New forum launched to discuss the equity and justice dimensions of Just Transition

On April 13, the Just Transition Research Collaborative launched a Just Transition(s) Online Forum , whose purpose is enrich discussion of climate change with equity and justice concerns – specifically focused on the growing debate about Just Transition, and from the perspective of  the humanities and social sciences. According to the introduction:  “Through a combination of concrete case studies and more conceptual analyses, the forum acts as a shared space for academics and other interested parties to share their views (and voice their concerns) on the Just Transition, its meanings, its current uses and its potential. We want this space to be as interactive as possible, so please feel free to share your reactions or Just Transition-related stories and analyses.”

Of the four items published to the Forum so far, three of the authors are associated with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change (ACW) project:  1. Dmitri Stevis posted  “(Re)claiming Just Transition” , which  notes “the concept’s growing popularity has actually led to an expansion of its meanings.”  Professor Stevis sees this as “a challenge for stakeholders as it makes it more difficult to clearly identify what Just Transition stands for, who is behind it and what is the underlying theory of change. Is Just Transition simply another “buzzword”? Should we take it seriously? Can it play a positive role in the international climate and sustainable development debates?” He concludes, “It is, therefore, important to think about it systematically so that we can, at the very least, differentiate initiatives that co-opt and dilute its promise from initiatives that contribute to a global politics of social and ecological emancipation.”

The second article is by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, with  “Who Deserves a Just Transition?” , which focuses on Canada and is based on his recent report Making decarbonization work for workers: Policies for a just transition to a zero-carbon economy in Canada.  The third ACW research associate, Roman Felli, argues  “A Just Transition Must Include Climate Change Adaptation”  .  He uses the example of  collective bargaining by UNIA, a Swiss construction union, and argues that unions need to anticipate how  climate change will  impact the work of their members, concluding with, “What are you doing about it in your union?”

The fourth article to date,  “Just Transitions as a process with communities, not for communities” is by Rebecca Shelton, and highlights the transitions made by the coal communities of Kentucky.

The Just Transition Research Collaborative plans to release a State-of-the-art report on Just Transition in December 2018.   The Just Transition(s) Online Forum is hosted jointly by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, the University of London Institute in Paris, the International Social Science Council, and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung — New York Office.

L7 leaders alert to backsliding on Just Transition at the G7 meetings; Unionists share  Just Transition experiences in Vancouver

clc-logoIn Ottawa on April 4 and 5, the Canadian Labour Congress, along with the International Trade Union Confederation and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), hosted the L7 meetings of international labour leaders, as part of Canada’s presidency of the G7 this year.  According to the CLC press release, the L7 considered a full range of topics, including extension of bargaining rights, full employment, gender equity, and progressive trade – but also “ welcomed the creation of a new G7 Employment Task Force – a key outcome of the G7 Employment Ministers meeting in Montréal from March 26th to 28th.” The G7 Leaders’ official statement re Employment Outcomes and the Task force is here;  one of the “deliverables”  is to  “Share best practices and identify policy approaches to assist individuals in making the transition and adapting to changes in the labour market.”  In the L7 Evaluation of the Outcomes of the G7 Innovation and Employment Ministerial Meeting  released after the meetings, the unionists point out : “While discussing transitions, the text does not refer to “just transitions” in contrast to the outcomes of the Italian G7 presidency. The main proposals for transitions by the G7 focus on reviewing social protection and training systems. The support for “apprenticeship and training opportunities and adult upskilling programs” is welcome but is not enough and does not address financing and governance challenges.”  The CLC press release states:  “For trade unions, the Task Force should aim for “Just Transition” principles that ensure that workers are not paying the cost of the adjustment to decarbonisation, digitalisation and the shifts in production and services technologies.”

