Nova Scotia’s new government under Premier Iain Rankin was sworn in on February 23, and immediately sent a message that it was committed to climate change action. A press release titled Province Invests in Climate Change Action, Supports Jobs and Commits to Renewable Future announced a rebate program for new and used electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and e-bikes, ranging from $3,000 per new vehicle to $500 for electric bikes. An additional $9.5 million will be directed to support energy efficiency improvements through retrofitting for low-income families. Further, the Department of Energy and Mines will release a new Renewable Electricity Standard in March, aiming to achieve 80% renewable energy by 2030. Symbolically, the former Department of the Environment was renamed to the Department of Environment and Climate Change . Environmental advocacy group Ecology Action expressed optimism in this press release (Feb. 25). The CBC also reported on the new government here .
The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is home to 7.4 million people in six municipalities: the City of Toronto, City of Hamilton, Halton, Peel, York and Durham regions. According to a new report released by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), the region produces 44 per cent of total carbon emissions in the province of Ontario. Top level findings from the report, Reality Check: Carbon Emissions Inventory for the GTHA: “Total carbon emissions in the GTHA increased 5.2% in 2018, reaching 55.5 Mt. . …. showing that since the completion of the coal phase out, emissions are slowly increasing across all regions and nearly all sources.” The report zeroes in on each municipality, and also on sectors, showing that buildings (42.8%), transportation (34.3%), and industry (18.9%) are the most significant sources of emissions in the region.
The key take-away from the report: “Natural gas is a fossil fuel (methane) and it is the most significant source of emissions in the GTHA and Ontario. In 2018 natural gas increased about 10.6%, or 2Mt CO2 eq. Achieving net zero by 2050 will require phasing out virtually all natural gas from both heating and power production.” An associated blog , “Toronto has an embarrassing gas problem” (Feb.18) states: “the City’s latest emissions inventory showed an increase of 68% from natural gas from 2017 to 2018, and plans are afoot to increase gas-fired electricity which will make emissions skyrocket by over 300%. …. Toronto cannot meet its 2030 climate goals or the council-approved TransformTO plan if Ontario’s electricity is increasingly generated with fossil gas.”
Based on this analysis, TAF makes policy recommendations for all three levels of government, calling for near zero emissions standards for new building, acceleration of deeper retrofits for existing buildings, and electrification of heating and transportation while decarbonizing electricity production. Detailed recommendations regarding retrofitting measures are provided in TAF’s submission to the Federal Budget 2021, and summarized in “Four ways the government should boost the retrofit market” (Feb. 23). At the municipal level, TAF is supporting one City of Toronto Councillor’s motion which calls for the provincial government to phaseout all gas-fired electricity generation as soon as possible. The City of Toronto deferred a vote on that motion, and voted in February on a budget which appears to downgrade the priority for climate initiatives. “’We can’t afford to lose a year’: Worries abound over Toronto’s plan to reduce climate funding” (CBC, Feb. 18) provides details.
Retrofitting is a priority for the newly-announced Metro Vancouver Zero Emission Innovation Centre, to be administered through the Renewable Cities program at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. According to the SFU press release of January 12, the Metro Vancouver Zero Emission Innovation Centre “will be seeded by a generous $21.7 million endowment from the federal government to identify, finance and scale up local climate solutions, such as building retrofits and electrification of transportation.” The top priorities stated include “ “Identifying and initiating programmatic priorities, and integrating the Zero Emission Building Exchange to support building sector capacity building”. For now, though, “the new centre’s work will start modestly. It is expected to grow steadily through partnership, programming investment, leveraging and innovative financing”. The launch of the Centre is scheduled for September 2021, after input is gathered “from a range of stakeholders, including local and provincial government, industry, non-profit organizations and the finance sector.”
