Air pollution savings by substituting Videoconferencing for airline travel

According to a ranking by Project Drawdown, businesses around the world could eliminate 82 billion hours of  air travel time for employees by substituting travel to meetings with high-quality video conferencing systems –  a work practice with the potential to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide by 1.99 gigatons by 2050.  This solution, dubbed Telepresence,  is ranked as 63rd out of 100 solutions to global warming  in the Project Drawdown  study which compares the cost and GHG savings of three adoption scenarios  (ranging from 16% – 50%)  in the period  2020-2050.

Project Drawdown describes its  work as “the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming”.  In an April 25  New York Times interview , Paul Hawkin, Project Drawdown’s executive director, states:  “A primary goal of Drawdown is to help people who feel overwhelmed by gloom-and-doom messages see that reversing global warming is bursting with possibility: walkable cities, afforestation, bamboo, high-rises built of wood, marine permaculture, multistrata agroforestry, clean cookstoves, plant-rich diet, assisting women smallholders, regenerative agriculture, supporting girls’ ongoing education, smart glass, in-stream hydro, on and on.”   The solutions have been proposed and researched by an international collaboration of “ geologists, engineers, agronomists, researchers, fellows, writers, climatologists, biologists, botanists, economists, financial analysts, architects, companies, agencies, NGOs, activists, and other experts” .

The complete list of 100 proposals  was published by Penguin Books in 2017  and is available at the Project Drawdown website.  Canadian news outlet The Energy Mix  is currently posting  excerpts from Project Drawdown, and highlighted Telepresence in its May 11 issue.

ILO Director-General report identifies key themes in the greening of work, and worker delegates respond

The 106th Session of the International Labour Conference convenes fromILO 2017 conference  June 5-16 in Geneva – see an overview here .  To open the annual Conference, Director General Guy Ryder presented his report, Work in a changing climate: The Green Initiative  , and for those who question the role of the workplace in the fight against climate change, the report states: “… if climate change is a consequence of human activity, then that activity is, for the most part, work or work-related. It is no coincidence that climate change tends to be benchmarked against pre-industrial levels. And if work is the predominant cause of climate change, then inevitably it must be central to strategies to prevent, mitigate and adapt to it.”

The main body of the Director-General’s Report describes and updates the accomplishments of the  ILO Green Centenary Initiative, which  was launched in 2013, “to promote the considerable potential for creation of decent work associated with the transition to a low carbon sustainable development path and to minimize and manage the inevitable dislocation that will accompany it.” The report emphasizes the need for research and policy analysis, and announces that the 2018 edition of the ILO World Employment and Social Outlook Report will focus on “greening with jobs”, with sectoral and country-specific information.

Some important themes:  The report emphasizes the need for tripartite responses to climate change, and offers the examples of countries with tripartite consultations:  Chile, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru , South Africa, and Brazil, which developed its Intended Nationally- Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement with tripartite involvement.

Global carbon pricing is identified as “an outstanding question of the greatest magnitude –a political game changer in the eyes of some.” And, “Independently of the specific merits of taxing carbon, the general message is clear: predictable and appropriate regulation, together with informed tripartite involvement, are key ingredients for successful just transition.”

Regarding the greening of the work process, the report states: “The extraordinary process of structural transformation in production systems, made necessary by the fight against climate change, needs also to incorporate two further ingredients which have a proven record in facilitating socially acceptable and beneficial change at work: skills development and social protection.”

marie walker ILO VP 2017Canadian Labour Congress Secretary-Treasurer Marie Clarke Walker   was elected Vice-President (Workers) on June 5, and is a member of the ILO Governing Body.    Luc Cortebeeck,  Chairperson of the Workers’ Group, presented a Discussion of the Director-General’s report  on June 7. The 3-page discussion is generally constructive, for example, congratulating the ILO for its climate neutrality goals and its the recognition of the need to aim for zero emissions as soon as possible, and pledging support for Skills for Green Jobs initiatives.  However, it highlights differences about the goals for the future, stating:  “Such an ambitious assessment on the state of affairs does not seem to be followed by an equally ambitious take on future measures.”  Further, “The workers’ group regrets the absence of references to the importance of piloting in as many countries as possible the ILO Guidelines for a Just Transition, as a means to show they are a useful tool for tackling climate change in a socially progressive way.”  The Workers Group also considers it “vital” that the ILO develop and execute its own economic modelling research regarding the potentially negative distributional aspects of carbon pricing and regulation, and not rely on research by the  OECD  and other active agencies.

The Role of Work and the Labour Movement to Slow Global Warming

PrintWork in a Warming World, released by McGill Queen’s University Press on April 15, begins with the acknowledgement that the world of work – goods, services, and resources – produces most of the greenhouse gases created by human activity. In ten chapters, the book’s contributors demonstrate “how the world of work and the labour movement need to become involved in the struggle to slow global warming, and the ways in which environmental and economic policies need to be linked dynamically in order to effect positive change”. The book is organized into “Trends and Challenges”, such as the dilemma of the Canadian labour movement, and gender analysis of emissions reduction, and “Making Green Work”, with examples from the construction, hospitality, and energy industry, as well as chapters on sustainable infrastructure and its implications for the engineering profession, and the role of cities and the green economy. The book has a Canadian focus, but includes an international context. Chapters were written by associates of the Work in a Warming World research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, led by Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

Employee-Related Initiatives at Canada’s Greenest Workplaces

The results of the 9th annual Canada’s Greenest Employers competition were made available online at the Globe and Mail on Earth Day. “Canada’s greenest employers help the Earth – and their bottom lines” (April 22) is a quick overview, but the online list of winners allows readers to select each employer by name, and find much more detail on the reasons why they were selected: e.g. unique initiatives, presence of an environmental audit, organizational responsibility for green initiatives, building LEED rating, community initiatives, etc. Companies are listed both for the environmental impact of their products/services, and their workplace policies. For example, Nature’s Path is an organic food manufacturer in Richmond, B.C., but was also cited for its mandatory sustainability training for all new employees. Keilhauer, a custom furniture manufacturer in Toronto, is included for its in-house “Design for Environment” employee training program, which began in 2011 and sparked the switch to more environmentally-responsible manufacturing processes such as water-based wood stains and  FSC-certified wood. Not all employers on the list produce green products: e.g. Labatt’s Breweries is included because of its significant water and waste reduction programs, and for its employee engagement initiatives – all employee suggestions for green improvements are entered into a searchable database so employees in any of the parent company Anheuser-Busch locations around the world can learn from each other. The Greenest Employers list is linked to the Eluta job search engine to aid job-seekers who prefer to work for a green company.

CUPE Provides a New Guide for Greener Workplaces

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, in advance of Earth Day in April 2015, has released Healthy Clean and Green: A Worker’s Action Guide to a Greener Workplace. CUPE answers the basic question, “Is climate change a union issue?” and then focuses on workplace actions and solutions, with examples and tips to improve energy efficiency, recycling and reduction of resources, worker education, and workplace environment committees. The book also describes the LEED features of the CUPE National Headquarters in Ottawa. To further encourage greening activities, the union announced the 2015 CUPE Green Workplace Contest, with a deadline of May 2015.