companies such as Suncor, Encana, TransCanada, and CNRL rake in salaries north of $10 million per year.”
The report concludes: “ Canada is bigger than oil. The opportunities that are available to Canadian businesses, citizens, and governments get shortchanged when one industry is able to hijack public policy on energy development and environmental protection.” Or, as Richard Heede wrote more bluntly in a new series in The Guardian called The Polluters: “It’s time to rein in the fossil fuel giants before their greed chokes the planet” . Heede’s Opinion article is based on the latest research about the global fossil fuel industry by the Climate Accountability Institute. The research found that “chiefly from the combustion of their products, the top 20 companies have collectively produced 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane since 1965 – 35% of all fossil fuel emissions worldwide in that time.” The press release names the top 20 polluters, led by Saudi Aramco, Chevron, ExxonMobil, GazProm, and BP. All research and data is here .
Two new economic studies project the potential for growth in the clean energy sector to 2030 in Canada and in Nova Scotia.
On October 3, Vancouver-based Clean Energy Canada announced its new report, The Fast Lane , which predicts that “ Canada’s clean energy sector will employ 559,400 Canadians by 2030—in jobs like insulating homes, manufacturing electric buses, or maintaining wind farms. And while 50,000 jobs are likely to be lost in fossil fuels over the next decade, just over 160,000 will be created in clean energy—a net increase of 110,000 new energy jobs in Canada.” That translates into a job growth rate of 3.4% a year for clean energy from 2020, compared to an overall job growth rate of 0.9% for Canada as a whole and a decline of 0.5% a year for the fossil fuel sector.
Navius Research conducted the economic modelling underlying The Fast Lane, as well as a May 2019 Clean Energy Canada report, Missing the Bigger Picture , which reports on clean energy investment and jobs from 2010 to 2017. The more detailed economic modelling reports by Navius are available as Quantifying Canada’s Clean Energy Economy: A forecast of clean energy investment, value added and jobs , and Quantifying Canada’s Clean Energy Economy: An assessment of clean energy investment, value added and jobs (May).
The message for policy-makers is made clear in the introduction to The Fast Lane by Merran Smith, Executive Director of Clean Energy Canada: “The sector’s projected growth is modelled on policy measures either in place or announced in early 2019 at both federal and provincial levels. If climate measures are eliminated—as we’ve recently seen in Alberta and Ontario—our emissions will go up and Canadians working in clean energy could lose jobs.”
An article in The Energy Mix summarizes The Fast Lane . It quotes Lliam Hildebrand, Executive Director of Iron and Earth , a worker-led non-profit which promotes upskilling and retraining for fossil fuel workers: “It’s really important for people to know that most fossil fuel industry workers are really proud of their trades skills and would be excited—and are excited—about the opportunity to apply those skills to building a sustainable energy future …. But they need support in making that transition.”
A similar message comes through in “After oil and gas: Meet Alberta workers making the switch to solar” , an article in The Narwhal which profiles three workers who have transitioned from jobs in the fossil fuel industry. The article also summarizes the policy environment in Alberta, where according to Statistics Canada, roughly 1 in every 16 workers in Alberta is employed in the category described as “forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas.” The Narwhal quotes Rod Wood, national representative from Unifor, who states that the global energy transition “is going to happen in spite of Alberta…You’re either part of the conversation or you’re lunch. It’s just going to steamroll over you.” And Mark Rowlinson of the United Steelworkers Union and BlueGreen Alliance Canada states: “ The market tends to move with its own feet. If the market sees that the future of the fossil fuel industry is not looking great, it will move quickly… And it will move without a plan. That means there will be wreckage left behind it, and that’s what we need to try to avoid.”
