Canadian steel, concrete, aluminum and wood – low carbon solutions for public infrastructure

In a February 1 press release, Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada of the United Steelworkers says,  “We need our governments to support the creation and retention of good jobs by strengthening Canadian industrial and manufacturing capacities in ways that support the low-carbon transition of the economy”. To support that point, Blue Green Canada has released a new report, Buy Clean: How Public Construction Dollars can create jobs and cut pollution . Buy Clean calls for the use of Canadian-made building products in infrastructure in order to reap the dual benefit of reducing carbon emissions and supporting local industry and jobs.  The USW press release continues: “Buy Clean makes sense for Canada because it leverages our carbon advantage. Whether its steel, aluminum, cement or wood, building materials sourced from within Canada are typically lower carbon than imported materials” – thanks largely to our low-emissions energy supply and reduced transportation  costs. The report recommends that all levels of government continue and expand the use of Buy Clean policies for procurement. The report also calls for an Industrial Decarbonization Strategy to encourage technological innovation in the manufacture of steel, aluminum, concrete and wood , and for a “Clean Infrastructure Challenge Fund” , to act as a demonstration fund modelled on the Low Carbon Economy Challenge, but available only for public infrastructure projects, not to private industry.  

Buy Clean: How Public Construction Dollars can create jobs and cut pollution is also available in a French-language version,  Acheter Propre: Créer des emplois et réduire la pollution par une utilisation judicieuse des fonds publics en construction . The report includes appendices for each of the sectors, providing brief but specific summaries of how Canadian industry has already achieved lower carbon  processes than their competitors – particularly in steel and aluminum, and what further decarbonization opportunities remain.

The Buy Clean message seems closely related to the Stand Up for Steel national campaign by the United Steelworkers, which also calls for the use of Canadian-made steel in infrastructure projects. After the disruptive tariffs levied by the previous U.S. administration, the Stand up for Steel Action Plan also calls for the right for unions to initiate trade cases; for expanding the definition of ‘material injury’ in trade cases; and for a carbon border adjustment on imported steel.

Canada Investment Bank announces $10 Billion plan for green infrastructure

The federal government’s Throne Speech on September 23 set out priorities for economic recovery, with environmentalists and labour commentators generally supportive, on the condition that actual programs are launched and funded. The first step in that journey occurred on October 1, with a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office  and another from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), announcing its Growth Plan, which will invest $10 billion to build new green  infrastructure over the next 3 years . Project investments will begin this year, focus on these five priority areas:

Clean power to support renewable generation and storage, and to transmit clean electricity between provinces, territories, and regions, including to northern and Indigenous communities. ($2.5 billion) 

Internet connectivity improvement for approximately 750,000 homes and small businesses in underserved communities($2 billion)

Large-scale building retrofits to increase energy efficiency  ($2 billion)

Agriculture irrigation projects to strengthen productivity ($1.5 billion) 

Accelerating the adoption of zero-emission buses and charging  infrastructure ($1.5 billion)

Slightly fuller descriptions are provided for each initiative in a Backgrounder from the Bank.

An article in The Energy Mix summarizes generally favourable reaction from environmental leaders, and a Climate Action Network CAN-Rac statement states: “There is still a long road ahead of us, with much more work to be done – we trust that this is only the first of many such announcements.” Labour leaders are less enthusiastic because of the CIB public-private investment structure. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) responded on October 2 with “ Privatization won’t build sustainable infrastructure” , which opposes privatization, and calls for a recovery which invests in publicly-owned infrastructure, and which prioritizes social infrastructure in areas such as child care, long-term care and social housing. 

U.K. government releases strategy to reduce transportation emissions, stimulate clean vehicle manufacturing

The U.K. Committee on Climate Change (CCC) submitted its 2018 annual report to the British Parliament on June 28, marking ten years since the Climate Change Act became law in 2008.  On the plus side, the report highlights a decoupling of economic  growth:   since 1990, emissions have fallen by 43% and the economy has grown by over 70%. Since 2008, the UK has achieved a 59% reduction in emissions from electricity generation. Yet despite that progress, other sectors, notably transport, agriculture and the built environment, have not achieved reductions – transport emissions have actually grown and at  28% of total UK emissions, are now the single largest emitter.    Reducing UK emissions – 2018 Progress Report to Parliament  outlines four high-level, messages for government and calls for immediate policy action in residential energy efficiency, development of Carbon Capture and Storage, and stronger consumer  incentives for electric vehicles.

black cabsNo sooner said than done: on July 9, the British Ministry of Transport  released  a long-awaiting document, The Road to Zero Strategy , with the goal that all new cars and vans will be effectively zero emission by 2040, at which time the government will end the sale of new conventional gas and diesel cars and vans. The press release highlights and summarizes the proposals .  Some specifics: commitment to continue consumer purchase incentives for plug-in cars, vans, taxis and motorcycles; commitment that all  the central Government car fleet will be zero emissions by 2030; the  launch of a £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund and  as much as £500 incentive for  electric vehicle owners to help them install a charge point at their home; increasing the grant level of the existing incentives for Workplace Charging stations.

