COP26 takeaways for Canada and the labour movement

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 inNegotiators 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“.

Key Issues:

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 .

International roadmap to guide the auto industry through disruptive times

The International Labour Organization (ILO)  hosted government, employer, and union representatives at a Technical Meeting on the Future of Work in the Automotive Industry, from February 15th to 19th. Canada’s auto industry union, Unifor, participated in the meeting. As reported in a  press release from the union confederation IndustriALL,  the virtual meetings were at times “confrontational”, but the resulting final document  is called a roadmap for the industry to guide it through its current disruptive transformation.  

The final document, which will proceed to the Governing Body of the ILO in November 2021, sketches out the challenge:

“The industry is at a turning point: technological advances, climate change, demographic shifts, new consumer preferences and mobility concepts, and a transformative era of globalization are rapidly changing the organization of production and work in the industry. The transition to a carbon neutral economy, new mobility patterns and changing consumer preferences are driving investments in new mobility solutions, electric and autonomous vehicles, cleaner production with alternative materials, and greater circularity.”

The Conclusions of the Technical Meeting, agreed-upon by union, management and government, includes the concepts of Just Transition, decent work, gender equality and lifelong learning.  Amongst the conclusions, this recommendation for future actions:

“Governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations should: (a) support the industry navigate through its transformation, accelerated by the COVID19 crisis, and mitigate the impact on enterprises and jobs; (b) advance decent and sustainable work in the automotive industry; (c) promote the acquistion of skills, competences and qualifications and access to quality education for all workers throughout their working lives to address skills mismatches now and in the future and encourage more women to study STEM; (d) jointly engage in formulating and implementing coherent and comprehensive economic, trade, fiscal, education and sustainable industrial policies, incentives and actions, in accordance with national law and practice, to: (i) create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship, increased productivity and for sustainable enterprises of all sizes to grow and generate decent and productive work; (ii) improve working conditions and safety and health at work and extend social protection to all workers in order to promote decent work; and (iii) facilitate a just transition to a future of work that contributes to sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions.”

ILO Report projects 18 million net new jobs in a green economy, and highlights policy role for social actors, including unions

ILO 2018 Greening with JobsThe International Labor Organization released its annual World Employment and Social Outlook Report for 2018 on May 14, with the theme:  Greening with Jobs.   In an economy where global warming is limited to 2°C , the report projects job losses and job creation, both within and amongst sectors, to 2030.  A net increase of approximately 18 million jobs globally  will result from  adoption of sustainable practices, such as changes in the energy mix, the projected growth in the use of electric vehicles, and increases in energy efficiency in existing and future buildings.

This landmark report also includes analysis and  discussion of climate impacts on working conditions, job quality, and productivity, (including estimates of impacts of extreme weather conditions),  and the need for social dialogue and a legal and policy framework which  promotes just transition. Of particular interest is the discussion of the role of social dialogue, which includes examples of green provisions in international and national agreements – and on page 94, highlights green provisions in Canadian collective agreements, based on the database compiled by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project.

Other key findings from the press release :

Of the 163 economic sectors analysed, only 14 will suffer employment losses of more than 10,000 jobs worldwide –  hardest hit: petroleum extraction and petroleum refining (1 million or more jobs).

2.5 million jobs will be created in renewables-based electricity, offsetting some 400,000 jobs lost in fossil fuel-based electricity generation.

6 million jobs can be created by transitioning towards a ‘circular economy’ which includes activities like recycling, repair, rent and remanufacture.

A 5-page summary is available in English   and in French  . The full report, Greening with Jobs, is here   .

The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement : how did Canada react? How did the labour movement react?

Front de Seine at night as seen from Pont Mirabeau

From Wikimedia Commons

As anyone alive must know by now, Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1, 2017. NPR offers an annotated, fact-checked transcript of Trump’s announcement here.   The Editorial Board of the New York Times called it  “Our Disgraceful exit from the Paris Accord” ; Bill McKibben called it “Trump’s Stupid and Reckless Decision” in a New York Times OpEd, and  Vox headlined: “Quitting the Paris Climate Agreement is a moral disgrace”  . Leaders from business, government, and civil society around the world reacted with dismay: see a compilation of global reaction from the Daily Climate,  or from The Conversation, a compilation of analysis by academic experts: “Why Trump’s decision to leave Paris accord hurts the US and the world”    – including Simon Reich from Rutgers University who states:  “many may well claim that June 1, 2017 was the day that America’s global leadership ended.”

