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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.

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.

Going Green Means Construction Job Boom in Canada: Report

By Christopher Cheung - The Tyee, August 10, 2017

The construction industry has a big role to play as Canada aims to meet to its commitment to the Paris climate agreement and transition to a greener economy, according to a new report.

“We need that construction workforce to get us to net zero,” said Bob Blakely, the COO of Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU), an alliance of 14 unions.

There hasn’t been much Canadian research on the construction industry’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so the CBTU commissioned a study by think tank the Columbia Institute to investigate potential job growth as Canada moves towards a low-carbon economy.

According to the study, Jobs for Tomorrow – Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions, a low-carbon economy could create almost four million direct building trades jobs by 2050 – and that’s a conservative estimate. These jobs include boilermakers, electrical workers, insulators, ironworkers and masons.

The Day of Mourning for injured and killed workers was invented by Canada. Now we're killing more workers than anyone

By Ed Finn - Rabble.Ca, April 28, 2017

April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job. This is the second of a two-part series. read part one here.

The lack of safety in Canada's workplaces is a national -- and international -- disgrace. Many of our industries neglect safety training, skimp on safety equipment and keep employees unaware of the danger of new chemicals. In our fiercely competitive global market, they will put the maximization of profits ahead of the "costly" provision of safe workplaces -- as long as they can get away with it.

Our governments, too, have given on-the-job safety an inexcusably low priority. Oh yes, they've beefed up work safety rules, even given workers the right to refuse dangerous duties, the right to sit on industrial health and safety committees -- even the right to be informed about the dangers of any material they are obliged to handle.

But, as with Bill C-45, no such legal rights can be exercised without managerial retaliation unless workplaces are regularly inspected and safety laws strictly enforced. And on that score, our federal and provincial governments have fallen shamefully short.

Without stringent government oversight, employers are left free to flout safety rules and regulations. They can maintain their profits-before-personnel policy with virtual impunity.

Key to the Leap: Leave the oil in the soil

By Ian Angus and John Riddell - Climate and Capitalism, November 6, 2016

In the Autumn 2016 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine George Martell argues that “the Leap Manifesto offers a genuine opportunity to move beyond social democracy — to directly face up to capitalism — if we are prepared to take the Manifesto’s demands seriously.”

Martell’s thoughtful essay is followed by responses from activists representing a variety of viewpoints, including the following contribution by John Riddell and Ian Angus.

Ian Angus is editor of Climate & Capitalism and an activist with Sustainable North Grenville. John Riddell, a historian of the socialist movement, is active in Toronto East End Against Line 9

George Martell correctly notes that the Leap Manifesto’s impact on the New Democratic Party has opened new possibilities for the Left. Its “direct opposition to the oppressive logic of global capitalism,” offers us a “genuine opportunity to move beyond social democracy.”

But to seize this opening, the Left must resolve a timescale problem that Martell does not address. His movement-building program is long-term, but the world climate crisis demands immediate action. We believe that the Leap Manifesto can bridge that gap.

Oilpatch workers have a plan, but Ottawa needs to act: Four-point plan would get tradespeople retrained and back to work in clean energy

By Lyndsey Easton - Iron and Earth, Novemver 1, 2016

EDMONTON — A group of oil-and-gas workers has a plan to create job opportunities and retrain workers for clean energy projects, and they are calling on the federal government to step up.

The Workers’ Climate Plan was released today by Iron & Earth after four months of consultations with workers and industry. The tangible four-point plan stands in contrast to recent publicity stunts involving “roughneck” workers on Parliament Hill.

“This isn’t about taking jobs away from people, this is about opening up sustainable opportunities for skilled workers so their families can thrive,” said Lliam Hildebrand, executive director of Iron & Earth. “We’re giving a voice to real oil and gas workers who deserve a say in these issues and who want a better future.”

“Workers deserve something sustainable, so we don’t find ourselves in this boom-and-bust mess ever again,” said Kerry Oxford, mechanical engineering technologist and member of Iron & Earth. “That’s why we’re taking time out of our lives to work on this problem together. That’s why we spent four months talking with colleagues, coming up with a plan that works for the long term.”

Iron & Earth released the plan at a solar panel installation training facility in Edmonton — the kind of place where tradespeople and skilled labourers could find new opportunities in the energy transition. Making the switch is possible: of the energy workers surveyed for the Workers’ Climate Plan, the overwhelming majority say they could switch to renewable energy projects with minimal retraining, or sometimes no retraining at all.

The Workers’ Climate Plan identifies the four most important needs the government must address:

  1. Upskilling for the energy sector workforce
  2. More manufacturing capacity for renewable energy in Canada
  3. Support for contractors and unions that want to transition to renewables
  4. Integrating renewable technologies into existing energy projects

A draft of the plan was sent to the federal government during its climate change consultations in September. They’re asking the government to address their four-point plan in the federal climate strategy to be released in early December.