Stimulating the motor vehicle industry:  Notably, the strategy aims to improve emissions in road transport in the U.K. while putting the U.K.  “at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles.”  Measures announced to support industry include: public investment in auto technology R & D, including £246 million to research next generation battery technology; and  working with the industry training group,  Institute of the Motor Industry,  “to ensure the UK’s workforce of mechanics are well trained and have the skills they need to repair these vehicles safely, delivering for consumers” .

However, “Road to Zero or Road to Nowhere: Government revs up green vehicle ‘ambition’ ”  in Business Green newsletter compiles reaction from business and environmental sources, all of which agree that the 2040 target date is too late. The quote from the Policy Director of Green Alliance sums up reaction:  “It’s rare for the oil industry, mayors and environmentalists to agree on something, but we all think 2040 is far too late for a ban on conventional vehicles…Moving it to 2030 and setting a zero emissions vehicles mandate would encourage car companies to build electric cars in the UK, and give the country a head start on its competitors across Europe. While there are some welcome measures, including on charging infrastructure, the Road to Zero strategy is on cruise control. As it stands, it won’t help the UK build a world leading clean automotive industry.”

The full Road to Zero policy document is here ; the accompanying technical report,  Transport Energy Model   provides data about the GHG emissions, energy requirements, and pollution associated with cars, trucks and double decker buses using conventional fossil fuels as well as biofuels, hydrogen, and electricity.

 

Alternative Budget proposals for a Just Transition and a low carbon economy

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its 23rd Alternative Budget (AFB) on February 22 in Ottawa, in advance of the federal government’s February 26 Budget release. According to the summary at Behind the Numbers “Our budget puts forward bold progressive policy ideas rooted in a rigorous economic and fiscal framework. Our approach considers not just standard budget items but delivers a gender-based analysis, examines income distribution effects, and projects the impacts on poverty rates.” High priority areas for the CCPA include universal child care, pharmacare, gender equity, free tuition, and a green, low carbon economy.

The report argues that the current, relatively low unemployment levels make this an opportune time to begin  “in earnest, the just transition to a green jobs future.” In a section called  “Industrial Strategy and Just Transition” the report  calls for a National Decarbonization Strategy to be developed through broad consultation, and to act as a co-ordinating body for other AFB proposals – notably an enhanced Low Carbon Economy Fund to support cities and infrastructure investments, and a trade promotion strategy.  A new $500-million Just Transition Transfer (JTT) is proposed,  to flow federal funds to provinces –  for workers and communities  affected through actions under the  National Decarbonization Strategy or for existing provincial just transition programs, such as Alberta’s Coal Workforce Transition Fund.  Finally, the AFB calls for  a new $1Billion Strategic Training Fund to increase training capacity at colleges and trade schools  – with the funds contingent on improved representation of  women, racialized Canadians, immigrants, First Nations and other groups that have been historically excluded from the skilled trades.

Regarding the environment, some of the  top-level goals are : Remove all direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuel exploration, development and transportation; enforce a stringent national carbon pricing standard  (rising to $50 per tonne by 2020); contribute Canada’s fair share of global climate financing; improve energy efficiency for Canadian homes, with $600 million annually to offset the costs of  retrofitting and construction; create a network of protected areas covering 17% of Canada’s land and freshwater and 10% of its oceans; strengthen environmental protection laws and make advances toward sustainable fisheries, and invest $50 million annually for a stronger environmental data and science system at Statistics Canada.

Read the full Alternative Federal Budget 2018  in English  or in French.

Decarbonizing Canada’s economy offers huge construction job opportunities

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

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

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

 

Scrap the Infrastructure Bank, says CUPE

GO transit stationThe federal government first announced its plans for an Infrastructure Bank in the Fall 2016 Economic Statement, and fleshed out an implementation schedule and funding in the Budget released in March 2017   .  The  Infrastructure Bank website here  describes: “If approved by Parliament, the Bank would invest $35 billion from the federal government into transformative infrastructure projects.  $15 billion would be sourced from the over $180 billion Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, including: $5 billion for public transit systems; $5 billion for trade and transportation corridors; and, $5 billion for green infrastructure projects, including those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deliver clean air and safe water systems, and promote renewable power.”  It will function as an arms-length Crown corporation “and would work with provincial, territorial, municipal, Indigenous, and private sector investment partners to attract pension funds and other institutional investors to new revenue-generating infrastructure projects that are in the public interest.”  A May 13 press release from the responsible Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announces that the selection process for senior management positions has begun, and the goal is to launch the Bank in 2017. The enabling legislation is buried deep in the enormous Bill C-44, the Budget Implementation Act  (as Division 18 of Part 4) . Bill C-44 is now in 2nd reading in the House of Commons, and the Finance Committee began a clause-by-clause review of the legislation in the week of May 29.

There is no shortage of criticism and critics of the Infrastructure Bank, from across the political spectrum.  In “Where Were They Going Without Ever Knowing the Way? Assessing the Risks and Opportunities of the Canada Infrastructure Bank”,  (May 4) economists at the University of Ottawa Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy argue that the case for the infrastructure bank is weak since Canada doesn’t yet have a comprehensive inventory of the status of existing infrastructure. (The May 18 report  submitted to Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation platform may answer some of those objections) .

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is leading the union charge of criticism , mostly on the grounds that the infrastructure bank encourages and enables privatization of public projects. Even before the March budget was delivered, CUPE Economist Toby Sanger wrote  Creating a Canadian infrastructure bank in the public interest  , published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.  After the budget was delivered,  CUPE’s initial response  was published in April .  In May, CUPE compiled expert criticisms here   , and on May 29, the union issued the call to  “Scrap bank of privatization, build infrastructure for Canadians” . CUPE also presented a detailed brief  to government committees in May, with ten points of criticism and recommendations for change so that public bridges, roads and waterways remain under public control.

Information and Communications Technologies as a Path to Sustainable Infrastructure and Systems

On June 17th , the Council of Canadian Academies released the report of its Expert Panel on the Potential for New and Innovative Uses of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for Greening Canada. The multidisciplinary panel of experts was chaired by David Miller, President and CEO of WWF-Canada. The report discusses interconnected ICT opportunities which can achieve environmental, economic, and social benefits for Canada, and organizes these opportunities in six key thematic areas: “environmental monitoring; smart interconnected utilities; smart interconnected buildings and neighbourhoods; smart interconnected mobility; smart interconnected production; and healthy people and healthy communities”. It also states that Canada is well positioned to be a leader in green data centres, because of our cooler climate and relatively clean electricity supply. Regarding our human capital capabilities to achieve ICT innovation, the report states that they “are difficult to assess”, and that skills gaps are likely to occur on both the demand and supply sides. Increased computer literacy training will be required from elementary to post-graduate levels.

LINKS:

Enabling Sustainability in an Interconnected World is at the Council of Canadian Academies website at http://www.scienceadvice.ca/uploads/eng/assessments%20and%20publications… (224 pages). The Backgrounder, with links to summaries, is at http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en/assessments/completed/greenict.aspx .

Canada Ranks #1 Outside the U.S. for LEED Projects; A New Guide for Engineers Recognizes the Impact of Sustainability Requirements

Canada was ranked first for LEED® installations, of all countries outside the U.S., in a list compiled by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The list is intended to demonstrate the global reach of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) movement – a green building certification system that provides third-party verification of the features, design, construction, maintenance, operation and effectiveness of green buildings.

According to the USGBC, Canada has 17.74 million GSM of LEED-certified space, and in total, it has 4,068 LEED-certified and -registered projects representing 58.66 million GSM. A related report, LEED in Motion: Canada, details all LEED activity in Canada, and features a list of the cities in Canada that have incorporated LEED into their local building codes, as well as provincial and federal green building requirements. It states that there are 3,651 people in Canada who hold LEED credentials.

For Canadian consulting engineers dealing with infrastructure projects, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada (ACEC) recently released Sustainable Development for Canadian Consulting Engineers. It states: “It is clear that sustainable development will increasingly drive the project requirements of clients of the consulting engineering industry in Canada. The industry needs to take sustainability issues seriously …” The report identifies systems currently in use for sustainability measurement on infrastructure projects in the U.S., U.K., France and Australia , and considers their possible application for Canada. The report acknowledges the importance of the existing PIEVC Engineering Protocol for evaluating the impact of climate change on infrastructure

LINKS:

LEED in Motion: Canada is available at http://www.usgbc.org/sites/default/files/LEED_In_Motion_Canada_0.pdf ,with the press release re the List of LEED countries at http://www.cagbc.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=News_and_Media_Room&template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=16357
Sustainable Development for Canadian Consulting Engineers is at http://www.acec.ca/source/2014/SourceExpress/sustainability/PDF/SustainabilityEng.pdf

