TUC Report calls for a Just Transition with “Skilled work at its heart”

GreenCollarNationThe Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Greenpeace released a joint report on October 19, Green Collar Nation: A Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy. Acknowledging that the TUC and the environment movement have had their differences in the past, this report looks to a future which identifies “the shared agenda of managing the costs and reaping the benefits of the move towards a cleaner and stronger economy”. The report cites several U.K. economic studies of the potential of clean energy and new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, discusses the differences between TUC and Greenpeace policies re the aviation industry, and makes practical recommendations  for energy and climate policy. The spirit of the paper lies in a concluding statement: “Drawing on the key pillars proposed by the International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) for a just transition, we have argued in this paper for a transition that puts skilled work at its heart. Achieving this transition cannot rely on a political narrative of guilt, debt and punishment, either at an individual or national level. Instead it should build on the politics of the common good, seeking active co-operation in solving a shared problem, developed through strong relationships, robust institutions and the harnessing of technological innovation and optimism wherever it can”.

Oil and Gas and Canada’s Energy Policy

Two other reports were released in advance of the Premiers meetings in Quebec City. Crafting an Effective Canadian Energy Strategy: How Energy East and the Oil Sands Affect Climate and Energy Objectives by the Pembina Institute reviews Canadian experience with carbon pricing, emissions levels, and states that any energy strategy will only be effective if it takes into account the emissions footprint of new infrastructure projects, including the proposed Energy East pipeline project. The report also recommends that the Council of the Federation create an advisory committee modelled on the disbanded National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. The report is also available in French.

 Another study, released by Environmental Defence and Greenpeace, makes similar arguments and asserts that “continuing to expand tar sands production makes it virtually impossible for Canada to meet even weak carbon reduction targets or show climate leadership”. Read Digging a Big Hole: How tar sands expansion undermines a Canadian energy strategy that shows climate leadership.

 In April, Environment Canada released the UNFCC-mandated report, National Inventory Report 1990-2013: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. The report states that the Energy industry was responsible for 81% of Canada’s emissions in 2013. 

Alternative Economic Models proposed for the 21st Century by a new U.S. Group

The Next System is a new project “that seeks to disrupt or replace our traditional institutions for creating progressive change”. Its backers include Greenpeace President Annie Leonard, clean energy champion Van Jones, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, Gerald Hudson, Mark Levinson and Peter Colavito from Service Employees Intl Union, Ron Blackwell, UNITE and AFL-CIO, Joe Uehlein from the Labor Network for Sustainability, climate activist Bill McKibben, and hundreds of other prominent academics including Noam Chomsky, Frances Fox Piven, and Jeffrey Sachs. The project launches with a webinar on May 20th, and has already released its inaugural report, The Next System Project: New Political Economic Alternatives for the 21st Century. The report states that such new movements as the Next System “seek a cooperative, caring, and community-nurturing economy that is ecologically sustainable, equitable, and socially responsible”. It draws inspiration from a variety of alternative systemic models and ideas, including employee ownership and self-management, cooperatives, social democracy, participatory economic planning, socialism and public ownership, localism and bioregionalism, and ecological economics.

Resolute Forest Products on Notice after 3M Announces a new Sustainability Policy for Paper Procurement

Following a review of its procurement processes conducted in collaboration with ForestEthics and Greenpeace, multinational 3M released a revised Pulp and Paper Sourcing Policy in March, with high standards for environmental protection and human rights. 3M will no longer use the Sustainable Forests Initiative (SFI) label. Its new policy requires improved monitoring and reporting of source materials, and “free, prior and informed consent by indigenous peoples and local communities before logging operations occur”. The company has already cancelled its contracts with Indonesian Royal Golden Eagle Group-owned suppliers and has warned Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products that it must quickly improve its controversial relationships with First Nations, as well as its practices of logging of caribou habitat and in High Conservation Areas. Read ForestEthics Applauds 3M’s New Industry-Leading Sustainability Plan (March 5), or 3M’s new pulp & paper policy impacts Resolute Forest Products (CBC, March 5). For an excellent history of Resolute’s controversial environmental record, see “Resolute and Greenpeace at Loggerheads” in the Montreal Gazette (Feb 13).

