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decarbonization

Episode 2: Finding your niche in the renewable energy sector

Trades key to coalition winning new clean energy bill signed by Governor Walz

By Steve Share - Minneapolis Labor Review, February 25, 2023

Labor unions and environmental groups joined with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders February 7 for a bill-signing ceremony at the Saint Paul Labor Center to celebrate historic clean energy legislation.

The bill, Senate File 4, puts Minnesota on a path to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 — while creating new clean energy jobs.

“Our children are counting on us to get this right,” said Governor Walz, addressing the packed meeting room at the Labor Center. “We can’t move too fast when it comes to addressing climate change.”

“It’s our skilled trades who are going to be building this future,” Walz emphasized.

Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, in her remarks, noted that “a very strong coalition” worked to pass the bill, including labor, environmentalists, and young people.

“We have a climate crisis and we need to take action to address it,” she said.

“Today’s action is the strongest action Minnesota has taken on climate change. Full stop,” declared Representative Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis), who was the chief author of the bill in the Minnesota House.

From Rigs to Riches: The promise of oil and gas decommissioning in a just transition

By Peder Ressem Østring - Just Transition Research Collaborative, February 24, 2023

The recycling of oil rigs can provide new jobs within the circular economy, particularly beneficial for oil-dependent regions. If we get it right, the process of cleaning up after the fossil economy can itself serve as a bridge from fossil dependency towards a just transition.

Globally, there are over 7000 offshore oil and gas platforms. Together with other structures and pipelines, these form an impressive built environment. If we are to have a fighting chance of keeping global warming well below 2°C however, virtually all of these installations would have to be shut down, dismantled and recycled. This process — known as offshore decommissioning — is already taking place, but will see a dramatic increase in the coming decade. It will be increasingly necessary to confront the ways in which decommissioned infrastructure is handled, both with regards to the environment and labour conditions.

A case study of the decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea shows some of both the possibilities and challenges decommissioning presents in terms of a just transition.

While some oil companies would like to leave the oil platforms in the sea, eagerly promoting the idea of repurposing old rigs as artificial reefs, this is not allowed under current regulation. After the plans of Royal Dutch Shell of dumping the oil storage tanker Brent Spar in the North Sea in the 1990s was met with massive public scrutiny and campaigns from environmental organizations, regulations came in place that effectively banned the practice of abandoning manufactured structures in the North-East Atlantic.

Companies have since sought other ways of disposing of the problem with structures put out of commission. Another approach for cutting costs for the oil supermajors has been to send old floating rigs for breaking in the global South. This has taken place under horrendous conditions for both workers and the environment, as has been uncovered by the BBC.

Both these false solutions are in reality ways of externalizing costs of cleaning up after the fossil companies. Both approaches should be rejected, while insisting on the principle that the polluter should pay.

Alberta’s Roadmap to the New Energy Economy

By Simon Dyer - Pembina Institute, February 21, 2023

Alberta has always been an international leader on energy. Our abundant natural resources, coupled with our proud history of technological innovation in the oil and gas sector— particularly the oilsands—means we are renowned for our ability to use a skilled labour force to reach new frontiers in energy production.

In 2023, Alberta has an opportunity to build on that history and move towards a new energy future. In doing so, it can begin to capitalize on the multiple opportunities associated with the globally emerging clean economy.

To achieve this, Alberta needs a robust, credible plan on climate and energy. The number of governments worldwide that are legislating emissions reduction targets and policy measures to deliver them is rapidly growing each year, and it is time that Alberta joined them. This province — home to some of the world’s foremost experts on carbon capture technology, methane reduction techniques, wind and solar power, and so many other clean energy solutions— has much to offer to the energy transition, and much to gain. The International Energy Agency, for example, estimates 14 million new energy jobs and 16 million new jobs in energy efficiency will be created, worldwide, between now and 2050.

To take advantage of these opportunities, Alberta must also be willing to confront the realities of the global shift towards low-carbon energy sources, and take steps to adapt and futureproof its economy and workforce. The global outlook for fossil fuels, for example, has fundamentally shifted in the last twelve months. In 2022, for the first time, a range of assessments — including from within the oil industry — projected that the current level of worldwide policy momentum on emissions reductions will result in a sustained decline in global demand for oil, beginning this decade. If the world successfully achieves its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and avoiding the worst effects of climate change, that demand decline will begin sooner and be steeper — and will have a significant impact on Alberta’s industry. 

Acknowledging these realities, and choosing to show leadership on climate and energy policy, is integral to Alberta’s overall attractiveness as an investment destination. Now more than ever before, companies are looking for opportunities to invest in climate solutions, and for jurisdictions where they can operate while meeting their own climate goals. Choosing instead to remain out of step with the global trend towards low-emissions economies would leave Alberta at a significant disadvantage in the years ahead.

