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California’s progressive policies yield better job growth and wage growth than Republican comparators

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, January 15, 2018

A November 2017 report from the Labor Center at University of California Berkeley  examined the “California Policy Model” –  defined as a collection of 51 pieces of legislation and policy implementations enacted in California between 2011 and 2016 – and found that with progressive policies such as minimum wage increases, increased access to health insurance, reduction of carbon emissions and higher taxes on the wealthy, the state showed  superior economic  performance  in comparison to Republican-controlled states and to a simulated version of California without such policies.  According to  “California is Working: The Effects of California’s Public Policy on Jobs and the Economy since 2011,  the suite of progressive policies resulted in superior total employment growth , superior private sector employment growth, and higher wage growth for low-wage workers from 2014 to 2016. All the while, keeping the state on track to meet its 2020 GHG emissions targets.  The  environmental policies included in the analysis were: starting in 2006, AB 32, which committed the state to lowering its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020;  regulations under AB 32 in 2012 and 2013, which introduced the state cap and trade program;  SB 350 in 2015 and 2016,  committing the state to greater use of renewable energy and further improvements in energy efficiency ; and SB 32, which raised the emissions reduction goal to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.  The report warns that  enforcement of labour standards and a lack of affordable housing remain as challenges facing the state, and also admits to possible weakness  regarding the second of its two methods of analysis, the synthetic control statistical method.

Methane regulations: a path to lower emissions and more jobs for Alberta

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, August 23, 2017

A July 2017  report by Blue Green Canada,   argues that the Alberta government should implement methane regulations immediately, rather than wait for the proposed federal regulations to take effect in 2023.    Speeding up regulations “could reduce air pollution, achieve our climate targets more cost-effectively, and create thousands of high-paying jobs in a single step”, according to Don’t Delay: Methane Emission Restrictions mean Immediate jobs in Alberta .  Blue Green estimates that Alberta’s oil and gas operations release $67.6 million worth of methane annually, and recovering it for energy use could create more than 1,500 new jobs in the province – well paid jobs,  including work in engineering, manufacturing, surveying, and administration.

The findings of the BlueGreen report are in line with a broader report released by  Environmental Defence in April, which demonstrated that methane emissions are higher than reported by industry: 60% higher in Alberta.  See  Canada’s Methane Gas Problem: Why strong regulations can reduce pollution, protect health and save money   at the Environmental Defence website. Research funded by the David Suzuki Foundation, and released in April,  found that methane emissions in B.C. are 250% higher than reported.   The Cost of Managing Methane Emissions,  a June blog from the Pembina Institute, also sheds light on the GHG savings to be had by instituting regulations. The political slant is covered in “ Trudeau must hold the line on Canada’s new methane rules”   by Ed Whittingham and   Diane Regas, in the Globe and Mail (June 11) .   A July article in Energy Mix summarizes the battle in the U.S., as the courts push back on the  Trump administration efforts to weaken the Obama-era methane regulations.

Do electric vehicles create good green jobs? An Amnesty International report on Supply Chains says No

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, November 27, 2017

November brought  exciting news about electric vehicles:  BYD,  one of China’s leading electric carmakers, announced that it will open an assembly plant in a yet-to-be-announced location in Ontario in 2018, (though according to the Globe and Mail article,   the new plant will only create about 40 jobs to start ).  Also in mid-November, Tesla revealed a concept design for  an  electric truck in an glitzy release by Elon Musk , and the Toronto Transit Commission announced its plan to buy its first electric buses, aiming for an  emissions-free fleet by 2040.    Unnoticed in the enthusiasm for these announcements was a report released by Amnesty International on November 15:    Time to Recharge: Corporate action and inaction to tackle abuses in the cobalt supply chain  which concludes : “ Major electronics and electric vehicle companies are still not doing enough to stop human rights abuses entering their cobalt supply chains, almost two years after an Amnesty International investigation exposed how batteries used in their products could be linked to child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).” (That earlier report was This is what we die for   released in January 2016) .