After 14 Years, Forestry Companies and Environmentalists Reach Joint Recommendations to the B.C. Great Bear Forest Agreement

On January 29th, recommendations were  announced by the parties of the Joint Solutions Project, comprised of the forest companies operating in the Great Bear Rainforest (Western Forest Products, Interfor, Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, BC Timber Sales and Catalyst) and three environmental groups (ForestEthics, Greenpeace and Sierra Club of BC). Highlights  of the 82-page document include: an additional 500,000 ha to be set aside for conservation; a harvest level consistent with a “viable forest industry”; changes to landscape planning that better account for old growth, cultural values, key wildlife habitat and riparian zones; and a legal and policy framework for implementation. The recommendations will be considered by the province of British Columbia and the Nanwakolas Council and Coastal First Nations, who are the decision-makers in the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, and in consultation with 12 other First Nations. The Joint Solutions Project was established in 2000 and the Great Bear Forest Agreement was reached in 2006.

See the ForestEthics press release at: http://forestethics.org/news/forest-companies-and-environmental-groups-deliver-joint-recommendations-great-bear-rainforest. The B.C. government press release is at: http://www.coastforestconservationinitiative.com/pdf2014/2014FLNR0005-000099.pdf.

Federal Government Weakens Environmental Assessment Rules Further

Environmentalists are up in arms after the federal government amended the rules dictating which natural resource extraction projects require federal environmental assessments in late October. According to Greenpeace, many activities associated with oil sands expansion are absent from the new list, notably in situ oil extraction, which uses steam to pump up oil from reservoirs that are deep underground. The method is expected to comprise 80% of oil sands extraction.

See the very brief government announcement of the changes at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website at: http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=en&xml=0DDF9560-6A8A-4403-B33A-B906AC6A1D93, and the National Energy Board summary at: http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/clf-nsi/rthnb/nws/nwsrls/2013/ceaa-acee2013-10-25-eng.html.

“New environmental review rules anger oilsands critics” at the CBC website at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/new-environmental-review-rules-anger-oilsands-critics-1.2252074 summarizes reaction and history.

3rd Anniversary of Canada’s Boreal Forest Agreement is not a Happy One

Referring to the withdrawal of Canopy, a forest conservation group, from the Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) in April 2013, Greenpeace Canada stated: “Their departure from the CBFA is a consequence of the Agreement’s inability to deliver greater protection for the Boreal Forest and a failure of its structure. The CBFA is simply no longer a credible tool for conservation.”

Read the Canopy press release at: http://canopyplanet.org/canopy-boreal-withdrawal/. And follow the continuing story about the expulsion of Resolute Forest Products in May with Environmental groups suspend further work with Resolute under Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (May 21) at the CPAWS website at:  http://cpaws.org/news/environmental-groups-suspend-further-work-with-resolute-under-cbfa.

Resolute was the subject of criticism by Greenpeace for its sustainability failings, for its treatment of workers, and disregard for Indigenous rights and communities. Read the report, Resolute’s False Promises: The (un)Sustainability Report 2013 at: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/resolutefalsepromises/ 


Naomi Klein Calls on Green Groups to Join the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

Citing the growing campaign for divestment from fossil fuel companies, Naomi Klein asks the question:Shouldn’t environmental organizations be more concerned about the human and ecological risks posed by fossil fuel companies than they are by some imagined risks to their stock portfolios?” In an article in The Nation, she names the names of the green organizations which are “part owners of the industry causing the crisis they are purportedly trying to solve”. She also names the organizations which are not, including “Greenpeace, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, and a host of smaller organizations like Oil Change International and the Climate Reality Project.”  Read http://www.thenation.com/article/174143/time-big-green-go-fossil-free# ,  reprinted as “It’s time for environmental groups to divest from fossil fuels” (May 2) at Rabble.ca at http://rabble.ca/columnists/2013/05/its-time-environmental-groups-to-divest-fossil-fuels