Clean economy policies could bring 180,000 jobs to Nova Scotia by 2030:
Nova Scotia’s Ecology Action Centre submitted what it calls a “Green Jobs Report” to the province’s consultation on its proposed Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, just ended on September 27. EAC proposed six policy choices, including supplying 90% of the province’s electricity from renewables by 2030, with a summary here. A detailed report, Nova Scotia Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act: Economic Costs and Benefits for Proposed Goals was prepared by economic consultants Gardner Pinfold and estimates the benefits of each proposal, with the conclusion that the proposed policies could create over 15,000 green jobs per year in Nova Scotia, for a total of just less than 180,000 job-years between now and 2030.
On September 17, Bill McKibben, a leader of the divestment movement, wrote Money is the oxygen on which the fire of global warming burns , published in The New Yorker. The essay traces the progress of the divestment movement and asks, What if the banking, asset-management, and insurance industries moved away from fossil fuels?. On the same day came the announcement that “ University of California drops fossil fuels from its $80 billion portfolio”. An article in Rolling Stone quotes the UC representatives, stating “it wasn’t moral or political pressures that convinced them to phase UC’s hundreds of millions of dollars in fossil-fuel investments. Instead, they say, it was the growing realization that fossil fuel investments no longer made financial sense and weren’t a worthwhile investment.”
Investment performance of Fossil fuel companies
In what has been seen as an historical turning point, ExxonMobil lost its spot on the S&P Index list of “Top Ten Companies” in August 2019 – the first time it had not appeared since the Index launched in 1957. In 1980, the energy sector as a whole represented 28% of the S&P 500 Index; as of August 2019, it represents 4.4%. According to a summary by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the energy sector claimed last place in the S&P rankings of sector performance in August 2019, following similar results in 2018 and 2017.“This is not some temporary aberration. The oil and gas sector is in decline, profits are shrinking and investment options problematic …. This is true even for companies like ExxonMobil that historically have deep pockets.”
The full Briefing Note, ExxonMobil’s Fall From the S&P 500 Top Ten: A Long Time Coming (August 2019) also includes discussion of the role Canada’s oil sands have played in the decline of the industry. Carbon Tracker Initiative provides further information in Exxon’s New Clothes – the tale of why Exxon lost its prized position in the S&P 500 .
Are the banking, asset-management, and insurance industries moving away from fossil fuels?
New initiatives launched at U.N. Climate Summit in New York in September point in that direction:
- 130 banks from 49 countries signed on to the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRBs), committing to align their business operations with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the fact that the Bank of Canada issued a report flagging the investment risks of climate change in May, the only signatories from Canada were the National Bank of Canada and the Desjardins Group . Hardly surprising, given the April 2019 Fossil Fuel Report Card from Banktrack , which showed that Canada’s big banks rank 5th, 8th, 9th and 15th in the world for fossil fuel invesment since the Paris Agreement in 2015. In response to the PRI pledge, civil society groups issued a statement, “No More Greenwashing: Principles must have Consequences ” which highlights the lack of concrete plans and the slow time frame: signatory banks are allowed up to four years to demonstrate their implementation of the principles. A thorough discussion published by Open Democracy asks “The UN banking principles are welcome – but do they go far enough to stop climate destruction?”
- A new Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance was launched, convened by the U.N. Environmental Program’s Finance Initiative and the Principles for Responsible Investment, and supported by WWF as part of its Mission 2020 campaign. The Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance signatories are insurance and pension fund management companies which hold approximately $2.3 U.S. Trillion. Their commitment document pledges to re-balance those investment portfolios to make them carbon neutral by 2050, with intermediate targets set for 2025, 2030 and 2040. Founding members include German insurer Allianz, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), Swedish pension fund Alecta, PensionDanmark, Swedish pension manager AMF, Nordea Life & Pension, Norwegian insurer Storebrand, and Swiss RE.
- The European Investment Bank strengthened its climate commitments at the U.N. Climate Summit pledging to “ position the EIB as an incubator for climate finance and expertise to mobilise others, helping our societies and economies transform to a low carbon future.” Specifically, the bank pledged that 50% of new investments will be for climate action and environmental sustainability by 2025 (previously the target had been 30% by 2020). Also, “we aim to align all our financing activities with the principles and goals of the Paris agreement by the end of 2020. As an important first step, we will phase out energy projects that depend solely on fossil fuels.”