Under the heading “The Darker side of Green Technology”, Time to Recharge states: “Renault and Daimler performed particularly badly, failing to meet even minimal international standards for disclosure and due diligence, leaving major blind spots in their supply chains. BMW did the best among the electric vehicle manufacturers surveyed.”   Tesla was also surveyed and ranked for its human rights and supply chain management; Tesla’s policies are described in its response to Amnesty International here.  And further, Tesla has come in for suggestions of  anti-union attitudes  in “Critics Suggest Link to Union Drive After Tesla Fires 700+ Workers” , in  The Energy Mix (Oct. 23), and in an article in Cleantechnica  .

The Amnesty International report is a result of a survey of 29 companies, including consumer electronics giants Apple, Samsung Electronics, Dell, Lenovo, and Microsoft, as well as electric vehicle manufacturers BMW, Renault and Tesla.  Questions in the survey were based on the five-step due diligence framework set out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.  Detailed responses from many of the surveyed companies are here. 

Just Transition for the coal industry is expensive – but cheaper than failure to address the needs

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, September 5, 2017

July 2017 saw the release of  Lessons from Previous Coal Transitions:  High-level Summary for Decision-makers , a synthesis report of case studies of past coal mining transitions in Spain, U.K., the Netherlands, Poland, U.S., and the Czech Republic – some as far back as the 1970’s.  Some key take-aways from the report:  “Because of the large scale and complexity of the challenges to be addressed, the earlier that actors (i.e. workers, companies and regions) anticipated, accepted and began to implement steps to prepare and cushion the shock of the transition, the better the results”; “the aggregate social costs to the state of a failure to invest in the transition of workers and regions are often much higher that the costs of not investing from an overall societal perspective.” While the level of cost details varies in the case studies, it is clear that costs are significant.  For example, the case study of Limburg, Netherlands states that the national government spent approximately 11.6 billion Euros (in today’s prices) on national subsidies to support coal prices and regional reconversion, in addition to  several 100 million per year in EU funds. “One estimate also suggested that in the Dutch case, all told, regional reinvestment in new economic activities also cost about 300 to 400 000€/per long-term job created.”  Limburg is also cited as “remarkable for the relatively consensual nature of the transition between unions, company and government.”  (see page 10).

The Synthesis report and individual case study reports of the six countries are available here . These are the work of the Research and Dialogue on Coal Transitions project, a large-scale research project led by Climate Strategies and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) , which also sponsors the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project.  Future reports scheduled for 2018: a Global report, and a Round Table on the Future of Coal.

Work for a Brighter Future

By staff - International Labour Organization, 2019

New forces are transforming the world of work. The transitions involved call for decisive action.

Countless opportunities lie ahead to improve the quality of working lives, expand choice, close the gender gap, reverse the damages wreaked by global inequality, and much more. Yet none of this will happen by itself. Without decisive action we will be heading into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties.

Technological advances – artificial intelligence, automation and robotics – will create new jobs, but those who lose their jobs in this transition may be the least equipped to seize the new opportunities. Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete. The greening of our economies will create millions of jobs as we adopt sustainable practices and clean technologies but other jobs will disappear as countries scale back their carbon- and resource-intensive industries. Changes in demographics are no less significant. Expanding youth populations in some parts of the world and ageing populations in others may place pressure on labour markets and social security systems, yet in these shifts lie new possibilities to afford care and inclusive, active societies.

We need to seize the opportunities presented by these transforma-tive changes to create a brighter future and deliver economic security, equal opportunity and social justice – and ultimately reinforce the fabric of our societies.

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).

Realizing a Just and Equitable Transition Away From Fossil Fuels

By Georgia Piggot, Michael Boyland, Adrian Down, and Andreea Raluca Torre - Stockholm Environment Institute, January 2019

Meeting agreed climate goals requires a rapid decarbonization of the global energy system, which in turn necessitates a reduction in fossil fuel production. While limiting fossil fuel use will likely bring a multitude of societal benefits — related to reduced climate risks, sustainable economic growth, air quality and human health — it is important to recognize that not everyone will benefit equally from a transition to a low-carbon economy. In particular, those who rely on fossil fuel production for their livelihood, or who were anticipating using fossil-fuelled energy to meet development needs, may carry a disproportionate share of the burdens of an energy transition.