Almost immediately,  the states of California, Washington and New York stepped forward into the leadership gap with the June 1 launch of a U.S. Climate Alliance. By June 5, according to a New York press release , 10 more states had joined : Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.  The mayors of hundreds of U.S. cities have also committed to the Climate Alliance, including Atlanta, Washington, D.C.,  New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose.  The Alliance is committed to achieving the U.S. Paris Agreement goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels, and to meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.  Read “Bucking Trump, These Cities, States and Companies Commit to Paris Accord”  in the  New York Times  and “These Titans of Industry just broke with Trump’s decision to exit the Paris accords”  in the Washington Post (June 1) to see the extent of immediate push-back over the decision.

HOW DID CANADA REACT TO TRUMP’S DECISION?  The official government position was stated by Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change :  “While Canada is deeply disappointed that the United States has chosen to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, we remain steadfast in our commitment to work with our global partners to address climate change and promote clean growth. It is the right thing to do for future generations and will create good jobs as we grow a clean economy.

Canada will continue to take leadership on climate change.

In September, we will co-host a Ministerial meeting with China and the European Union in Canada to move forward on the Paris Agreement and clean growth…. With or without the United States, the momentum around the Paris Agreement and climate action is unstoppable.”

And by June 5, Canada was on the world stage as the official host of World Environment Day .

Other Canadian reaction to Trump’s decision:  In the mainstream press: “World reacts to Trump’s climate move: ‘He’s declaring war on the planet itself’” in the Globe and Mail (June 2); from the CBC, “Trump quitting the Paris accord might not necessarily be the end of the world” .   In Maclean’s magazine, Catherine Abreu, Director of Climate Action Network Canada, wrote “What Trump’s retreat really means for Global Climate Action”     ( June 2), which provides a concise analysis of the impacts, affirming a theme put forth by others – Trump’s move is damaging but not an insurmountable problem, and others are stepping up to the task, and in fact, are galvanized to greater effort.

Other Canadian reaction:   From Mitchell Beer in Policy Options (June 7), “Trump’s Paris Withdrawal, Canada’s Opportunity”;   Matt Horne’s Opinion piece, from a Vancouver point of view,  in the Globe and Mail (June 4) “Environmental progress is possible despite Trump’s climate-change agenda”;  from the Energy Mix:  “World Leaders Respond, U.S. States and Cities Step Up as Trump Blunders Out of Paris Agreement” (June 2) ; “Canadian big city mayors defiant in face of Trump’s exit from Paris Accord” in the National Observer (June 1), which quotes Canadian mayors  assembled at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Big City Mayors’ Caucus in Ottawa on June 1;  and Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montréal and president of Metropolis, a 140-member world association of major cities : “in spite of this setback, cities will not just stand down; ….Mayors from around the world will be meeting in Montreal from June 19 to 23 at the Metropolis World Congress. … climate change will be at the heart of our deliberations, in collaboration with other networks of cities such as the C40 Climate Leadership Group and ICLEI.”

HOW DID UNIONS REACT TO THE TRUMP DECISION?  In “Unions respond to US announcement on Paris climate change agreement” (June 2), Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff states: “While President Trump’s decision on Paris represents a set-back to united action on climate change, it doesn’t change the fact that the rest of the world is moving forward. Canadian government, civil society and industry recognize the need to adapt to a low-carbon economy.” The CLC  also references the response by the ITUC  (included below).

