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A New Horizon: Innovative Reclamation for a Just Transition

By various - Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition, 2019

The certainty of an Appalachian transition has become self-evident. The questions that remain are “What shape will that transition take?” and “Will our region seize the opportunity to establish just and sustainable economic models that invest in our strengths and set the region up for meaningful and healthy participation in the new economy?” Foundational to our coalition’s work is the understanding that specific, targeted intervention is necessary to ensure that an equitable vision becomes reality.

Appalachia is at the threshold of a paradigm shift into the new economy, ushered in by communities that are taking their futures into their own hands like never before and implementing innovative ways to address long-standing economic issues with degraded lands. The table on page 6 shows funded projects illustrating this shift that have been supported by our coalition, ranging from ecotourism, renewable energy, arts and culture, and creative waste recycling.

This report highlights the successes achieved in 2019 from previously submitted projects and showcases a brand new round of innovative projects. We’re very excited about both the successes that have already been funded and implemented, as well as the new opportunities that are currently being considered for Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot funding.

Read the report (Link).

A Vision for a Sustainable Battery Value Chain in 2030: Unlocking the Full Potential to Power Sustainable Development and Climate Change Mitigation

By staff - World Economic Forum, 2019

The need for urgent and more intensive actions against climate change is broadly recognized. In support of this agenda, this report presents a simple yet profound vision: a circular, responsible and just battery value chain is one of the major near- term drivers to realize the 2°C Paris Agreement goal in the transport and power sectors, setting course towards achieving the 1.5°C goal if complemented with other technologies and collaborative efforts.

With the right conditions in place, batteries are a systemic enabler of a major shift to bring transportation and power to greenhouse gas neutrality by coupling both sectors for the first time in history and transforming renewable energy from an alternative source to a reliable base. According to this report, batteries could enable 30% of the required reductions in carbon emissions in the transport and power sectors, provide access to electricity to 600 million people who currently have no access, and create 10 million safe and sustainable jobs around the world.

This report provides a quantified foundation for a vision about how batteries can contribute to sustainable development and climate change mitigation over the coming decade. The analysis underscores that this opportunity can only be achieved sustainably through a systemic approach across social, environmental and economic dimensions. It outlines key conditions and presents recommendations to realize this potential.

Read the report (Link).

The Ruhr or Appalachia: Deciding the Future of Australia’s Coal Power Workers and Communities

By Peter Sheldon, Raja Junankar, and Anthony De Rosa Pontello - CFMMEU Mining and Energy, December 3, 2018

Australia’s coal-fired power stations will all close in the next two or three decades. We know this because the companies that operate the 23 power stations currently operating nation-wide have told us so.

Despite the empty rhetoric of some, it is unlikely that the economic case for investing in new coal-fired power stations in Australia will stack up. Those who currently own and operate coal power stations have no plans to build new ones.

The bad news is that the transition in how we produce power will bring great change to the workers and communities we have relied on to provide Australian homes and industry with reliable energy over many decades.

The good news is that we have the lead time to make smart decisions about what that change looks like—or at least, we now have the lead time after being caught unprepared by earlier closures, including Hazelwood in 2017.We have the choice to manage this structural economic change so that individuals, families and regions aren’t abandoned to unemployment, low-value jobs, poverty and associated health and social decline. Even better, we have the evidence about what works to deliver just transitions for coal power workers and communities, with skills, jobs, opportunities and hope for the future.

Communities grow around power stations and the mines that supply them. They are unique communities bonded in many cases by history, geography, difficult and dangerous working conditions and good unionised jobs. They are also uniquely vulnerable in their heavy dependence on the coal power industry.

This analysis of transitions in resource economies internationally and here in Australia provides valuable insights into the ingredients of success and the wide scope of outcomes.The Appalachian region in the United States is a heart-breaking story of industry transition characterised by short-term, reactive and fragmented responses to closures of coal mines, resulting in entrenched, intergenerational poverty and social dysfunction.

Compare this with the transition away from a heavy reliance on coal mining in Germany’s Ruhr region, where forward planning, investment in industry diversification, staggering of mine closures and a comprehensive package of just transition measures delivered a major reshaping of the regional economy with no forced job losses.

Central to these vastly different outcomes is the presence of a national, coordinated response. To this end, a major recommendation of this report is the establishment of a national, independent statutory authority to plan, coordinate and manage the transition.

In the energy debate to date, the impact of the transition on workers and communities has been almost completely ignored. This is an omission we can’t afford. After all, the costs of investing in a Just Transition need to be balanced against the costs of doing nothing and abandoning whole communities to a bleak future.