- The Climate Finance Leadership Initiative (CFLI) , chaired by Michael Bloomberg, released Financing the Low Carbon Future , a thorough but readable analysis of how clean energy investment works globally, with practical recommendations . The CFLI is composed of senior executives of seven major private-sector financial institutions– Allianz Global Investors, AXA, Enel, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) and Macquarie.
- Over 500 environmental and advocacy groups from 76 countires supported the Lofoten Declaration at the U.N. Climate Action Summit. The Lofoten Declaration , (named after the Lofoten Islands of Norway where it was first drafted in 2017) states in part: “It is the urgent responsibility and moral obligation of wealthy fossil fuel producers to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development and to manage the decline of existing production.” Canada is one of those countries, and Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada was one of the supporters, stating: “True leadership in response to the climate emergency means having the courage to commit to ending the expansion of oil and gas production and make a plan to transition communities and workers to better opportunities.” A summary appears in “If a House Is on Fire, You Don’t Add Fuel’: 530 Groups Back Call to Rapidly Phase Out Fossil Fuels Worldwide” in Common Dreams (Sept. 23); Background to the Lofoten Declaration here .
Much remains to be done: Consider the September 2019 report by Carbon Tracker Initiative. Breaking the Habit – Why none of the large oil companies are “Paris-aligned”, and what they need to do to get there. The report examines oil company investment activities , and concludes:
- Last year, all of the major oil companies sanctioned projects that fall outside a “well below 2 degrees” budget on cost grounds. These will not deliver adequate returns in a low-carbon world. Examples include Shell’s $13bn LNG Canada project and BP, Total, ExxonMobil and Equinor’s Zinia 2 project in Angola.
- No new oil sands projects fit within a Paris-compliant world. Despite this, ExxonMobil sanctioned the $2.6bn Aspen project last year – the first new oil sands project in 5 years.
- The oil and gas in projects that have already been sanctioned will take the world past 1.5ºC, assuming carbon capture and storage remains sub-scale.
And Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2019 , commissioned by the United Nations, was published in September, reporting the good news that global investment in new renewable energy capacity, led by solar power, “ is set to have roughly quadrupled renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) in the decade ending in 2019. Renewables accounted for 12.9 percent of global electricity in 2018—and if hydropower is also included, the renewable’s share of global electricity production is measured at 26.3%. Cost-competitiveness of renewables has “risen spectacularly over the decade, as the levelised cost of electricity has been steadily decreasing, down 81 percent for solar photovoltaics and 46 per cent for onshore wind since 2009.”
Yet despite this good news, the report states: “Overall, we note that these figures represent a small share of the overall economic transition required to address climate change…. global power-sector emissions are likely to have risen by at least 10 percent between the end of 2009 and 2019.”
A newly-released book, Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals, provides detailed discussion of the the implications, including job implications, of a transition to 100% renewable energy. The book’s findings are summarized by Sven Teske of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, in “Here’s how a 100% renewable energy future can create jobs and even save the gas industry”, which appeared in The Conversation (Jan. 23). That article states: “The world can limit global warming to 1.5℃ and move to 100% renewable energy while still preserving a role for the gas industry, and without relying on technological fixes such as carbon capture and storage, according to our new analysis.” The scenario is built on complex modelling – The One Earth Climate Model – and foresees a gradual transition from gas to hydrogen energy, so that “by 2050 there would be 46.3 million jobs in the global energy sector – 16.4 million more than under existing forecasts…. Our analysis also investigated the specific occupations that will be required for a renewables-based energy industry. The global number of jobs would increase across all of these occupations between 2015 and 2025, with the exception of metal trades which would decline by 2%. ”
The article summarizes a book with a daunting title: Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals: Global and Regional 100% Renewable Energy Scenarios with Non-energy GHG Pathways for +1.5°C and +2°C . It is the culmination of a two-year scientific collaboration with 17 scientists at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), two institutes at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the University of Melbourne’s Climate & Energy College, with funding provided by the Leonard DiCaprio Foundation and the German Greenpeace Foundation. It was published in January 2019 by Springer as an Open Access book , meaning it is free to download the entire book or individual chapters without violating copyright. Of special interest: Chapter 9, Trajectories for a Just Transition of the Fossil Fuel Industry , which provides historical production data for coal, oil and gas production, discusses phase-out pathways for each, and concludes with a discussion of the need “to shift the current political debate about coal, oil and gas which is focused on security of supply and price security towards an open debate about an orderly withdrawal from coal, oil and gas extraction industries.”
