Job creation potential of nature-based solutions to climate change

U.K. think tank Green Alliance commissioned research to measure the economic impact of nature-based investments for a green recovery,  and released the results on May 4.  The full report, Green Renewal – The Economics of Enhancing the Natural Environment, was written by WPI Economics, and states:  “Looking at just three types of enhancement (woodland creation, peatland restoration and urban green infrastructure) we find that an expanded programme of nature restoration could create at least 16,050 jobs in the 20% of constituencies likely to face the most significant employment challenges. We present place-based analysis of the labour market and nature based solutions, which can also be found on an interactive webpage here.”  The report emphasizes that nature-based interventions can create jobs in areas that need them the most – stating that two thirds of the most suitable land for planting trees is in constituencies with worse than average labour market challenges.

Jobs for a Green Recovery is a summary report written by Green Alliance, based on the economic WPI report.  It emphasizes the impact of Covid on youth employment, stating that 63% of those newly unemployed in 2020-21 are under 25, argues that nature-based jobs are long-term, skilled and productive, and makes specific recommendations for the British government so that such jobs can become part of the U.K. green recovery. Green Alliance estimates that  investments in nature-related jobs have a high cost-benefit ratio, with £4.60 back for every £1 invested in peatland, £2.80 back in woodland, and £1.30 back for salt marsh creation.  

Jobs for a Green Recovery includes brief U.K. case studies.  An interesting a related Canadian example can be found in the new Seed the North initiative, described in The Tyee here . Seed the North is a small start-up company in Northern B.C., with big ambition to scale up. Currently, the project collects wild seed from Canadian trees, uses innovative technology to encase the seed in bio-char, and then uses drone technology to plant seeds in remote forest areas.  The result:  increased regeneration of disturbed land, restored soil health,  a statistically significant contribution to carbon sequestration, and economic benefits flowing through co-ownership to the local First Nations communities who participate.  

How local government policies can encourage energy efficiency jobs and training

Through the Local Government Lens: Developing the Energy Efficiency Workforce, is a report released on June 13 by the American  Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  It cites  data from the  2018 U.S. Energy & Employment Report, which reported  that there are 2.25 million efficiency jobs in the U.S. currently – 1.27 million of which are in the construction trades, followed by 450,000 in professional and business services.  The report dives more deeply into the demographics and characteristics of the energy efficiency workforce, and discusses the unique challenges of workforce development policies – the need to replace a retiring workforce, funding uncertainty for job creation and infrastructure, a need to encourage diversity, and a complex set of stakeholders,  given that there is no single educational or skills path for efficiency workers. The report includes unions and union-led training in its discussion of stakeholders and in its recommended strategies for workforce development policies.

Case studies with various approaches are presented from across the U.S., with the sole Canadian example of Vancouver, B.C.  For example: Boston, where training in energy building management is provided to city and utility workers at local community colleges;  New Orleans, where the city coordinates with U.S. Green Building Council, local community colleges, the New Orleans Office of Supplier Diversity, and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide efficiency-related training to low-income community members and minority- and women-owned businesses; and Los Angeles, which has established a Cleantech Incubator to attract new businesses and private-sector investment to the city. Other U.S. cities discussed are New York City, Orlando Florida, and  Columbus Ohio.

English_Bay,_Vancouver,_BCVancouver, B.C. launched several initiatives to teach skills required to build in accordance with its Zero Emissions Building Plan, approved in 2016.  The city plans to subsidize training  for builders and developers to learn more about passive house design standards, technical building requirements, economic and energy impacts, and energy modeling tools.  Vancouver will also contribute funds to the Zero Emissions Building Centre of Excellence, a nonprofit-run collaborative platform that will compile and disseminate zero-emission building educational resources to the local building industry.

A blog summarizes the report; it is available free from this link, registration is required.

Benefits of Community Energy in Canada

Community Energy Planning: the Value Proposition. Environmental, Health and Economic Benefits   reports on Community Energy Planning activities and programs in Canada, with comprehensive economic analyses and case studies of six.  The report states that more than 180 communities across Canada, representing over 50% of the population, live in communities with some community energy plan. The cities of Barrie and Hamilton, Ontario are given as examples:  the study evaluated the long-term effects (over a period from 2008-2031) of maximizing cost-effective building energy efficiency retrofits and technologies and found that for every $1 million invested in building energy efficiency retrofits, over 9 person-years of permanent employment would be created within the province of Ontario. The report is part of a  collaborative initiative, Getting to Implementation,    spearheaded by the Community Energy Association, QUEST – Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow, and Sustainable Prosperity, with the goal of  improving efficiency, cutting emissions, and driving economic development, including local job creation.   Sustainable Prosperity has also recently released the  Sustainability Alignment Manual,  detailing market-based incentives for local community sustainaiblility efforts,   and the University of Waterloo maintains a library of research articles and studies of community sustainability plans  across Canada.

ONTARIO’S NEW INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION OPENS DOOR TO GOOD CONSTRUCTION CAREERS FOR YOUTH, IMMIGRANT, WOMEN, ABORIGINAL WORKERS THROUGH COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENTS

As part of its commitment to invest $130 billion in public infrastructure over 10 years , the Ontario government passed the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015 on June 4th.  The Act states: “Infrastructure planning and investment should minimize the impact of infrastructure on the environment and respect and help maintain ecological and biological diversity, and infrastructure should be designed to be resilient to the effects of climate change.” And “Infrastructure planning and investment should endeavour to make use of acceptable recycled aggregates.” Regarding the workforce, it requires: “Infrastructure planning and investment should promote community benefits …. to improve the well-being of a community affected by the project, such as local job creation and training opportunities”.  Steve Shallhorn, Executive Director of the Labour Education Centre and Chair of the Toronto Community Benefits Network  states, “This is a huge step forward” in a Globe and Mail article  (June 3 ) . The Toronto Network negotiated the Eglinton –Scarborough Crosstown Line Community Benefits Agreement with transit authority Metrolinx in 2013 . Their website provides “Definition of a CBA”  and “CBA’s Here and Elsewhere” , which highlights models from Vancouver, Los Angeles, and other programs in Toronto. Separately, the City of Toronto Council recently passed a motion  to consider inclusion of Community Benefits Agreements as part of the review of the city’s Social Procurement Policy for development and infrastructure projects, due at the end of 2015.