The Vancouver Centre will be modelled on The Atmospheric Fund – originally known as the Toronto Atmospheric Fund when it was established in 1991 through the advocacy of then-Toronto City Councillors Jack Layton and Dan Leckie. The Atmospheric Fund now serves Canada’s largest urban area, the Greater Toronto/Hamilton region of approximately 7 million people, and is part of the Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3), a partnership which also includes Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
In “What does Canada’s new $15 billion plan mean for urban climate action?” (Dec. 15), The Atmospheric Fund reviews the federal government’s latest climate plan and discusses the two sectors most relevant to municipalities: buildings and transportation. The Atmospheric Fund states that its own priorities for 2021, include: “Partnering with housing providers to initiate deep retrofits in 3,000 housing units this year; Mobilizing $150 million in investment to leverage public funding and attract more capital into low-carbon activity; Supporting municipalities to adopt green development standards for new buildings and performance standards for existing ones; Providing grants and investment capital to enable even more low-carbon activity like workforce development (clean jobs!) and EV charger installations; and Publishing new research on growing challenges like fugitive methane emissions and embodied carbon in new construction.”
The governance of climate action in Toronto and Vancouver is summarized in a new article by three academics from the Universities of Waterloo and Toronto, “Strategies and Governance for Implementing Deep Decarbonization Plans at the Local Level”, published in the latest issue of the journal Sustainability. It offers case studies of the best practices in climate action governance in Toronto and Vancouver, along with Bridgewater, Nova Scotia; Guelph, Ontario; Park City and New York City in the U.S., Lahti in Finland and Oslo in Norway. These cities range in size from 8,400 people to 9.6 million, but were chosen as “leading and ambitious” cities. The authors identify the importance of transnational networks in city decarbonization planning, and highlight their efforts “to expand their green economies and the capacity of their workforces to meet the future demand for skilled workers, especially in the buildings and construction sectors.”
And briefly: A recent article in the New York Times also noted the importance of retrofitting: “New York’s real climate challenge: Fixing its aging buildings” (Dec. 29, New York Times). Stating that “Nearly 70 percent of the city’s total carbon emissions come from buildings. A project to retrofit nine buildings with green technology is pioneering a new solution”. The article describes the Casa Pasiva retrofitting project , one of a number of RetrofitNY projects funded by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority.
Workforce 2030 was launched in Toronto on July 23 – a cross-sectoral coalition of employers, educators, and workers in Ontario’s building sector. The press release states: “Workforce 2030’s goal is to accelerate workforce capacity by collectively impacting government policy, business practices, and education.” The Statement of Principles is here, outlining values of collaboration and accountability, and equity.
From John Cartwright, member of the Advisory Council and President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council: “Workforce 2030 is a collaboration that will increase the capacity of the skilled trades to meet the low-carbon standards required in the built form of tomorrow. We need to continuously improve low-carbon skills for the entire sector, deepen our commitment to high-quality training, and grow our workforce through equity and inclusion.”
The Coalition is “catalyzed” by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), which hosts the Workforce 2030 website and whose research reports are highlighted there. The coalition will be organized into working groups, with the following themes: Green Recovery Stimulus: Advocating for Workforce Capacity Investments; Workforce Capacity for Tall Timber Residential New Construction; Low-carbon Workforce Readiness: In-depth skills gaps assessment and industry co-developed action plan; Equitable and Inclusive Recruitment and Training; and Workforce Capacity for Retrofits.
The 14-person Advisory Board includes Julia Langer, (CEO, The Atmospheric Fund (TAF)); Akua Schatz, Canada Green Building Council; John Cartwright, President, Toronto and York Region Labour Council; Sandro Perruzza, CEO of Ontario Society of Professional Engineers; Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director, Toronto Community Benefits Network; Steven Martin, Business Manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 353; Mike Yorke, President, Carpenters District Council of Ontario; and Corey Diamond, Executive Director, Efficiency Canada , among others.
With the mainstream press zeroing in on the implications of Mark Carney’s return to Ottawa policy circles, and rumours of a “deepening rift” between Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau over covid-recovery plans, perhaps the moment for a Green Recovery has arrived. Here are highlights of some proposals made since the last WCR compilation in a June 17 post.
Proposals from the labour movement:
Unifor released its #Build Back Better campaign in June, detailed in a 58-page document, Unifor’s Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery. There are five core recommendations, with detailed discussion of each: 1. Build Income Security Programs that Protect All Workers; 2. Rebuild the Economy through Green Jobs and Decarbonization; 3. Expand and Build Critical Infrastructure 4. Rebuild Domestic Industrial Capacity; and 5. Strong, Enforceable Conditions on Corporate Support Packages. Recommendation #2 “Rebuild the Economy through Green Jobs and Decarbonization”, understandably advocates for the sectors which Unifor represents – auto manufacturing, energy, forestry, transit etc. and calls for, among other things, targeted industry support programs, and a federal Just Transition fund (for example, for orphan well clean up and methane reduction initiatives and expansion of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. On the issue of transit, Unifor also calls for the federal government to convene special committee, bringing together municipalities, labour unions, private and public transit agencies, academics, urban planners and transit rider groups to develop a National Public Transit Strategy. The Road Map also calls for a National Auto Strategy to support zero-emission electric vehicle manufacturing, a national charging infrastructure, and a call to develop a joint government-union accredited green jobs training system. Unifor calls on the government to institute a tripartite model for advisory groups and oversight bodies so that labour unions are involved in any initiatives to develop climate/green transition policy frameworks.
#Build Back Better also addresses issues affecting all workers, such as income security, equity, and pension security. Key to these appear in Recommendation #5. “Strong, Enforceable Conditions on Corporate Support Packages”, which states: “ Government must require an environmental sustainability plan, restrict wage reductions for non-executive workers and establish job protection guarantees to prevent layoffs due to restructuring and offshoring. Any capital investment enabled by government support must include Canadian content when equipment is purchased or capital investments are made. Support packages must include a union neutrality clause and prevent recipients from accessing employee pensions for short-term liquidity.”
Rebuilding our Economy for All describes the priorities of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, as submitted to the provincial Economic Recovery Task Force in May. The sixth of eight priorities states: “We must make up for lost time in addressing the climate crisis, with an accelerated and inclusive path to a green economy”, but doesn’t suggest any specifics beyond the existing Clean BC program . Priority 7, “Use public investment to restart the economy” translates into mid-term goals to electrify the transit fleet, launch conservation programs and habitat restoration projects; undertake remediation of industrial sites; replace all government vehicles at end of life with e-vehicles; develop and install zero-emission vehicle infrastructure throughout BC.; and continue to expand public, commercial, and residential building retrofits.
The Ontario Federation of Labour also produced an economic recovery plan in June, The New Normal: Building an Ontario for All – Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. The document calls for investment in public infrastructure, but makes only one brief mention of climate, calling for the government to : “Develop, support, and resource a climate action plan that focuses on green jobs, carbon emission reductions, and the impact on equity-seeking communities – with clear mandates for industry.”
The Canadian Labour Congress released Labour’s Vision for an Economic Recovery in May, which with an emphasis on health and safety, and job and income security. It touched on climate-related priorities by calling for “Green industrial policy and sector strategies, anchored in union-management dialogue”, and endorsed the Just Recovery for All principles. On July 17, the CLC issued a statement of support for the ‘Safe Restart’ agreement reached between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, commending the provision of sick leave entitlements so that every worker can take time off when they are sick and need to self-isolate. Also in July, the CLC made six recommendations for reforms to the Employment Insurance system to ensure a smooth transition from CERB to EI benefits.
Labour and Green Groups pulling together
It is worth noting that the environmental movement has included job and worker concerns in its proposals for Green Recovery, beginning with the Just Recovery for All campaign in May . Other examples: Green Strings: Principles and Conditions for a Green Recovery from COVID-19 in Canada , published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in June lists seven “strings”: Support only companies that agree to plan for net-zero emissions by 2050; Make sure funds go towards jobs and stability, not executives and shareholders; Support a just transition that prepares workers for green jobs; Build up the sectors and infrastructure of tomorrow; Strengthen and protect environmental policies during recovery; Be transparent and accountable to Canadians.
The Green Budget Coalition, representing twenty-four leading Canadian environmental organizations, presented a Discussion Paper for their pre-Budget recommendations at the end of June, with their final submission promised for September. Their focus: 1) Stimulus investments for clean transportation industries; 2) Building retrofit jobs 3) Nature-based climate solutions 4) Conservation and Protected Areas, including Indigenous Protected Areas and Guardian programs.
The David Suzuki Foundation has included “Transform the Economy” as one of the three pillars of its Green and Just Recovery campaign . Blog posts with accompanying online petitions have been published on “Pandemic and climate crises unmask inequalities” in May, and “Four Day Workweek can spur necessary Transformation” in August .
Other Proposals of Note, with a focus on Retrofitting:
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its Alternative Federal Budget Recovery Plan in July, stating: “The AFB Recovery Plan is a collective blueprint for how Canada can get through this crisis in the short, medium, and long term. It closes the chapter on the old normal.”….. “COVID-19 exposed the impossibility of a healthy economy without a healthy society. The status quo is no longer an option. This is our chance to bend the curve of public policy toward justice, well-being, solidarity, equity, resilience, and sustainability….”. The CCPA calls for “immediate action to implement universal public child care so people can get back to work, reform employment insurance, strengthen safeguards for public health, decarbonize the economy, and tackle the gender, racial, and income inequality that COVID-19 has further exposed.” Within this broad framework there is a section titled Climate Change, Just Transition and Industrial Strategy” (pages 50 – 54), which points out that “Governments at all levels have taken unprecedented action to respond to COVID-19 and that same level of ambition and speed must also be applied to the zero-carbon transition…A just recovery from COVID-19 will not be a return to the status quo of an exploitative fossil fuel-based economy.” In the short-term, the Recovery Plan repeats calls for a Just Transition Act for displaced workers and affected communities, (first announced in 2019 ), a Just Transition Commission, a Strategic Training Fund and a Just Transition Transfer. Furthermore, the Recovery Plan calls for a clear regulatory phase-out of oil and gas production for fuel by 2040 (modeled on the national phase-out of coal power by 2030), beginning immediately so that recovery funds are not invested into the stranded assets of the oil and gas industry. In the medium term, the Recovery Plan calls again for a National Decarbonization Strategy to achieve a net zero-carbon economy through public investments in industries such as electricity generation, public transit, forestry and building and home retrofitting, especially in Canada’s North. This Decarbonization Strategy would allow for $250 million per year to establish a new Strategic Training Fund; $10 billion per year to establish a youth Green Jobs Corps. Amongst the long-term recommendations for rebuilding: high impact green infrastructure projects under direct public ownership, with social enterprises and other forms of cooperative, community-based ownership also encouraged.
On July 22, the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery released its Interim Report , costing out five key policy directions for the next five years, with a total price tag of just under $50 billion. The Task Force lists key actions and actors to achieve five broad goals: “Invest in climate resilient and energy efficient buildings; Jumpstart Canada’s production and adoption of zero-emission vehicles; Go big on growing Canada’s clean energy sectors; Invest in the nature that protects and sustains us; Grow clean competitiveness and jobs across the Canadian economy . As part of #1, investment in climate resilient and energy efficient buildings, the Task Force calls for “investing $1.25 billion in workforce development for energy efficiency and climate resiliency, including for enhancing access to training programs and for developing new approaches.” Under the policy goal of investing in nature, the Task Force includes a call for $400 million investment “to connect unemployed and underemployed Canadians with opportunities in the nature economy, and to boost the planning and implementation capacity of local governments, Indigenous groups, conservation agencies, forestry and agriculture operations, NGOs and tourism bodies.” The Task Force Final report is promised for September 2020.
The Labour Council of Toronto and York Region, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 353, and the Carpenters District Council of Ontario have signed on as foundation partners in a new coalition of employers, educators, and unions, formed to fast-track green building as an economic and jobs solution to re-start the economy. The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) is the seed funder for the coalition, called Workforce 2030 . It is based on the recommendations of the Canada Green Building Council, Ready, Set, Grow: How the green building industry can re-ignite Canada’s economy , published in May. The TAF proposals are outlined in their submission to the government, here.
Efficiency Canada, another founding partner of the Workforce 2030 coalition, released its Pre-budget Submission to the government on August 5. It calls for $1.5 billion to expand green building workforce training, $10.4 billion over three years to expand provincial and municipal energy efficiency portfolios, $13 billion to capitalize a building retrofit finance platform implemented through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; $2 billion for large-scale building retrofit demonstration projects; and additional incentives to provinces that adopt higher energy performance tiers of the 2020 model national building codes, with a plan to achieve a 90% compliance rate.