The data presented in Chapter 9 form the foundation of Chapter 10, Just Transition: Employment Projections for the 2.0 °C and 1.5 °C Scenarios . This consists of quantitative analysis, ( the overall number of jobs in renewable and fossil fuel industries) and occupational analysis – which looks into specific job categories required for the solar and wind sector, and the oil, gas, and coal industry. The chapter provides projections for jobs in construction, manufacturing, operations and maintenance (O&M), and fuel and heat supply across 12 technologies and 10 world regions. The conclusion: “Under both the 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C Scenarios, the renewable energy transition is projected to increase employment. Importantly, this analysis has reviewed the locations and types of occupations and found that the jobs created in wind and solar PV alone are enough to replace the jobs lost in the fossil fuel industry across all occupation types. Further research is required to identify the training needs and supportive policies needed to ensure a just transition for all employment groups.”
In Provinces Apart? Comparing Citizen Views in Alberta and British Columbia, released by the Parkland Institute on October 25, the authors re-visit the data from a survey conducted in February – March 2017, and conclude that what differences exist between citizens of Alberta and British Columbia are attributable more to their political self-identification than to their province, age, or educational status. While the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion was certainly an active issue at the time, the survey pre-dated the bitter political battle and subsequent media attention which ensued from the federal government’s purchase of the project, and the Court decision which suspended construction. After a brief review the political events of the most recent Trans Mountain controversy, the authors conclude “the governing and opposition parties in both provinces have exacerbated this partisan divide.”
In those calmer days when the survey was conducted, citizens’ views on political influence, the fossil fuel industry, climate change, and the role of protests in a democracy were not as divergent as stereotypes tell us. Findings of particular interest: 53% of respondents in Alberta and 69% in B.C. agreed that “we need to move away from using fossil fuels;” 76% in Alberta and 68% in B.C. thought the petroleum industry has too much influence over governments, (fewer than one-third said the same about either environmentalists, labour unions or Indigenous groups).
The Parkland Institute also published Who Owns Canada’s Fossil-Fuel Sector? Mapping the Network of Ownership & Control in October, as part of the Corporate Mapping Project, in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C. and Saskatchewan, and the University of Victoria. The analysis covers the period from 2010 to 2015, and demonstrates that the production, ownership and control of the fossil fuel industry is highly concentrated: “The top 25 owners together account for more than 40 per cent of overall revenues during this period.” At 16%, foreign corporations are the largest type of majority owners (led by ExxonMobil) ; asset managers and investment funds are the 2nd largest; banks and life insurers are the third-largest type of owner (approximately 12% of revenues), with the big five Canadian banks (RBC, TD, Scotiabank, BMO and CIBC) among the top investors. The federal Canadian government, combined with provincial governments, own 2%. The report provides a wealth of information, including names and ranks of specific companies in the network of ownership and control, points out the importance of divestment campaigns, and “identifies the need to shift from fossil-fuel oligarchy to energy democracy, in which control of economic decisions shifts to people and communities, such as through public ownership of renewables and much greater democratic participation in energy policy.”