While global trends suggest that Australian export coal for steelmaking and energy production will be in demand for decades to come, coal-fired power generation in Australia is winding down. On the information available, there are no excuses for not taking action to protect the best interests of those affected.</p.

I thank Peter Sheldon and the team at UNSW Sydney’s Industrial Relations Research Centre for this important piece of work. I call on all power industry stakeholders to engage with its findings and consider how we can work together to deliver a Just Transition for coal power workers and communities.

Read the report (PDF).

Climate Stability, Worker Stability: are they compatible?

By Dr. Louise Comeau, JD, PhD and Devin Luke - Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change, December 3, 2018

It appears we face a low- carbon transition dilemma. On the one hand, climate change solutions, like greenhouse gas regulation and carbon pricing, raise concerns about potential job displacement for workers in traditional energy sectors like oil and gas production and fossil-fuel generated electricity. Hence the calls for just transition. Our research, however, suggests that this blame may be at least partially misplaced. Energy workforce changes are currently affected by broader societal changes relating to fuel-cost differentials (i.e., natural gas cheaper than coal), automation, and the societal transition to non-unionized, unstable and lower-paying work. Greenhouse gas regulations and carbon pricing are certainly not the only driver of workforce change, and likely not, at least currently, not the primary driver.

Should proponents of renewable energy, energy efficiency and the low-carbon transition address these broader societal trends? If so, how? Is the solution to focus on collective responses such as energy cooperatives, public sector ownership of renewable energy supply, utility-scale and managed energy efficiency programs, rather than market- based, privatized solutions? These questions are worth answering. Our goal with this study was to better understand the training needs associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency job projections. There appears, however, to be a greater need to better integrate climate change and low-carbon economy discussions into a broader discourse on the nature of work.

Read the report (PDF).

Jobs vs the Environment?: Mainstream and Alternative Media Coverage of Pipeline Controversies

By Robert A Hackett and Philippa R Adams - Corporate Mapping Project, September 2018

Much of the argument advanced in support of expanding Canada’s fossil fuel production centres on job creation and economic benefits. Politicians, pundits and corporate spokespeople who support fossil fuel infrastructure projects—such as new oil and gas pipelines—often evoke this rhetoric when they appear in the media.

This study examines how the press—including corporate and alternative outlets—treats the relationship between jobs and the environment. Focusing on pipeline projects that connect Alberta’s oil sands to export markets, it also asks which voices are treated as authoritative and used as sources, whose views are sidelined, which arguments for and against pipelines are highlighted, and what similarities and differences exist between mainstream and alternative media coverage of pipeline controversies.

Read the report (PDF).

A Guide for Trade Unions: Involving Trade Unions in Climate Action to Build a Just Transition

By staff - European Trade Union Confederation, September 2018

A guide to a ‘just transition’ to a low carbon economy is published by the European Trade Union Confederation on May 15.

The 48 page document ‘Involving trade unions in climate action to build a just transition’ contains

  • Recommendations for economic diversification and industrial policy, skills, social protection and governance for a socially just transition
  • Information on how trade unions can and have been engaged in shaping national climate action
  • Examples of innovative projects that can inspire a more just transition

Key recommendations include

  • Promote economic diversification in regions and industries most affected by the transition
  • Negotiate agreements at sectoral and company level to map the future evolution of skills needs and the creation of sectoral skills councils
  • Establish dialogue with all relevant stakeholders and regional authorities to identify and manage the social impacts of climate policies
  • Promote the establishment of adequate social protection systems
  • Unions and workers should assess the risks linked to ‘stranded assets’

The guide shows that up to half of trade unions have NOT been consulted on sectoral decarbonisation strategies, but over 75% were consulted on long-term decarbonisation strategies for 2050.

Read the report (PDF).

Just Transition and Beyond Just Transition: Canada in Action

By C.M. Flynn - Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change, August 27, 2018

Just Transition is an elusive concept. First developed by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) at the turn of the 21st century, it has suffered from neglect for much of the last 20 years. Workshops, symposia and half-day conferences proliferated in the EU and other countries, but the meetings have duplicated each other’s work, and to date there had been no common definition or sharing of information about what works and what has not worked in just transition experiences.

With this in mind, and mindful of Canada’s historic leadership, the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change project (ACW) brought together 6 groups active in the field to form an organizing committee. The committee invited the broadest range of Canadian groups involved in Just Transition to a daylong roundtable with three main goals:

  1. Share experiences among Canadian groups about the work each is doing to transition to a low carbon economy: what has worked, what has failed, and why?
  2. Think forward about how we can broaden Just Transition beyond its current focus.
  3. Share next steps that each group will be taking.

Read the report (PDF).