The need for a “just transition” to a low-carbon economy — namely, a transition that minimizes disruption for workers and communities reliant on unsustainable industries and energy sources — is gaining traction in climate policy and political discourse. A call for “a just transition of the workforce” was included in the preamble to the Paris Agreement, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat has prepared a technical paper on transition planning.10 In addition, several national and regional governments have recently announced new transition planning processes, including Canada, Germany, Spain, Scotland, New Zealand, and the European Union.

A central concern of just transition efforts is to ensure that low-carbon transitions address social and economic inequality. The UNFCCC calls for a transition that “contribute(s) to the goals of decent work for all, social inclusion and the eradication of poverty.” Likewise, the European Commission aims to “boost the clean energy transition by bringing more focus on social fairness.” And the Scottish Government is seeking a transition that “promotes inclusive growth, cohesion and equality.”

Key messages:

  • Governments are introducing new “just transitions” policies to help workers and communities move away from fossil fuels.
  • Most policies assume that justice goals will be achieved by helping those dependent on coal, oil and gas move into new roles; however, there is little critical reflection on what justice means in the context of an energy transition away from fossil fuels.
  • There are a number of gaps in current just transition policies when viewed through a justice lens. For example, no policies contain measures to improve the lives of people currently marginalized in the energy system.
  • Creating just and equitable transition policies requires collecting data on the current distribution of the harms and benefits of the energy system, and mapping out how this will change as fossil fuels become a less-prominent part of the energy mix.
  • By taking justice considerations into account, transition policies are more likely to limit social and political resistance, win a broad consensus, and achieve effective implementation.

Read the text (PDF).

GM Oshawa: Making Hope Possible

By Sam Gindin - The Bullet, December 13, 2018

The once unimaginable – the end of GM Oshawa – seems on the verge of becoming the new reality. If there is any lesson to be learned here it is that overturning this imposed reality can’t be achieved by traditional protest and traditional alternatives. Continuing our dependence on unaccountable corporations, offering subsidies and concessions without means to enforce job guarantees, making competitiveness the only test of worthwhile activity, looking to ‘better’ free trade agreements and so on, are dead ends. All they offer is more of the same: death by a thousand cuts.

Imagining a radically different and more democratic approach based on community and national planning – opening the door to the formerly unthinkable – may, as overwhelmingly ambitious as that may seem, be the only option with any chance of success.

On November 26, 2018, General Motors (GM) announced that the Oshawa Assembly plant, once the largest auto complex in North America, will no longer exist. In the 1970s, the site included three massive assembly plants that turned out 3,000 vehicles daily. Other GM plants in the city made batteries, radios, radiators and axles. A host of independent component plants with their own special capacities, spread across the city and nearby localities. At the end of the 1970s, GM had some 23,000 plant and office workers in Oshawa. At the time of GM’s latest death notice, over 85% of those jobs had already vanished, leaving 3,000 workers desperate to hang on to the one remaining GM operation in the city.

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, Justice, and the Clean-Energy Future

By Jeremy Brecher - Dollars and Sense, September & October, 2016

Today, there are 400 parts per million (PPM) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, far above the 350 ppm climate scientists regard as the safe upper limit. Even in the unlikely event that all nations fulfill the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction pledges they made at the Paris climate summit at the end of 2015, carbon in the atmosphere is predicted to increase to 670 ppm by the end of this century. The global temperature will rise an estimated 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. For comparison, a one-degree increase was enough to cause all the effects of climate change we have seen so far, from Arctic melting to intensified hurricanes to desertification.

Limiting climate catastrophe will require drastic cuts in the burning of the fossil fuels that cause climate change. But many workers and their unions fear that such cuts will lead to drastic loss in jobs and economic well-being for working people—aggravating the shortage of good jobs and the burgeoning inequality we already face. Is there a way to escape the apparent lose-lose choice between saving the climate and saving jobs?

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