For more insight into Alberta and its energy economy, the Parkland Institute is hosting a conference, Alberta 2019: Forces of Change from November 16 – 18. Presentations include: Opening Keynote, “In the Eye of the Storm”, by Lynne Fernandez (Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives- Manitoba); “The Alberta Economy in Context” by Angella MacEwen; “Just Transitions in the Belly of the Beast” by Emily Eaton ( University of Regina); and “Boom, Bust, and Consolidation: Corporate Restructuring in the Alberta Oil Sands” by Ian Hussey (Research Manager at Parkland Institute).
Also from Alberta: the 2018 event from BlueGreen Canada, Just Transition and Good Jobs for Alberta 2018 was held in Edmonton on October 22 and 23, with active participation and sponsorship of USW, Unifor, and the Alberta Federation of Labour. This is the third annual event – summaries from 2017 and 2016 are here.
In September, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung of Berlin released a compilation of eight reports, titled Radical Realism for Climate Justice – “ a civil society response to the challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C while also paving the way for climate justice. Because it’s is neither ‘naïve’ nor ‘politically unfeasible’, it is radically realistic.” Individual chapters, each available from this link , are written by a variety of international organizations and individuals. Of particular interest are the two from Canadian authors: System Change on a Deadline. Organizing Lessons from Canada’s Leap Manifesto and Modelling 1.5°C-Compliant Mitigation Scenarios without Carbon Dioxide Removal, by Christian Holz of Carleton University in Ottawa. Also of especial relevance for Canadians: A Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production : The Paris Goals Require No New Expansion and a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production by Oil Change International, and Another Energy is Possible by Sean Sweeney.
In Chapter 5, System Change on a Deadline. Organizing Lessons from Canada’s Leap Manifesto authors Avi Lewis, Katie McKenna and Rajiv Sicora provide a broad-brush summary of the history and growth of The Leap movement, beginning with its launch in Toronto in 2015, tracing the need for coalition building, and concluding with a statement of its international potential, and its application in Los Angeles.
Chapter 8 , Modelling 1.5°C-Compliant Mitigation Scenarios without Carbon Dioxide Removal, is by Christian Holz, a post-doctoral fellow in Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University. His chapter reviews the recent technical studies about Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Bioenergy combined with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) technologies, which some see as the route to achieving the 1.5°C global warming target. Holz’ assessment is that 1.5°C can be achieved without relying on on these technologies, “if national climate pledges are increased substantially in all countries immediately, international support for climate action in developing countries is scaled up, and mitigation options not commonly included in mainstream climate models are pursued.”
Chapter 1, A Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production : The Paris Goals Require No New Expansion and a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production by Oil Change International is an update of its 2016 publication, The Sky’s the Limit , which makes the “keep it in the ground” case. For Canadians still reeling from the federal government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline, this new report is a timely reminder of the dangers of continued investment in exploration and expansion of oil, coal and gas and the need for Just Transition policies.
Another Energy is Possible by Sean Sweeney of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is a tight summary of his assessment that current energy policies are allowing energy consumption to continue to grow. Sweeney calls for a two-pronged solution: “ a shift in policy towards a «public-goods» approach that can liberate climate and energy policy from the chains of the current investor-focused neoliberal dogma, where the private sector must lead…. and … a shift towards social ownership and management so that energy systems can be restructured and reconfigured to serve social and ecological needs.” Sweeney states: ” The next energy system must operate within an economic paradigm that is truly needs-based and sustainable.”
The other worthy chapters of Radical Realism for Climate Justice are: Zero Waste Circular Economy: A Systemic Game-Changer to Climate Change by Mariel Vilella of Zero Waste Europe; Degrowth – A Sober Vision of Limiting Warming to 1.5°C by Mladen Domazet of the Institute for Political Ecology in Zagreb, Croatia; La Via Campesina in Action for Climate Justice by the international peasants movement La Via Campesina, and Re-Greening the Earth: Protecting the Climate through Ecosystem Restoration by Christoph Thies of Greenpeace Germany.