The Pembina Institute is, and has always been, proudly headquartered in Alberta; this is our home. We are committed to seeking out effective, evidence-based policy solutions that can support this province’s communities, economy, and environment. 

As the 2023 provincial election approaches, this document provides our recommendations to future leaders in Alberta to advance this province’s position in the transition towards low-carbon energy. Above all, we think Alberta can and should be a leader on climate and the energy transformation in Canada.

Read the report (link).

The Green Transition

Code Words Hint At Eliminating Jobs & Stifling Renewable Energy Employment

By Carolyn Fortuna - Clean Technica, February 6, 2023

The term “just transition” emerged from the 1970s North American labor movement to become a campaign for a planned energy transition. It includes justice and fairness for workers through united future visions about economic and climate action. These days it’s incredibly contentious.

Wouldn’t you think that renewable energy employment would be uplifting fossil fuel communities and remaking climate politics? Not so fast. Eliminating jobs in the fossil fuel sector has become highly controversial.

Language in headlines and social media posts is reinforcing the place and power of the fossil fuel industry, helping to keep it from becoming little more than stranded assets and from being held accountable for the climate crisis. The words “just transition” are a not-so-secret code that triggers mistrust and confusion among the energy workforce — the same workers who are most likely to benefit from the renewable energy employment marketplace.

Generally, a just transition is defined as programs, services, legislation, and practices that include equity opportunities for all in the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy. I’ve written several times here at CleanTechnica about a just transition and how fears about eliminating jobs are unwarranted (see here, here, here, and here, among others). But what seemed less evident to me then and now a bit naïve now is the degree to which the fossil fuel industry has turned its mighty propaganda forces against renewables while, concurrently, embellishing their professed concern for worker livelihoods.

How Much Will It Take For A Just Climate Transition In Spain?

By Carolyn Fortuna - Clean Technica, February 4, 2023

Spain will receive almost €869 million from the Just Transition Fund to kickstart its energy transformation in equitable ways.

It’s imperative that the climate transition in Spain work to phase out coal for energy production ahead of its 2030 initial energy scheme planning. If successful, the end result will be a region invested in energy efficiency, circular economy, and clean energy sources. It will foster economic resilience, renewables, and jobs.

And it looks like it just might happen. Spain will receive almost €869 million from the Just Transition Fund (JTF) following the adoption of the Just Transition Program, which includes its Territorial Just Transition Plan (TJTP).

The Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) is a key tool to ensure that the transition towards a climate-neutral economy happens in a fair way, leaving no one behind. The JTM addresses the social and economic effects of the transition, focusing on the regions, industries, and workers who will face the greatest challenges, through 3 pillars.

  • A new Just Transition Fund of €19.2 billion in current prices, is expected to mobilize around €25.4 billion in investments.
  • The InvestEU “Just Transition” scheme will provide a budgetary guarantee under the InvestEU program across the 4 policy windows and an InvestEU Advisory Hub that will act as a central entry point for advisory support requests. It is expected to deploy €10-15 billion in mostly private sector investments.
  • A new Public Sector Loan Facility will combine €1.5 billion of grants financed from the EU budget with €10 billion of loans from the European Investment Bank, to marshall €18.5 billion of public investment.

The JTF will invest in solar, offshore wind, renewable hydrogen, and the green transformation of the country’s industry in several concerning areas, according to the EU:

  • the province of A Coruña in Galicia
  • the provinces of Teruel in Aragón, León, and Palencia in Castilla y León
  • the provinces of Almería, Cádiz, and Córdoba in Andalusia
  • a group of municipalities around Alcúdia on the island of Mallorca

The region of Asturias will receive almost one third of the Spanish JTF funding, in part to support an innovation hub for artificial intelligence in a former mining site.

Episode 1: Dreaming of Abandoned Wells

Howie Hawkins (Ukraine Solidarity Network US): ‘The anti-imperialist position is to support the national liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people’

By Howie Hawkins and Federico Fuentes - Links, January 28, 2023

Howie Hawkins is a retired Teamsters union warehouse worker, the US Green Party 2020 presidential candidate and an ecosocialist. Together with a range of other leftists, socialists, unionists and academics, he recently helped set up the Ukraine Solidarity Network (US). Hawkins spoke to Federico Fuentes about the initiative and the challenges of building solidarity with Ukraine while opposing US imperialism.

Could you tell us a bit about how and why the Ukraine Solidarity Network came about, and what the fundamental aim of the network is? What practical solidarity does the network plan to carry out?