From the AFL-CIO, a brief 2- paragraph response:  “Paris Climate Agreement Withdrawal a Failure of American Leadership” (June 1) ; from the Service Employees’ International Union, “Trump’s wrong decision on Paris won’t stop working Americans from pushing for progress on climate change” , and in his blog on June 2, Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers’ International President  states: “Workers Want a Green Economy, Not a Black Environment”  .   He refutes Trump’s reference to serving Pittsburg not Paris by detailing the pollution problems caused by the steel mill and zinc plants in Pittsburg in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and concludes:  The U.S. “has an obligation to lead the world in combatting climate change. Great leaders don’t shirk responsibility. ” The Labor Network for Sustainability Facebook post of June 1 concludes with:  “In taking this step, Trump has abandoned his opportunity to lead, and it is up to the U.S. labor movement to step up and provide support and leadership to communities, cities and states who are committed to solving the climate crisis; to ensure that workers are not left behind, and that we can all make a living on a living planet.”

Internationally,  the International Trade Union Confederation reacted with:  “The clear commitment by governments in the Paris Agreement to give workers, including those depending on the fossil fuel economy, a key role in developing a Just Transition strategy, will be undermined by the US announcement, which will also inhibit industrial and economic transformation in the US.”  The ITUC statement continues with a statement from the Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO , which interestingly does not name Donald Trump, but rather blames the decision on the advice of  EPA head Scott Pruitt.

From UNI Global Union: “Planet first, Trump last – UNI condemns Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal” , which states that “President Trump is on the wrong side of history,” … “This latest miscalculated act makes us even more determined than ever to work for people and planet.”

And on June 9,  in advance of the G7 Environment Summit in Bologna:  Our jobs, Our planet was released by the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), with the support of trade union confederations from G7 countries. The declaration states: “ Today, we reaffirm once again our commitment to support ambitious climate action and the Paris Climate Agreement. Pulling out of the Paris climate agreement  from ambitious climate pathways equals abandoning a cleaner future powered by good jobs”.

In the U.K., the Greener Jobs Alliance  reaction, Reasons to be Fearful ,  is written in the context of the British national elections, scheduled for June 8, and criticizes Prime Minister May for her weak criticism of the Trump decision.   This theme is taken up by DeSmog UK, “How the UK’s Climate Science Deniers (and Government) Reacted to Trump’s Paris Agreement Withdrawal”  (June 2) .

The Australian Council of Trade Unions, in response to the Australian government’s reaffirmation of its own commitment to the Paris Agreement on June 2, released their position: “Commitment to Paris crucial for ensuring a Just Transition for workers“.

Canada at COP22: Federal Strategy to 2050, and a middle of the road position

The UN COP22 meetings began in Marakkesh on November 7, and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President on November 8 threatened to derail progress.  Yet as the Climate Change News stated on Nov. 18:  “ An oasis of climate commitment in a desert of Trump panic, the UN talks made steady progress on putting the Paris Agreement into action” .  For COP22 coverage, the most complete compilation of day by day events, side events, and documents is at the IISD website ; see also the official COP22 website ; or the news compilations of The Guardian  newspaper , Climate Home , or Democracy Now . There is  even a compilation of the almost 1 million tweets from delegates at Marakkesh .

In the end, on November 18, 111 signatories representing 77.22 percent of carbon emissions had ratified the Paris Agreement, (including Australia  and the U.K. ). The parties issued the Marrakech Action Proclamation    stating, “Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate, and we have an urgent duty to respond. … We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority” and “full implementation” of the Paris Agreement.

What did Canada do at Marrakesh?  Canada’s stated Priorities for COP22 included promoting carbon pricing, linkages of carbon market policies, sub-national carbon market efforts , as well as “mobilizing private sector investment and innovation to accelerate the adoption of clean technology”.  According to an November 14 article in the National Observer, “Delegates in Marrakech say Canada’s negotiators over the past week have been heavily focused on Article 6 of the Paris agreement, which addresses emissions trading between countries.”  On November 16, government press releases, here   and here  announced that Canada will invest nearly $1.8 billion  (as part of an already committed $2.65 billion pledge for climate finance) for  “clean technology, climate-smart agriculture, sustainable forestry, and climate-resilient infrastructure” throughout the world.

Most notably, along with the U.S., Germany, and Mexico , Canada released a mid-Century strategy to achieve an 80% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2050.   In contrast with The U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization issued by the White House ,  Canada’s Mid-Century Long-term Low Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy   “is not a blueprint for action, and it is not policy prescriptive. Rather, the report is meant to inform the conversation about how Canada can achieve a low-carbon economy.”  The document summarizes a full range of the  recent  policy documents,   and modelling analyses with  various scenarios towards deep emissions reductions.   It also states: “Working collaboratively with Indigenous peoples by supporting their on-going implementation of climate change initiatives will be key. Consultations with Indigenous communities must respect the constitutional, legal, and international obligations that Canada has for its Indigenous peoples”,  and “ Canada will need to fundamentally transform all economic sectors, especially patterns of energy production and consumption. Over time, this requires major structural changes to the economy and the way people live, work, and consume.”

Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change hosted an  Indigenous panel at COP22.   Among the  Indigenous leaders present,  Kevin Hart, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, arrived directly from the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations, and spoke of the dangers of further development of pipelines and dams – specifically Keystone XL and the Site C dam in B.C. See “Indigenous leaders call on Canada’s Trudeau to uphold Paris deal ” in Climate Change News(Nov. 18)  and  “Canada Fought to Include Indigenous Rights in the Paris Agreement, But Will Those Rights Be Protected Back Home?” in DeSmog Blog (Nov. 16).

One  evaluation of COP22, from a Canadian point of view, comes from Climate Action Network-Canada, World looks to Canada for exceptional leadership.  “Canada played a solid, steady role at COP22. Canada should be proud of its work to maximize the impact of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, a critically important moment when countries will have a chance to assess their progress and amp up their commitments to rapid greenhouse gas reductions. Canada also made a winning case for more gender-inclusive climate policies, led the charge for an upcoming workshop to discuss economic diversification and jobs, and was one of the first countries to get the ball rolling on its long-term climate strategy.”

“Yet Canada defaulted to middle-of-the-road positions on a variety issues, including climate and adaptation financing…. the time for middle-of-the-road positioning is over….Canada is “past the point where we can trade off a new pipeline against an ambitious building efficiency standard” … “Climate change is now a zero-sum game, and there are no more trade-offs.”

And for an overall summary of developments: Mitchell Beer of Energy Mix in ” ‘Action COP’ Protects Paris Gains Against Trump But Postpones Tough Decisions on Climate Finance, Adaptation”.   The article concludes with reactions from civil society groups, including Oil Change International , which stated:  “The lessons of Marrakech are clear: Don’t look to bureaucrats or climate-denying presidents to take the lead on global climate action…Look to the people in the streets and in communities around the world. These are the people-powered movements resisting fossil fuels and building a renewable energy future, and this is the path to victory.”

Canadian youth are another source of hope:  see  “Canadian youth lay out demands for climate justice”  in the National Observer (Nov. 21), which summarizes the demands of the Canadian Youth Delegation to COP22. Among their 9 demands: A justice-based transition to a green economy, and good green jobs.

At the provincial level:  The government of British Columbia received the UNFCC’s Momentum for Change award for its revenue-neutral carbon tax – although the Pembina Institute makes it clear in an OpEd  that more is needed for B.C. to maintain its climate leadership.  From a November 18 Ontario government press release  we learn that Ontario joined the 2050 Pathway Platform , and met with delegates from Quebec and California  regarding their linked cap and trade markets ,  as well as separate meetings with Vermont and the State of Washington .  Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was reconfirmed as the North American Chair of the  States and Regions Alliance , a network of 25 jurisdictions.  Premier Jay Weatherill of South Australia was confirmed as the Asia Pacific Co-chair.

Who spoke about the issue of Just Transition at COP22?  As detailed  in another WCR post, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)   and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) carried the flag on Just Transition. Surprisingly perhaps, on the eve of the COP22 meetings, the CEO of We Mean Business , wrote A Just Transition to defeat the Populist Politicians  (Nov. 5) summing up the business point of view about Just Transition.  Some excerpts:  “as we move into a low-carbon future, a just transition is needed to ensure that the impact on local employment and economies is managed in a way that allows the obsolete jobs and sectors to be replaced by equally skilled and well-paid, low-carbon jobs. ..Blindness to unintended consequences, or a lack of adequate planning and management to ensure opportunities for local jobs and economies are maximised, could lead to public sentiment quickly turning against the effort to combat climate change.”…”We can’t think narrowly about climate as we go forward, we have to think more politically about the overall balance of jobs and wealth distribution.”….. “A resurgence of protectionism and anti-globalisation is bad for business and likely to slow down positive change. Typically, when populist governments move in that direction they prop up industries that would otherwise die out. Businesses should seek out the new opportunities, rather than ask for the hand-outs that come from government protection.”  We Mean Business, along with the BGroup, is an affiliate of the ITUC Just Transition Centre.

November 4: An historic day for climate action, but UNEP report calls for stronger IDNC targets

paris-agreement-into-force-nov-4As the Paris Climate Agreement enters legal force on November 4, 2016 , 100 Parties have ratified the agreement, representing 69.47% of the world’s emissions, according to the Paris Agreement Tracker at World Resources Institute.  Carbon Brief provides an “Explainer” of the Paris Agreement process , The Guardian summarizes the significance, and Environmental Defence sums it up with  Now comes the hard part for Canada .

To set the stage for  the world’s climate experts who are  gathering  in Marrakesh for COP22 from November 8 to 17, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)  released its annual Emissions Gap Report , the first assessment to calculate the emissions that will occur under all the pledges made in Paris.  It shows that, even under those reduction pledges, the world is heading to a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4oC this century. The UNEP underlines the urgency and seriousness in its press release: “If we don’t start taking additional action now, beginning with the upcoming climate meeting in Marrakesh, we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy. The growing numbers of climate refugees hit by hunger, poverty, illness and conflict will be a constant reminder of our failure to deliver. The science shows that we need to move much faster.”  Understandably, the Emissions Gap report generated a lot of reaction: see Inside Climate News   , and from Carbon Brief, a warning about the reliance on negative emissions which are included in most scenarios for emissions reduction.

Will Canada heed the UNEP call to countries for stronger  IDNC targets for emissions reduction at into the COP 22 meetings at Marakkesh  ?  There has been no signal of that.  On the clean energy file, however,  the Liberal government  released its Fall Economic Statement  on November 1, including plans for more transit support and a new infrastructure bank with $35 billion of public and private sector money to support green initiatives such as electricity transmission lines and energy storage capacity . Clean Energy Canada commended the government  though few details are available yet.  The National Observer report emphasizes  that lack of detail to date.  The Minister of Transportation has released the Transportation 2030 Plan  , with a section related to  greener transport.  Finally, the federal government announced   on November 2  that it will reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 (with an aspirational goal of accomplishing that by 2025). This will be done  “by strategic investments in infrastructure and vehicle fleets, green procurement, and support for clean technology”. By 2030, the government will  source 100% of the electricity for its buildings and operations from renewable energy sources.  The release also notes that a new group is being established – the Centre for Greening Government – that will track emissions centrally, coordinate efforts across government and drive results to make sure these objectives are met.  See the  Greening Government Backgrounder  here .

Prime Minister Trudeau is scheduled to meet with the provincial and territorial  leaders in early December to advance the  pan- Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Meanwhile, all eyes are also watching the federal decision on the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, also due in December.

 

Canada promises action to implement the Kigali agreement on HFC’s

The agreement reached  in Kigali, Rwanda  on October 15 2016, to regulate the use of the hydrochlorofluorocarbons ( HFC’s)  in air conditioners and refrigerators,  is expected to lead to the reduction of the equivalent of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and “is the single largest contribution the world has made towards keeping  the global temperature rise ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius”, according to the UNEP Press release about the agreement.   The 197 countries which had previously been party to the Montreal Protocol reached a compromise, under which developed countries will start to phase down HFC’s by 2019.  The deadline for some developing countries to  freeze their HFC’s consumption levels is 2024, and some  of the world’s hottest countries (India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) will have the most lenient deadlines, to freeze HFC use by 2028 and reduce it to about 15 percent of 2025 levels by 2047.  Read the New York Times report here ,  or the National Observer report here  , and for background, an August NYT article, “How bad is your air conditioner for the planet?“.  For a legal perspective, see “Cutting HFC’s under the Montreal Protocol – A few thoughts” from the Legal Planet blog of UCLA Berkeley.