Now that the government of Canada has bought the Trans Mountain pipeline project from Texas-based Kinder Morgan, the governments of Alberta and Canada have launched a public relations campaign to “sell” the deal to Canadians. The Keep Canada Working television and social media campaign promotes the familiar Liberal government message that “Developing the economy and protecting the environment are two things that can happen side by side – without choosing one over the other”, and argues that “The Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion funds green investments, shifts the transportation of oil away from more carbon intensive methods like rail or truck, and provides a bridge to a greener tomorrow.” The full “Climate Action” defense is here .
The “Jobs and the Economy” claims are here, including endorsements by politicians and includes a quote from Stephen Hunt, Director of the United Steelworkers District 3: “Members of the United Steelworkers are proud that the pipeline will be using Canadian-made USW-built pipe.” The other positive job arguments are sourced from an April 2018 Globe and Mail article by the CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the corporate website of Trans Mountain, which are in turn based on an unnamed Conference Board of Canada report .
What do other economists say about the benefits of the Trans Mountain pipeline? In February 2018, the Parkland Institute summarized and critiqued the economic arguments in a still-useful blog “Let’s share the actual facts about the Trans Mountain Pipeline” , and Canadian economist Robyn Allan has written numerous articles critical of the Trans Mountain project for the National Observer, most recently “Premier Notley’s claimed $15 billion annual benefit from Trans Mountain exposed as false by her own budget” (June 7 2018). Other more detailed publications since the May 2018 purchase by the government: “Canada’s Folly: Government Purchase of Trans Mountain Pipeline Risks an Increase in National Budget Deficit by 36%, Ensures a 637% Gain by Kinder Morgan”, published by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, describes the fiscal and financial risks and calls for more public disclosure of those details before the Purchase Agreement is finalized in August. Similarly, The view from Taxpayer Mountain (June 2018) from the West Coast Environmental Law Association links to the actual Purchase Agreement and reviews Canada’s obligations and risks. On June 26, Greenpeace USA has published Tar Sands Tanker Superhighway Threatens Pacific Coast Waters highlighting the dangers of a potential oil spill on the environment, and on coastal economies. At risk: the $60 billion coastal economy of Washington, Oregon and California, which currently supports over 150,000 jobs in commercial fishing and over 525,000 jobs in coastal tourism, and in the British Columbia Lower Mainland, Greenpeace estimates there are 320,000 workers in industries that rely on a clean coastline.
On the issue of climate change impacts, a widely-cited discussion paper, Confronting Carbon lock-in: Canada’s oil sands (June 2018) from the Stockholm Environment Institute, concludes that “The continued expansion of Canada’s oil sands is likely to contribute to carbon lock-in and a long-term oversupply of oil, slowing the world’s transition to a low-carbon future.” And still valuable reading: David Hughes’ Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep Its Climate Change Commitments? (June 2016) from the Corporate Mapping Project , and from Jeff Rubin, Evaluating the Need for
Pipelines: A False Narrative for the Canadian Economy (September 2017).
Demonstrations continue: Vancouver housing activist Jean Swanson’s argues that the billions spent on Kinder Morgan would be better used for social housing, job creation, and renewable energy in “Why I got arrested protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline” in The Tyee, July 11. Twelve Greenpeace activists mounted an “aerial blockade” for Trans Mountain oil tankers by hanging from a bridge above the water on July 3 and 4. And on July 11, CBC reported “Secwepemc First Nation’s ‘Tiny House Warriors’ occupy provincial park in Trans Mountain protest” . The Tiny House Warrior movement began in 2017, near Kamloops, to block the pipeline by re-establishing village sites and asserting authority over Secwepemc First Nations unceded Territories.
On May 1, the Parkland Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives co-released the latest report for the Corporate Mapping Project. Canada’s Energy Outlook: Current Realities and Implications for a Carbon-constrained Future is described in the press release as “ a definitive guide to Canada’s current energy realities and their implications for a sustainable future, taking a detailed look at Canadian energy consumption, renewable and non-renewable energy supply, the state of Canada’s resources and revenues, and what it all means for emissions-reduction planning.”