The Ukraine Solidarity Network was initiated at a meeting at the Socialism 2022 conference in Chicago in early September. We convened following a talk on “Ukraine, Self-Determination, and Imperialist War” by Yuliya Yurchenko of Sotsialnyi Rukh (Social Movement), a democratic socialist organisation in Ukraine. Though initiated by socialists, we agreed to build a broader network of people to support the Ukrainian people’s national liberation struggle. Our fundamental aim is to build moral, political and material support in labour and social movements for the people of Ukraine in their resistance to Russia’s invasion and their struggle for independence, democracy and social justice. We want to nurture links between progressive labor and social organizations in Ukraine and the United States.

Public education is an immediate priority. We want to counter the narratives of significant parts of the old left and the peace movement in the United States who have decided that if the US is sending arms to Ukraine, they must automatically oppose that support. Given the vicious history of US imperialism, that stance may be understandable. But a one-size-fits-all conclusion is not justified without a critical examination of each conflict. Would these people have opposed US military aid to the anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War because it came from the US imperialist state? Or the military aid the US gave to the Soviet Union in World War II? Or the US arms and special forces the US sent to the Viet Minh resisting the Japanese invasion during that war? In the case of Ukraine, the knee-jerk conclusion of no US aid to the Ukrainian national liberation struggle reveals a US-centric colonial mindset. It sees US imperialism as the cause of what they call “the US proxy war on Russia.” It renders the Ukrainians invisible. Ukrainian perspectives on the causes of the war and why they want arms for self-defence are ignored, including the views of progressive trade union, socialist, anarchist, feminist, LGBT and environmental movements in Ukraine.

The Ukraine Solidarity Network wants to be a voice on the US left that opposes all imperialisms — Russian as well as US — and supports the right of historically colonised and oppressed nations like Ukraine to self-determination and to self-defence against aggression. We are concerned that those on the US left who oppose aid to Ukraine and, in some quarters, openly support a Russian victory, are alienating progressive- and peace-minded people in the US and internationally from the left.

While US military and economic support for Ukraine currently has wide support in the political centre and left, it is fast eroding in the Republican Party. The US right admires Putin’s authoritarian strongman rule and his conservative Christian, ethnonationalist, patriarchal, anti-gay, anti-trans and climate change-denying policies and pronouncements. US aid to Ukraine will be challenged by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives when the next round of funding is considered later this year. By next fall, far-right “peace” candidates, who will campaign on cutting aid to Ukraine and redirecting those military resources to Pacific deployments against China and Mexican border deployments against migrants, are likely to gain traction in the Republican presidential primaries. I hope the Ukraine Solidarity Network will have a significant influence on the Ukraine debate in US politics with a progressive perspective that support’s Ukraine’s self-determination and opposes both Russian and US imperialism.

An EV in Every Driveway Is an Environmental Disaster

By Alissa Walker - Curbed, January 25, 2023

“There is always a huge climate benefit — and, I would argue, a safety benefit — to ensuring people have access to excellent public transit,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this month at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting. “Even if we weren’t aggressively working to decarbonize existing modes of transportation, that alone is one of the biggest and the best things we can do from a climate perspective.” This is the closest thing to a mic drop that exists at such an event, so the assembled transportation academics, urban planners, and civil engineers erupted into applause. Buttigieg had to pause, letting the hoots fade out before he could finish his remarks. He was onstage with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to announce the first blueprint to decarbonize U.S. transportation by 2050, an unprecedented collaboration between the Departments of Transportation, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency to move the country away from using fossil fuels when, well, moving around.

Despite its many strengths, the blueprint is largely built around two things that have very little to do with what got Buttigieg the most applause from transit professionals: It’s heavily reliant on developing technologies that don’t exist yet and the Biden administration’s goal to have half of the new vehicles sold in 2030 to be electric (a figure closely negotiated with automakers). The latter point is perhaps why the slow but steadily growing number of electric vehicles, or EVs, sold in this country each year has become its own kind of shorthand for the decarbonization revolution. (“Electric Vehicles Keep Defying Almost Everyone’s Predictions,” “Electric Vehicle Sales Hit a Tipping Point in 2022,” “Electric Vehicles = 10% Of New Vehicle Sales Globally!”) A green future, the story goes, looks a lot like today — it’s just that the cars on the road make pit stops at charging stations instead of gas stations. But a one-for-one swap like that — an EV to take the place of your gas guzzler — is a disaster of its own making: a resource-intensive, slow crawl toward a future of sustained high traffic deaths, fractured neighborhoods, and infrastructural choices that prioritize roads over virtually everything else. And considering what it would take to produce that many cars, the vision being sold by the Biden administration about an EV in every driveway is more than just a fantasy — it’s an environmental nightmare.

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