The Premiers’ Summit on Climate Change Reveals Divisions, but the Act on Climate March shows Solidarity

The Premiers of Canada’s provinces met in a Summit in Quebec City on April 13th, sparking high hopes which were not met, according to the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, Interprovincial climate summit a damp squib. In “Interprovincial climate summit reveals rifts in Canada’s carbon strategy”, the Globe and Mail (April 14) called the final joint communiqué  “vague”, going only so far as referencing “transitioning to a lower-carbon economy” and “strengthening co-operation” on climate measures. And the Calgary Herald editorial, “On the Hot Seat”, criticized Alberta Premier Prentice for skipping the Summit. B.C. Premier Christy Clark spent her day addressing the World Bank instead of attending, but issued a challenge to other Premiers regarding B.C.’s climate action plan 2.0: “meet it or beat it”.

The Premiers meeting, however, sparked the Act on Climate March, organized by environmental groups, and including First Nations, trade unions, social and citizens’ groups, student associations, and individuals. The march attracted 25,000 marchers on April 11 and, according to participant Judy Rebick’s article, Huge march raises temperature, “…the Act On Climate march was an historic moment in the fight against climate change in Canada and a major step forward in the movement towards merging the environmental and social justice movements as promoted in Naomi Klein’s new book, not to mention a rare common action between Quebec and the rest of Canada…It was an important if not historic moment in our struggle”. For a union viewpoint, read also CUPE Says Yes to Action on Climate.

Also, on April 13, the Canadian Roundtable on the Green Economy was organized by SWITCH, the Alliance for a Green Economy in Quebec, a business-environmental alliance. The press release lists all participants, endorses carbon pricing, and affirms the central role of cities to promote a greener economy through  sustainable procurement policies and innovative urban development. A second group of business, aboriginal and civic leaders went on record with their position concerning climate change policies in Canadian Leaders Pen Low Carbon Economy Letter to Premiers (April 12), at the Sustainable Prosperity website.    

 

Two out of Three – U.S., Mexico Submit their INDC Targets – but Not Canada

March 31st was the deadline set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for each nation to submit a statement of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to greenhouse gas emission reduction, as a precursor to the climate discussions in Paris in December. The United States set an ambitious economy-wide target to reduce emissions by up to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. Read the White House Fact Sheet: U.S. Reports its 2025 Emissions Target to the UNFCCC.

Reductions will be accomplished primarily through fuel economy standards, energy efficiency for buildings, limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and reducing emissions from existing power plants. The statement by Mexico was the first by a developing country, and pledges a 22 per cent reduction of GHG emissions and 51 per cent cut in black carbon emissions by 2030. Prime Minister Harper promised our INDC submission by May, and lowered expectations, according to a Globe and Mail article (April 23) “Harper suggests Canada likely won’t match U.S. emissions targets”. All INDC submissions are cumulated at the UNFCC website.

 In addition, the U.S. and Mexico issued a joint statement which states, “The two countries will launch a new high-level bilateral clean energy and climate policy task force to further deepen policy and regulatory coordination in specific areas including clean electricity, grid modernization, appliance standards, and energy efficiency, as well as promoting more fuel efficient automobile fleets in both countries, global and regional climate modeling, weather forecasting and early alerts system”. Two countries – not including Canada. 

Business Voices call for Net-zero Emissions Target at COP21, as well as Carbon Pricing and an end to Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The B-Team, a group of international business leaders, released an Open Letter to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change on Feb. 5, calling on governments to commit to a zero-net-emissions target for 2050 at the COP 21 talks in Paris in 2015. Further, they call for businesses and governments to adopt meaningful and effective carbon pricing; an end to all fossil fuel subsidies, and redirection of that capital to renewable energy solutions; and for businesses and governments “to ensure the benefits of responses to climate change flow to vulnerable and impoverished communities that suffer disproportionately from climate change and are least equipped to cope with its impacts”. In October 2014, the B-Team partnered with other business organizations (The Climate Group, Ceres, Carbon Disclosure Project, BSR, World Business Council for Sustainable Business and the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group) to form the We Mean Business Coalition.

Lima Leaves Out Key Labour Language

Labour organizations are decrying the lack of language pertaining to just transition policies in the final negotiating agreement of the Climate Conference in Lima in December.