The Ecological Footprint of Work

By Julian Vigo - The Ecologist, July 30, 2018

In the summer of 1930, the British economist John Maynard Keynes gave a lecture in Madrid entitled “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” in which he predicted that humans, a century later, would undertake a fifteen-hour work week.  

Today, the reality of work sharing is far from a reality, as is the  shorter work week. But there are many reasons we should set our sights on working fewer hours, not least of which is the environment. 

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, it is estimated that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobs worldwide could be lost to automation. The fallout from this will have a drastic effect on humans, comparable to the shift away from agricultural societies during the Industrial Revolution.

Environmental impact

In the US it is estimated that between 39 and 73 million jobs will  be automated. Computers and robots would comprise one-third of the total workforce. As other jobs stand to be created from AI, it's likely that only five percent of current occupations stand to be eliminated. 

If you are part of the one percent, the owner of these machines, you are in a great position economically. But if you are not, there could be a crisis looming that reaches far beyond the economy, and permeates the communal, the psychological, and the physical. 

The ecological impacts of labour are part of the larger equation here that must be taken into account. For instance, the commute of Americans to and from work is on average 52 minutes each day with over 80 percent of Americans commuting by automobile.

David Rosnick from the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC has devoted much of his career to the relationship between the work week and its ecological impact.

In 2006, along with Mark Weisbrot, Rosnick studied the effects of a shorter work week on the environment and the myths surrounding the economic potential for the American work week as opposed to the European work week. Their conclusion was that climate change can be mitigated through reduced work hours. 

It’s Time for the Climate Movement to Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee

By Varshini Prakash and Sarah Meyerhoff - In These Times, May 24, 2018

With global temperatures rising and midterm elections approaching, 2018 is the year the climate movement must take bold action towards a fossil-free future.

Across the country, young people face daily reminders that our society doesn’t serve our futures. We suffer from unemployment and underemployment that is well beyond the national average, with young people of color struggling disproportionately to find work and economic opportunity. We are straddled with historic student loan debts. And in a moment when we should be working quickly to avert climate catastrophe and transition to an inclusive, fossil-free economy, many of our elected officials remain passive as the Trump administration attacks our air, water and land. 

As youth leaders in the climate justice movement, we believe now is the time to embrace a bold political vision that addresses climate change while working to end racialized economic inequality.

A centerpiece of that vision is a federal jobs guarantee, a policy through which the government directly employs anyone who wants a job but doesn’t have one. The jobs guarantee has deep roots in the U.S. progressive tradition and is seeing growing support from scholars and movement leaders who tout its potential to put Americans to work while helping to rebuild our infrastructure, schools and healthcare system. With Sen. Bernie Sanders developing a jobs guarantee proposal, as well as a score of down-ballot candidates and Democratic presidential hopefuls also voicing support, the policy is sure to feature prominently in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles.

Climate scientists say that the next few years may be the only ones we have left to avert catastrophic global warming. A jobs guarantee program with a strong focus on stopping and preparing for climate change—a climate jobs guarantee—might be the last, best hope to quickly marshal public support and resources behind climate action. Simply put, this is a can’t-miss opportunity for the climate movement—and for our generation.

Women and Climate Change Impacts and Action in Canada: Feminist, Indigenous, and Intersectional Perspectives

Written and researched by Lewis Williams with Amber Fletcher, Cindy Hanson, Jackie Neapole and Marion Pollack - Work and Climate Change Report - February 2018

Climate change is unequivocally occurring across the globe, impacting the conditions, experiences, and livelihoods of communities in multiple ways.2 Between 1948 and 2007 temperatures in Canada increased at a rate approximately twice the global average.3 Accelerated rates of global warming and dramatically increased temperatures are expected to occur in parts of Canada well into the future.4 Yet, Canada remains one of the world’s biggest per capita carbon polluters5 and is falling far short of meeting climate mitigation goals under the Paris Agreement, an international agreement for meeting climate change mitigation and adaptation targets.

Emerging research on the gendered impacts of climate change in Canada demonstrates how climate change is exacerbating inequalities between women and men. Women’s lower incomes relative to men, their gendered roles and social statuses, and the ways in which these interact with changing environments and related policies and programs affect women’s experiences of climate change. Despite these inequities, gender considerations are remarkably absent in climate plans and policies across the country.

Climate change is largely the result of the tightly interwoven forces of colonialism, patriarchy, and neoliberal forms of development.9 These conditions are constraining women’s knowledge, expertise, and unique agencies in addressing what is probably the most defining issue of our age. Yet women, including Indigenous women, have significant roles to play in the articulation of feminist and Indigenous worldviews, and aligned climate action strategies.

Read the Report (PDF).

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