Canadian Cities Rank High in Climate Change Adaptation – and Some Examples

A newly released survey conducted by the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology investigates the progress in climate adaptation planning in 468 cities worldwide – 298 of which were in the U.S., 26 were in Canada. Results show that 92% of Canadian cities are pursuing adaptation planning, compared to 68% worldwide, and 59% in the U.S.. The top ranked impacts identified by cities that conducted assessments were: increased stormwater runoff (72%), changes in electricity demand (42%), loss of natural systems (39%), and coastal erosion (36%). Other important issues were loss of economic revenue, drought, and solid waste management. The report, Progress and Challenges in Urban Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey is available at: http://www.icleiusa.org/action-center/learn-from-others/progress-and-challenges-in-urban-climate-adaptation-planning-results-of-a-global-survey, and summarized at: http://www.icleiusa.org/blog/survey_us_cities_report_increase_in_climate_impacts_lag_in_adaptation_planningworldwide-progress-on-urban-climate-adaptation-planning. For a policy perspective, read the David Suzuki blog “Canada’s Success depends on Municipal Infrastructure Investments” (March 13) at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/03/canadas-success-depends-on-municipal-infrastructure-investments/. For a more anecdotal report which names and describes some innovative Canadian municipalities, see “Five Canadian Communities Fighting Climate Change That You’ve Probably Never Heard of Before” from the DeSmog Blog at: http://www.desmog.ca/2014/04/03/five-canadian-communities-fighting-climate-change-you-ve-probably-never-heard-of-before. It describes Dawson Creek, B.C.; Guelph, Ontario; Varennes, Quebec; T’Sou-ke First Nation, B.C.; and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. An overview of the Upwind-Downwind Conference of municipalities in Hamilton in March, and a summary of Hamilton’s climate action initiatives, appears in “Ontario Municipalities take Action on Air Quality and Climate Change” at: http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/blogs/current-events/ontario-municipalities-take-action-air-quality-and-climate-change.

Ontario Proposes Green Bonds for Transportation

An October 30 announcement from Ontario’s Premier states that Ontario will become the first Canadian province to implement a “green bonds” program to help fund environmentally-friendly transportation. According to the government, the bonds would help address critical infrastructure needs, create jobs, and strengthen the economy while keeping funding interest rates low and minimizing costs for consumers. The bonds would also be internationally certified, so they could be officially recognized as investments in sustainability. Green bonds are securities that raise capital for specific projects with environmental benefits. According to think-tank Clean Energy Canada, green bonds are in high demand which, combined with Ontario’s attractive credit rating, may result in substantial benefit to Ontario’s sustainable transportation sector.

See the government press release at:  http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2013/10/province-proposes-new-way-to-fund-infrastructure.html?utm_source=ondemand&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p, and see the Clean Energy response at “Green Bonds: an Investment to Write Home About” at:http://cleanenergycanada.org/2013/11/01/green-bonds-investment-write-home/.

For background on green bonds in Canada, see the articles at the Initiative Climate Bonds website at: http://www.climatebonds.net/category/canada/

Engineers Consider Sustainable Infrastructure

A recent article in the journal of the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy discusses sustainable infrastructure as a social and technical system, arguing that sustainable infrastructure requires consideration of the broader social and political context, in addition to the more traditional economic and physical aspects. See “Climate Change, Sustainable Infrastructure and the Challenges Facing Engineers” in Policy Engagement (Sept/Oct 2013) at: http://members.peo.on.ca/index.cfm/document/1/ci_id/93318/la_id/1

Recommendations for “High Road” Jobs in Green Infrastructure

A report by Green For All, in partnership with American Rivers, focuses on occupations in green infrastructure programs across the U.S.  It describes current U.S. green infrastructure activity, examines the occupations involved in operations and maintenance (including wage and unionization rates), and argues that the low entry barriers for these occupations have created “low road” jobs.  The paper then profiles specific projects, particularly water utilities, where workforce development programs are leading to stable jobs with career prospects – “high road” jobs.   The report makes 3 recommendations for green infrastructure projects, including that installation and maintenance contracts for publicly funded infrastructure should include community benefits strategies to generate work for local workers and businesses, and should include workforce development commitments.

LINKS

Staying Green and Growing Jobs: Green Infrastructure Operations and Maintenance as Career Pathway Stepping Stones is at  http://greenforall.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Staying-Green-and-Growing-Jobs-April-2013.pdf.pdf

Related reports, including Staying Green: Strategies to Improve Operations and Maintenance of Green Infrastructure in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and High Road Agreements: A Best Practice Brief are at the Green For All website at http://greenforall.org/resources/reports-research/  .