Just Transition Vancouver event 2018

Photo  by Tracy Sherlock, from the National Observer, April 6

On April 5 and 6th  in Vancouver,  labour leaders from around the world presented and discussed their experiences at the Metro Vancouver Just Transition Roundtable, hosted by the B.C. Federation of Labour,  the Canadian Labour Congress, Green Jobs B.C., the City of Vancouver, Vancouver and District Labour Council, and others.  Amongst the speakers:   B.C. Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger, who  argued that “the two defining problems of our time are climate change and inequality”, and they need to be addressed together, and urgently.  Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre of the International Trade Union Confederation, provided European examples in her Keynote Address, and a spokesman from the United Federation of Danish Workers 3F, the largest trade union in Denmark, spoke of the clean economy investment of members’ pension funds.  Other union speakers were from New Zealand and Norway.   From Vancouver,  City Councillor Andrea Reimer discussed their Renewable City Strategy and the Greenest City Action Plan. The Councillor reported that  Vancouver has 25,000 green jobs (5% of all jobs), and that surprisingly, these are not  in the transportation and waste recovery sectors, but in local food production, clean buildings and local technology companies. For a summary of the event, read  “BC FED President Irene Lanzinger calls climate change and inequality ‘defining problems of our time’”  in the National Observer (April 6). 

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.

Canada announces a new Task Force on Just Transition for Coal-Power Workers

On February 16th, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced    amendments to existing regulations to phase out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030, along with new greenhouse gas regulations for natural-gas-fired electricity.  The proposed regulations are open to comment until April 18, 2018.The government’s Technical Backgrounder is here.

In fulfilment of a promise made to Canadian unions at the COP meetings in Bonn in December 2017, the Minister also announced the creation of a Task Force on the Just Transition for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities.  A detailed statement of the Terms of Reference calls for the Task Force to engage with specified stakeholder groups and provide policy options and recommendations by the end of 2018.  The Minister will appoint  9 members and 2 chairs –  with the strongest representation from labour unions, including  a representative from the from the Canadian Labour Congress; from a provincial Federation of Labour in an affected province; from a union responsible for coal extraction; from a union in coal power generating facilities; and from a union in the skilled trades related to coal power.  The rest of the Task Force will include a  workforce development expert,  a sustainable development expert; a past executive from a major Canadian electricity company or utility; and a municipal representative, identified in collaboration with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Reaction is generally supportive, as exemplified by the Climate Action Network, or the Pembina Institute.  Members have not yet been named, although the expertise of the Coal Transition Coalition, chaired by the Alberta Federation of Labour, would appear to be essential. Their report, Getting it Right: A Just Transition Strategy for Alberta’s Coal Workers, was submitted to the Alberta Advisory Panel on Coal Communities in 2017, and recommended establishing an independent Alberta Economic Adjustment Agency to manage Just Transition.

 

Canada needs a mix of reactive and proactive Just Transition policies across the country

Hadrian Decarbonization coverMaking Decarbonization Work for Workers: Policies for a just transition to a zero-carbon economy”  was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on January 25th.  In light of  the federal government’s pledge to launch a Task Force on Just Transition in 2018, this report makes a unique contribution by using census data to identify the regions in each province with the greatest reliance on fossil fuel jobs. While fossil fuel dependence is overwhelmingly concentrated in Alberta, with a few “hot spots” in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, the report identifies communities from other provinces where fossil fuel jobs represent a significant part of the local economy – for example, Bay Roberts, Newfoundland; Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; Saint John, New Brunswick; Sarnia, Ontario.  The report also makes the useful distinction between “reactive”  just transition policies, which are intended to minimize the harm to workers of decarbonization, and “pro-active” just transition policies, which are intended to maximize the benefits.   The author argues that, if the broad goal of a just transition is to ensure an equitable, productive outcome for all workers in the zero-carbon economy, a mix of reactive and proactive elements is necessary. Thus,  a national just transition strategy is required for fossil fuel-dependent communities, but workers in any industry facing job loss and retraining costs will also need support from enhanced social security programs.  In addition, governments must invest in workforce development programs to ensure there are enough skilled workers to fill the new jobs which will be created by the zero-carbon economy.

Making Decarbonization Work for Workers is  a co-publication by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program . The author is  CCPA researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood.