Reducing emissions from Canada’s built environment – what is the government thinking?

green bibliotechqueIn 2015, Canada’s building sector  accounted for approximately 12% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment , a November 16 report from the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.   The report discusses “a wide range of policy tools and technology solutions that could lower building sector GHG emissions, including: national building codes; energy efficiency standards and labels; technology research, development, and demonstration; fuel-switching for space heating; federal investments in buildings; and, the role of cities and urban design.”  In its concluding statements, the Committee notes that the existing federal Build Smart Strategy faces pressures of climate-change related urgency, as well as the need to harmonize and work with the various provincial jurisdictions. In the discussion of energy efficiency, the report cites the testimony of David Lapp of Engineers Canada,  in which he states that each $1 million invested in energy efficiency improvements is estimated to generate up to $3 to $4 million in gross domestic product and up to 13 jobs.   The report provides links to the testimony of all witnesses who appeared before it – no unions or worker representatives appeared.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment  is the last of five interim reports by the Senate Committee regarding Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. A final report is scheduled to be released later in 2018, compiling all five studies and issuing recommendations for the government.

The government has already received recommendations on the topic, from the June 2018 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development:  Better Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future , and in French, De Meilleurs Bâtiments Pour un Avenir À Faibles Émissions de Carbone .   In October, the  Government released its  Response report  (French version here),  which included reaction to the Committee’s Recommendation # 4,  that “Employment and Social Development Canada ensure that programs exist or are established to address the labour transition required so that skilled personnel are available to implement net-zero energy ready codes.”  The Government response offers only a reaffirmation of its commitment to existing  skills training, upgrading and apprenticeship programs. What little new thinking there is comes in the statement regarding green jobs: “The Government is also supporting the development of specific skills required for employment in green jobs. For example, the Green Jobs Science and Technology Internship program is investing more than $16 million to create 1,200 jobs as part of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. This program provides opportunities for post-secondary graduates to gain relevant work experience through green jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields in the natural resources sector. NRCan is also exploring opportunities to collaborate with non-government organizations, trade associations and provincial and territorial governments to develop training resources to support implementation of net-zero energy ready codes by 2030.”

 

New York state announces new funds for clean energy training, electric vehicles 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a press release on September 4,  announcing $15 million to help promote clean energy workforce development and training programs at various campuses of the State University of New York (SUNY). Some of the programs awarded funding include: a  “Solar Ready Vets” program on site at Fort Drum to train veterans transitioning to civilian life in renewable energy ; updates including electrical/solar photovotaic information for continuing education curricula for architects, engineers, and building and code inspectors at  Erie Community College; development of a wind operations technician training program  at the Off-Shore Energy Center of  SUNY Maritime . These initiatives are part of the Clean Climate Careers Initiative, announced in June 2017,  which aims to  create 40,000 new, good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020. The Clean Climate Careers Initiative partners the state government with Cornell University’s Workers’ Institute, as well as  Climate Jobs NY , a labour union coalition led by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, New York’s Central Labor Council, and the Service Employees International Union.

According to the latest available report from the  New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) in Q12018, 3,919 New Yorkers had been trained in a range of energy efficiency and renewable energy courses, through the Green Jobs – Green New York Act (2009). The funding program ended in December 2016, although one training program still continues.   The New York Clean Energy Industry Report for 2017  reported that there were  146,000  clean energy  jobs in New York State by December 2016 – 110,000 of those in energy efficiency roles.

Electric vehicles:  Governor Cuomo issued another press release on September 5,  announcing that the state will utilize $127.7 million received from the 2016 Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement to increase the number of electric and clean vehicles, by reducing the cost of  new transit and school buses, trucks, and other vehicles, as well as supporting electric vehicle charging equipment.  The new proposals are detailed in  the NYS Beneficiary Mitigation Plan.    The existing Charge NY  program to incentivize electric vehicle adoption is credited with a 67 percent increase in ev’s sold in New York state between 2016 to 2017.

Standing Committee recommendations for a greener built environment include training

passive house exterior VancouverOn June 18, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development presented their latest and 17th report, Better Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future .  The Committee mandate included the collective of  residences, commercial buildings, and institutional buildings – which are responsible for approximately 12% of  total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

The research for the Standing Committee report began in February 2018 and consisted of  four meetings, during which Committee members heard from 19 witnesses and received five written briefs from witnesses – including government officials, industry associations such as the Building Owners and Managers Association, real estate developers such as Landmark Homes,  Canada Green Building Council, Passive House Canada – but no labour unions or worker organizations .  Testimony is available from this link , and a Brief from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada  has also been made public.

The report summarizes the provisions related to the built environment in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change, also available in the federal 2018 Status Report on the Framework),  discusses the building codes in Canada, and addresses the unique situations of heritage buildings and buildings in Canada’s North. The Committee makes 21 specific recommendations, including:

#1  “the National Research Council, working with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, publish the national model energy codes for both new and existing buildings as soon as possible, and for existing buildings no later than fiscal year 2022-23”;

#4 “The Committee recommends that Employment and Social Development Canada ensure that programs exist or are established to address the labour transition required so that skilled personnel are available to implement netzero energy ready codes;

#6 “The Committee recommends that Infrastructure Canada work to provide significant funding in order to accelerate energy retrofits of commercial, institutional, and multi-residential buildings in the public and private sectors, such as through the Canada Infrastructure Bank”;

#10 “The Committee recommends that Natural Resources Canada, the National Research Council, and Environment and Climate Change Canada include building operator and building inspector training as part of federal funding, research, and incentive programs aimed at improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment”;

#16 “The Committee requests that the federal government focus more attention on its Greening Government Strategy and report back to the Committee on its progress by the end of 2018 .”

Occupational health risks created by climate change: U.S. doctors get Guidelines, France releases expert report

tick_lyme_government of ontario

Warmer temperatures have brought the Black-legged tick  to Ontario, bringing an increase of Lyme’s Disease, especially for outdoor workers.

A  Guidance Document was released by the  American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in February 2018.  Responsibilities of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Provider in the Treatment and Prevention of Climate Change-Related Health Problems  (also appearing  in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ) is intended to set standards for physicians specializing in workplace health.  The Guidance Document  provides concise and very current information about  the direct physical impacts related to climate change (heat stress and ultraviolet exposure, air quality, and allergic sensitivities) as well as indirect impacts (disaster zone exposure, stress and mental health, and waterborne and vector-borne disease).  Most of this information is not new:  two previous major reports have covered the same ground: The Lancet Countdown Report for 2017,  (which links climate change and specific health conditions for the population at large, not just workers, and which included a report for Canada ), and the landmark U.S . Global Change Research Program report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment (2016)  .

What is important about this new Guidance Document?  It focuses on the workplace, and sets standards for the role of occupational health physicians which include a responsibility to protect workers.  For example:  “Provide guidance to the employers on how to protect working populations in the outdoors or in the field who are potentially exposed to the extreme temperatures…. Quickly identify employees with acute and chronic cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses within the organization who will be significantly affected by increasing temperature and worsening air quality, an increase in ozone, particulate matter, and high pollen count  ….Provide effective guidance to employers about seasonal activity and address the increasing risk of vector-borne disease among the working population…. Deliver support to the employees at risk for mental illness due to disasters, loss, and migration by providing more comprehensive programs through their employment….  The article concludes with: “ OEM providers are called to be on the forefront of emerging health issues pertaining to working populations including climate change. The competent OEM provider should address individual and organizational factors that impact the health and productivity of workers as well as create policies that ensure a healthy workforce.”

There is also a call to action in a new report from France’s Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety.  The full expert analysis is available only in French ; an English abstract is here .  The report  predicts the occupational risks associated with climate change, from now till  2050, and identifies the main drivers of change: rising temperatures, changes in  the biological and chemical environment, and a change in the frequency and intensity of extreme events.  What’s new in this report?  It highlights the breadth of impact of climate change, stating that it will affect all occupational risks, except those associated with noise and artificial radiation.  The report also makes recommendations,  urging immediate workplace awareness campaigns and training about the health effects of climate change, with a preventive focus. From the English summary: “The Agency especially recommends encouraging all the parties concerned to immediately start integrating the climate change impacts that are already perceptible, or that can be anticipated, in their occupational risk assessment approaches, in order to deploy suitable preventive measures.”  The full report (in French only):  Évaluation des risques induits par le changement climatique sur la santé des travailleurs  (262 pages) is dated January 2018 but released in April. It was requested by France’s Directorate General for Health and the Directorate General for Labour, to support the country’s 2011 National Adaptation to Climate Change Action Plan (PNACC).

$1.5 billion will buy new renewable energy projects, good green jobs, and environmental justice in New York State

On  June 2, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his state would invest $1.5 billion in renewable energy projects through the Clean Climate Careers Initiative.  The program has three elements:  “supercharge” clean energy technologies, create up to 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020, and  achieve environmental justice and Just Transition for underserved communities. Both the Governor’s press release and one from the Worker Institute at Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School attribute the inspiration for the new renewable energy initiative to the  “Labor Leading on Climate” program at the Worker Institute.

The  Institute has just published Reversing Inequality, Combatting Climate Change: A Climate Jobs Program for New York State (June 2017),  in which Lara Skinner and  co-author J. Mijin Cha argue for an “audicious”  job creation plan which would create decent green jobs in the building, energy, and transport sectors.  The report provides case studies and specific proposals to reduce GHG emissions – for example, to retrofit all public schools in the state to reach 100 percent of their energy efficiency potential by 2025, reduce energy use in all public buildings by 40 percent by 2025, install 7.5 GW of offshore wind by 2050,  rehabilitate New York City public transit, and construct and improve the existing high-speed passenger rail corridor between Albany and Buffalo, and between New York City and Montreal.  The report also includes a recommendation to establish a Just Transition Task Force – a recommendation incorporated in Governor Cuomo’s plan.

In the plan announced  by Governor Cuomo, $15 million has been committed “to educators and trainers that partner with the clean energy industry and unions to offer training and apprenticeship opportunities, with funding distributed to the most innovative and far-reaching apprenticeship, training programs and partnerships.  ”  The state is also committed to the use of a Project Labor Agreement framework for the construction of public works projects associated with the initiative.

A Working Group on Environmental Justice and Just Transition has been appointed and staffed, with a first meeting scheduled for June.  It will advise the administration on the integration of environmental justice principles into all agency policies, and to shape existing environmental justice programs.  The press release includes endorsements from the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance and unions, including: Greater New York Building Construction Trades Council, New York State AFL-CIO, New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, IBEW Local 3, Transport Workers Union, Utility Workers Union Local 1-2,  United Association Plumbers & Pipefitters, and the past Secretary Treasurer of Service Employees International Union.

Governor Cuomo’s  Renewable Energy initiative was announced one day after Donald Trump’s  withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and after the Governor had signed an Executive Order  reaffirming New York’s  commitment to the Paris goals, and had launched a Climate Alliance with the states of California and Washington.