Organizations such as BlueGreen Alliance and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) lobbied leaders prior to the Conference, providing recommendations and wording suggestions to facilitate the inclusion of worker protection and reducing inequality in the climate agreement. BlueGreen advocated for improved international collaboration on best practices for just transition, and joined TUED in calling on the parties to prepare data on the positive and negative employment impacts of climate policies to support decision-making.

While a number of governments did raise labour issues at the Conference, co-chairs ultimately left them out of the text altogether. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, however, there was an overall trend of greater recognition of the centrality of just transition to sound climate policy, an active role played by labour organizations at the Conference, and the ongoing expansion and diversification of the climate justice movement, including increasing attention to labour issues. See Lima climate conference deceives, but not the climate movement. A similar assessment was made by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Climate talks advance slowly, but activism on the rise.

New York Climate Summit: Labour Marches and Business Makes Pledges

The New York Times Editorial Board pronounced its verdict on the U.N. Climate Summit – focussing on the People’s March rather than the official meetings, and noting “a palpable conviction that tackling climate change could be an opportunity, and not a burden”.

The article notes that cooperation between the U.S. and China could create the conditions for a breakthrough agreement in 2015, “But what might really do the trick – if Climate Week is any guide – is the emergence of a growing bottom-up movement for change”. In an article in Truthout, Abby Scher summarizes the support for the People’s March by national unions in the U.S., including Service Employees (SEIU) and Communication Workers of America, as well as the New York state and city unions and the community-labour alliances which have taken root in New York since Hurricane Sandy.

The business community made headlines with its reports and announcements over the Climate Summit week: a Global Investor Statement by nearly 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets, calling for stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing and a phase-out of fossil fuels; the Carbon Tracker Initiative published a report for investors to measure their risk exposure and start directing capital away from high cost, high carbon projects; the new We Mean Business coalition released The Climate has Changed report; and iconic companies like Kellogg’s, Nestle, Apple, and IKEA and others released their own statements supporting climate change action.

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the U.S., pledged to measure and publicly disclose the carbon footprint of its $300 billion investment portfolio, and the California State Teachers Retirement System announced that it will increase its clean energy and technology investments from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion over the next five years. And according to a New York Times summary of business initiatives: “The major Indonesian palm oil processors, including Cargill, issued a separate declaration on Tuesday pledging a crackdown on deforestation, and asking the Indonesian government to adopt stronger laws. Forest Heroes, an environmental group, called the declaration “a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture. We should not underestimate the significance of what is happening”.

And for an interesting, more neutral point of view: consider the special report Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement, presented to the German Federal Government on the occasion of the UN Climate Summit in New York. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) recommends a dual strategy for international climate policy: governments should negotiate the global phasing-out of fossil CO2 emissions at the Paris meetings in 2015, while civil society initiatives, including those of trade unions and religious organizations, should be supported and encouraged.

LINKS:

“A Group Shout on Climate Change” Editorial in the New York Times (September 27) is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/opinion/sunday/a-group-shout-on-climate-change.html?emc=edit_th_20140928&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=67440933&_r=0. In contrast, see also “Moving Forward after the People’s Climate March” in Canadian Dimension at: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/moving-forward-after-the-peoples-climate-march

“At Least Some Unions Step Up for Big Climate March!” by Abby Scher in Truthout at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26137-at-least-some-unions-step-up-for-big-climate-march, with a list of the unions who officially endorsed the People March at: http://peoplesclimate.org/organizedlabor/. See also the BlueGreen Alliance statement at: http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/news/latest/members-of-labor-environmental-partnership-front-and-center-in-peoples-climate-march

For Business documents, see Global Investor Statement is at: http://investorsonclimatechange.org/; Carbon Supply Cost Curves: Evaluating Financial Risk to Oil Capital Expenditures is at the Carbon Tracker Initiative at: http://www.carbontracker.org/report/carbon-supply-cost-curves-evaluating-financial-risk-to-oil-capital-expenditures/; We Mean Business website is at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/, with The Climate has Changed at: http://www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org/stories. CalPERS statement is at: http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/newsroom/news/montreal-carbon-pledge.xml; California Teachers Retirement System press release is at: http://www.calstrs.com/news-release/calstrs-commits-increase-clean-energy-and-technology-investments; “Companies take the Baton in Climate Change Efforts” in the New York Times at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/business/energy-environment/passing-the-baton-in-climate-change-efforts.html?_r=3

Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement by the German Advisory Council on Global Change is at: http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templates/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/sondergutachten/sn2014/wbgu_sg2014_en.pdf