The title of the press release is instructive: “Pipeline feud underscores need for evidence-based energy strategy” – Canada’s Energy Outlook is an attempt to inject facts into the current emotion-charged debate about the TransMountain pipeline and the role of oil and gas in Canada; in doing so, it counters many of the pro-pipeline claims, including the job creation claims. For example, Chapter 2, “Non-renewable energy supply, resources and revenue” states: “Oil and gas jobs are a relatively minor overall component of the Canadian economy: 2.2% of Canada’s workforce was employed in oil, gas and coal production, distribution and construction in 2015. Of these jobs, 52% were involved in construction, most of which were of a temporary nature. In Alberta, 6.3% of jobs were involved in fossil fuel production and distribution, and a further 6.6% in related construction.”
A commentary titled “Politics versus the future: Canada’s Orwellian energy standoff” discusses the pro-pipeline arguments being made by Alberta and the federal government in light of their incompatibility with our emissions reductions targets, but acknowledges the insufficiency of our renewable energy supply as yet. It concludes: “ Some environmental groups assert that it will be relatively easy to swap out fossil fuels for renewable energy – wind, solar, biomass, biofuels and geothermal energy. That is unlikely given the scale of such a transition. Renewable energy can certainly be scaled up a lot, along with geothermal energy for heating and cooling, but we will likely need fossil fuels for decades to come as we make the transition.”
The report was written by David Hughes, an earth scientist,well-known energy expert, and author of several related reports, including Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep Its Climate Change Commitments? (2016).
“Making Decarbonization Work for Workers: Policies for a just transition to a zero-carbon economy” was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on January 25th. In light of the federal government’s pledge to launch a Task Force on Just Transition in 2018, this report makes a unique contribution by using census data to identify the regions in each province with the greatest reliance on fossil fuel jobs. While fossil fuel dependence is overwhelmingly concentrated in Alberta, with a few “hot spots” in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, the report identifies communities from other provinces where fossil fuel jobs represent a significant part of the local economy – for example, Bay Roberts, Newfoundland; Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; Saint John, New Brunswick; Sarnia, Ontario. The report also makes the useful distinction between “reactive” just transition policies, which are intended to minimize the harm to workers of decarbonization, and “pro-active” just transition policies, which are intended to maximize the benefits. The author argues that, if the broad goal of a just transition is to ensure an equitable, productive outcome for all workers in the zero-carbon economy, a mix of reactive and proactive elements is necessary. Thus, a national just transition strategy is required for fossil fuel-dependent communities, but workers in any industry facing job loss and retraining costs will also need support from enhanced social security programs. In addition, governments must invest in workforce development programs to ensure there are enough skilled workers to fill the new jobs which will be created by the zero-carbon economy.
Making Decarbonization Work for Workers is a co-publication by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program . The author is CCPA researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood.
On November 13, the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts published a new study by authors Robert Pollin, Heidi Garrett-Peltier and Jeannette Wicks-Lim, all well-established experts on the job creation benefits of renewable energy. Clean Energy Investments for New York State: An Economic Framework for Promoting Climate Stabilization and Expanding Good Job Opportunities examines the benefits of large-scale investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency for New York State, and proposes a Just Transition policy framework to support such clean energy investments. Their analysis is based on an estimate of a 40 percent decline in production activity and employment in fossil fuel industries in New York State as of 2030. They examine the labour market and present detailed statistics about the compensation and benefits, unionization, educational qualifications, gender and race of the small percentage (0.15 percent) of the total state workforce who worked in fossil fuel dependent industries in 2014.
In Chapter 8, they propose a Just Transition program guaranteeing pensions and reemployment, as well as providing income, training and relocation support for workers. They also propose support for fossil-fuel dependent communities, primarily through channeling new clean energy investments to the affected communities. The report cites the model of the Worker and Community Transition program that operated through the U.S. Department of Energy from 1994 – 2004.
