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.
The Treasury Board of Canada released a statement on November 26, updating the Greening Government Strategy which governs operations and procurement by the federal government. Because the government is the largest owner of real property in Canada and the largest public purchaser of goods and services (more than $20 billion in 2019), the strategy promises to make an actual impact on GHG emissions, as well as provide a model strategy for Crown Corporations and other employers. According to the press release, “the new strategy includes, for the first time, commitments to achieve net-zero emissions from national safety and security (NSS) fleet, green procurement and employee commuting. In addition, Crown Corporations are being encouraged to adopt the Greening Government Strategy or an equivalent strategy of their own that includes a net-zero by 2050 target.”
The full Green Government Strategy is here , and includes goals for buildings and retrofits, clean energy, waste management, water, as well as employee engagement and transparent reporting of GHG emissions reductions. Highlighted changes below come under the heading “Mobility”, and will impact employee commuting, work-from-home, and business travel:
- The Centre will encourage employees to use low-carbon forms of transportation to reduce emissions from employee commuting and will track these emissions by the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year.
- The government will facilitate opportunities for flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, by enabling remote computing telecommunications and by supporting information technology (IT) solutions.
- The government will promote and incentivize lower-carbon alternatives to work-related air travel. Departments will contribute to the Greening Government Fund (GGF) based on their air travel emissions. The GGF aims to incentivize lower-carbon alternatives to government operations by providing project funding to federal government departments and agencies to reduce GHG emissions in their operations.
- Emissions from other travel related to operations, such as major events hosted and ministerial travel, may be offset by departments.
- Purchase of carbon offsets for events, conferences and travel may also be used as an eligible expense for grants and contribution program recipients.
- Regarding vehicle fleets, 75% per cent of new light-duty unmodified fleet vehicle purchases will be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) or hybrids, with the objective that the government’s light-duty fleet comprises at least 80% ZEVs by 2030. Priority is to be given to purchasing ZEVs.
- All new executive vehicle purchases will be ZEVs or hybrids.
An update of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory of emissions from federal operations was also released, showing a decrease of 34% from 2005 levels from real property and conventional fleet operations. The details from the Inventory are here .
More detailed information about each of the priorities is available from the Greening Government Centre website.
To launch his new column, Strike: Jeremy Brecher’s Corner at the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) website, Jeremy Brecher began with the theme “The Future of Climate Strikes”. On February 29 , he posted “First U.S. Union-Authorized Climate Strike?” (re-published in Common Dreams as “Did we just witness the first union-authorized climate strike in the United States?”). The article describes a one day strike on February 27 by members of Service Employees International Union Local 26 , employed by over a dozen different subcontractors to clean corporate buildings in Minneapolis. He states that it is, “as far as I have been able to discover, the very first—union sanctioned strike in the U.S. for climate protection demands. ”
Brecher gives voice to many of the low-wage and immigrant workers who are the backbone of the strike, and traces their climate activism back to 2009, when Local 26 won contract language: to establish an Ad Hoc Committee of union and company representatives at each company, to “review the use of green chemicals”, to provide training to employees on the “use, mixing and storage” of cleaning chemicals, and that “The employer “shall make every effort to use only green, sustainable cleaning products where possible.” The SEIU Local 26 collective agreement for 2016-2019 is here , with climate-related clause 18.13 on pages 39-40. Other examples of clauses related to toxic chemicals in Canadian collective agreements are available from the ACW Green Agreements database here ; clauses regarding green procurement are here , and the full searchable database of 240 clauses is here .
Although the main focus of First U.S. Union-Authorized Climate Strike? is on the climate-related demands, the strike is also important for its success in coalition-building and community support. Brecher characterizes it as exemplary of the growing trend toward “Bargaining for the Common Good, ” as outlined in a September 2019 article in The American Prospect , “How Workers Can Demand Climate Justice” . An article by Steve Payne reported on the broader community justice issues in the strike in “Twin Cities Janitors and Guards Feature Climate and Housing in Their Strike Demands” in Labor Notes (Feb. 20) .
Since Brecher’s article, the union has released a press release on March 14, announcing agreement with most employers and members’ approval of a contract which includes funding towards a Labor-Management Cooperation Fund for green education and training. Notably, given that these are the workers keeping airports and commercial buildings clean in the Covid-19 crisis, the agreement also provides for an increase for all full-time workers to six paid sick days by the second year of the contract.
On January 30, 2018 the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) submitted her annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario – an independent, non-partisan review of the government’s progress in reducing emissions for 2016-2017. The report, Ontario’s Climate Act: From Plan to Progress covers the period since the Climate Change Action Plan was introduced in June 2016, and the cap and trade market became effective January 2017. The report provides detailed emissions statistics by sector and sub-sector, catalogues and critiques climate-related policies, and places Ontario’s initiatives in a national and international context – especially the cap and trade market and its relationship with the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Top-level findings: overall, GHG emissions were at the lowest level since reporting began in 1990 and “the first year of cap and trade went remarkably well”. Because Ontario’s market is part of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) which includes California and Quebec, the report warns that prices make weaken because of political uncertainty in the U.S., and also calls for more “bang for the bucks” in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account, which manages the proceeds of the carbon auctions. Chapter 4 includes an explanation and critique of Ontario’s proposed carbon offsets, which are also tied to the WCI, and states that some sectors at some risk of being little more than greenwashing. The Commissioner singles out the emissions of Ontario’s transportation industry and states that it will be impossible to meet Ontario’s emissions reduction targets unless urgent action is taken to rein in emissions from the freight sector, with recommendations to “encourage the freight sector to avoid trucking where possible (e.g., through logistics and road pricing), improve diesel truck efficiency (e.g., through incenting the scrapping of older diesel trucks), and shift freight away from fossil fuels (e.g., providing more targeted support for zero-emission trucks).” The report also calls for improved green procurement policies in government’s own spending and a stronger climate lens for regulation, taxation and fiscal policies. The Ministry of Energy is singled out in this regard: “For example, the Ministry of Energy by itself governs 70% of Ontario’s emissions, yet its 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan does little to achieve Ontario’s climate targets.” An 8-page summary of the report is here ; the full report, (all 284 pages) is here ; eight Technical Appendices are available from this link.
From CanWEA website, showing the state of Alberta’s wind market as of 2017
The Province of Alberta is reinventing its energy supply with its Renewable Electricity Program, which targets 30% of the province’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. To take stock of the province’s existing strengths, as well as gaps and opportunities related to that goal, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) commissioned the Delphi Group to study the existing resources, including workforce skills, to support the growth of the wind industry. The resulting report, Alberta Wind Energy Supply Chain Study , concludes that if wind energy were to meet 90 per cent of the government’s commitment, it would result in an estimated $8.3 billion of investment in new wind energy projects in the province and almost 15,000 job years of employment by 2030. Many of the skills and occupations required to develop wind projects – such as engineering, construction, operations and maintenance – are transferable from the oil and gas sector. CanWEA is urging the government to provide a long-term renewable energy procurement policy which would encourage investment .
The report is summarized by the Energy Mix, by the National Observer , and in a CanWEA press release. CanWEA also provides current profiles of provincial wind markets – Alberta’s is here . CanWEA’s annual conference was held in Montreal from October 3 to 5; the closing press release is here.
The National Observer story features the wind turbine technician program at Lethbridge Community College, and states that in January 2017, a third of the students who entered the College’s wind turbine technician program came from careers in the oil industry.