The Kigali agreement is  seen as a powerful positive symbol: “It is a clear statement by all world leaders that the green transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable.”  But though it is seen as a much stronger commitment than the Paris Agreement, it also  requires ratification by two-thirds of the parties to come into force, and may not be “unstoppable”.    According to Climate Central, ” American experts on international environmental law say ratifying the new HFC agreement would almost certainly require a two-thirds vote from the Senate”. In other words, even more is now riding on the U.S. election on November 8.   A Globe and Mail article on October 16  expanded on the brief government press release ,  quoting the Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister, who pledged: “Ottawa will adopt regulations to reduce the use of the chemicals in the coming years. The government will provide rules and incentives for the destruction of existing HFCs.”

New agreement to curb emissions from global aviation is welcome but weak

A landmark agreement the for the world’s aviation industry was reached on October 6  at the International Civil Aviation Organization  (ICAO) meetings in Montreal.  The global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) will apply to  the world’s international passenger and cargo flights (approximately 85% of aviation activity), requiring the airlines to buy carbon credits or fund projects that offset their greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement is voluntary from 2021 to 2026, and becomes mandatory in 2027.  A Fact Sheet from the White House  explains the nuts and bolts of the agreement. Widely hailed as a first step in  finally addressing the emissions of  the airline industry, the agreement has also been criticized for being too weak. The International Coalition on Sustainable Aviation “recognizes the agreement as a hard-fought political compromise to see that aviation contributes its fair share in the climate change fight, but critical work remains to ensure environmental integrity and broad participation….. countries sent a worrying signal by deleting key provisions for the aviation agreement that would align its ambitions with the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.”  The Coalition’s press release also contrasts the pros and cons of the agreement. See also overview at Think Progress ; and an article in Climate Home   which summarizes responses from environmentalists and the industry.  The International Council on Clean Transportation, (the folks who exposed the VW diesel scandal), point to a superior route: rather than shifting emissions around, airlines should adopt new technologies, as airplanedescribed in their September  report, Cost assessment of near- and mid-term technologies to improve new aircraft fuel efficiency  .

The large air carriers in Canada are members of the National Airlines Council of Canada, who in 2005 signed a joint industry-government Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and in 2012 partnered with the federal government in  Canada’s Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aviation. See the NACC website for details of the technological and operational measures taken to reduce emissions to date.   For Air Canada, see their Corporate Sustainability Report for 2015 here.

Alberta starts Coal Phase-out planning, makes Low-Carbon pact with U.K.

On March 6, 2016, the Speech from the Throne announced intentions to reinvest revenues from the carbon levy into creating jobs and economic diversification, to enact a Promoting Job Creation and Diversification Act , and to appoint an Energy Diversification Advisory Committee which will include Labour.  On March 15, Alberta and the United Kingdom announced  a Low-Carbon Innovation and Growth Framework agreement.  On March 16, the press release “Alberta takes next steps to phase-out coal pollution under Climate Leadership Plan”  explains the process underway.

North American Memorandum of Understanding on Energy; U.S. Governors sign Accord for a “New Energy Future”

On February 12, 2016, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a formal process for sharing energy data and collaborating on climate change, energy, and innovation, including low-carbon grids, renewables and efficiency standards.   A blog by Clean Energy Canada dubbed the MOU “Clean-XL” and describes what the trinational cooperation could look like on the ground; CBC described it as the first step to “Green NAFTA” . In February, governors of seventeen states representing 40% of the U.S. population, (including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) signed the Governors Accord for a New Energy Future,  to reduce emissions and expand renewable energy, energy efficiency, and to integrate solar and wind generation into electricity grids.

Powering Climate Prosperity: Canada’s Renewable Electricity Advantage  , released by the Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity in February, provides a snapshot of renewable energy in Canada today, and concludes that for Canada to meet its GHG reduction targets, we must reduce energy waste, more than double renewable electricity generation capacity, and make electricity the “clean fuel of choice”. The Council report draws heavily on the analysis and prescriptions of the Canadian report of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project . The DDPP states: “By more than doubling the use of electricity for industrial activity, the carbon intensity of the sector can drop by 85 percent between 2010 and 2050, even as output continues to grow apace.”    For a statistical update to the U.S. renewables scene, see the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook 2016  , produced for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy by Bloomberg New Energy Finance .