Because of the level of detail in the report, (including information about the unfunded pension liabilities of the relevant companies), the authors are able to make very specific policy recommendations and also provide cost estimates. For example, they call on the State government to mandate full funding of pensions via state law, or through coordination with the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), to the extent that companies could be prohibited from paying dividends or financing share buybacks, or the state (in cooperation with PBGC) could place liens on company assets when pension funds are underfunded.
The report estimates a total cost of approximately $18 million per year to fund 100 percent compensation insurance for five years, retraining for 2 years, and relocation support for workers. This is based on an average of $270,000 – $300,000 per worker per year, for the estimated 67 displaced workers likely to be eligible.
Interesting context for this report appears in an interview with Robert Pollin in the Albany Times Union, “N.Y. must try harder to become a clean energy beacon.“
In January, West Coast Environmental Law and over 50 other environmental, health, human rights, women’s rights, and faith-based organizations sent an Open Letter to local municipalities in British Columbia, urging them 1.) to write to fossil fuel companies, demanding accountability for the climate change costs being borne by citizens , and 2.) To consider participating in a class action lawsuit against the big polluters. As part of their new initiative, called Climate Law in Our Own Hands , West Coast Environmental Law is offering legal research and support to interested local governments, as well as template letters and fossil fuel company addresses to facilitate the letter-writing campaign. WCEL argues that fossil fuel companies will only start working towards climate change solutions when they are held to account to pay their fair share for the damage being caused. According to one of the Open Letter signatories, Sierra Club B.C. , “The Province of BC has estimated that Metro Vancouver Municipalities will need to spend $9.5 billion between now and 2100 to address rising sea-levels (about $100 million per year on average).” The list could continue to add wildfires, the destruction of forests by the mountain pine beetle, drought, and extreme weather.
WCEL is not new to this issue, but rather have been active since the 2015 landmark Urgenda case in the Netherlands , when they released their report Taking climate justice into our own hands , which included a draft Climate Compensation Act . The new website, Climate Law in Our Own Hands maintains a blog about legal actions around the world, including a November 2016 report about 420 “grannies” in Switzerland who are working with Greenpeace Switzerland to launch a legal challenge against the Swiss government for inadequately addressing threats to their health and future generations from climate change. Other high profile court cases underway include the challenge to stop Arctic drilling by Norweigian youth and Greenpeace in Norway , and the ongoing cases led by Our Children’s Trust against the U.S. federal and state governments. The federal case, Juliana v.United States first launched in 2015, and most recently (November 10, 2016) has been permitted to proceed to trail, after Judge Ann Aiken issued an opinion and order denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss . The 21 plaintiffs, mostly teenagers, are suing for the constitutional right of future generations to live in a healthy and safe environment.
Following on the January 2017 report US Energy and Employment from the U.S. Department of Energy, more evidence of the healthy growth of the clean energy industry comes in a report by the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps and Meister consultants. Now Hiring: The Growth of America’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Jobs compiles the latest statistics from diverse sources, and concludes that “sustainability” accounts for an estimated 4.5 million jobs (up from 3.4 million in 2011) in the U.S. in 2015. Sustainability jobs are defined as those in energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as waste reduction, natural resources conservation and environmental education, vehicle manufacturing, public sector, and corporate sustainability jobs. Statistics drill down to wages and working conditions – for example, average wages for energy efficiency jobs are almost $5,000 above the national median, and wages for solar workers are above the national median of $17.04 per hour. Comparing clean energy with the fossil fuel industry, the report states that the 1.4 million jobs in energy efficiency construction and installation alone is more than double the number of workers in fossil fuel mining, extraction and electric power generation combined. Now Hiring states that for every $1 million invested in building retrofits and industrial efficiency, 8 direct or indirect jobs are created; in comparison, 3 are created by a comparable investment in the fossil fuel industry. This final comparison of job multiplier effect is based on “Green versus brown: Comparing the employment impacts of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and fossil fuels using an input-output model” by Heidi Garrett Pelletier at PERI, and appears in the February 2017 issue of Economic Modelling.