Iron & Earth has also submitted the Solar Skills proposal  to upskill 1,000 tradespeople for renewable energy jobs. The initiative would give them the skills to work on solar, energy efficiency and electrical vehicle installation projects. As these industries grow, out-of-work tradespeople are looking for help to make a transition.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

By Brad Hornick - System Change not Climate Change, October 4, 2016

The fresh new face Canada showed the world at the Paris COP21 climate meetings held out hope for many Canadian climate activists that a national course change was in the works.

In its less than a decade in power, the Harper government extinguished multiple important Canadian environmental laws, muzzled climate scientists, harassed environmental NGOs, created "anti-terrorism" legislation that targets First Nations and other pipeline activists, and generally introduced regressive and reactionary social policy while promoting Canada as the world's new petro-state.

Prime Minister Trudeau's political and social capital within Canada's environmental movement derives largely from distinguishing himself from a Harperite vision of a fossil fuel–driven economy that relies on the decimation of an environmental regulatory apparatus and colonial expansion deeper into First Nation territory.

Trudeau has adopted the same carbon emissions reduction target as Harper: 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, the weakest goals within the G7.

But after many environmental groups — such as Dogwood Initiative, Force of Nature, and Lead Now — campaigned to get the vote out to oust Harper through strategic voting, the results of the election only confirmed the largely bipartisan nature of Canadian plutocracy.

So far, Trudeau has not updated Canada's environmental assessment process as promised. The Liberals have sponsored a biased ministerial panel to assess both the Trans Mountain and Energy East pipeline expansions.

Canada's justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, says Canada will embrace the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but that adopting it into Canadian law would be "unworkable."

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has green-lighted the massive Petronas fracking and LNG project, ignoring First Nations protests in defence of Lelu Island. Trudeau has issued work permits for the Site C hydroelectric project in B.C. against the rights of Treaty 8 peoples.

Managed Decline: A Just Clean Energy Transition and Lessons from Canada’s Cod Fishing Industry

By Adam Scott and Matt Maiorana - Oil Change International, September 12, 2016

There’s a clear logic to the global challenge of addressing climate change: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. If we’re serious about tackling the global climate crisis, we need to stop exploring for, developing, and ultimately producing and consuming fossil fuels. This inevitably leads to the decline of the oil, gas, and coal industries.

This leaves us with two clear options. Either we carefully manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry to ensure a smooth and just transition, or we let the chips fall where they may and risk decimating communities that are reliant on the fossil fuel economy. The path we choose will make all the difference to those communities as the decline of fossil fuels becomes inevitable.

A textbook example of how NOT to manage the decline can be found in the painful history of the Newfoundland cod fishery.

One of eastern Canada’s premier industries, the cod fishery defined the economy and the culture of coastline communities for centuries. Commercial fishing off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland dates back as far as 1500, but it wasn’t until factory trawlers were introduced around 1950 that catches became increasingly unsustainable. At its peak in 1968, the catch of northern cod in the Atlantic reached 1.9 million tons. However, the impact of overfishing soon became apparent.

In the 1980s, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans received increasingly dire warnings about the rapidly diminishing fish stock from fishermen and scientists, but these were largely ignored. Much like climate science models today, these marine science models were often ignored when setting quotas and planning for future catches. These plans weren’t set by the scientific models, but instead by politicians. Despite mounting evidence, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans continued to boost catch quotas without regard to the impacts of their actions. A 1992 Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans audit found that the science regarding the health and management of cod stocks “was gruesomely mangled and corrupted to meet political ends.” As a result, fish stocks continued to plummet.

Canada’s New Anti-Terrorism Act and the “Green Syndicalist Menace”

By Jeff Shantz - Anarcho Syndicalist Review, Summer 2015

IWW EUC note: This article was written before the results of the recent election in Canada, in which voters ousted the Conservative Party in favor of the (ostensibly centrist) Liberal Democrats.

On January 30, 2015 the ruling Conservative Party government of Canada introduced its most recent terror panic based legislation, in the form of Bill C-51 (the Anti-Terrorism Act). The Bill has now passed House of Commons vote, on May 6, and is in final approval steps at the Canadian Senate.  Under the guise of “fighting terrorism” (people in Canada are much more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terrorist) C-51 criminalizes not only specific actions (“illegal protests,” “unlawful assembly,” wildcat strikes) but symbolic (including online) expressions of support for things like “economic disruption” (choose what that means).

In many respects C-51 stands as an attack against rank and file mobilization and action, beyond legal collective bargaining contexts, and against working class organizing beyond legislative challenges (i.e. direct actions). The Bill would formalize Conservative Party opinion, as already stated by former Environment Minister and current Finance Minister Joe Oliver who identified environmental activists as radical and terrorists. It is introduced in a context of growing government and corporate concern over emerging alliances against extractives industries.

This is the most recent of Conservative Party attempts to target and criminalize direct action and more militant organizing. It comes at the same time as freedom of information requests unearthed an RCMP “Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment” report on “Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry.” The RCMP document dedicates several sections to attempts to construct environmentalists and indigenous activists as threats to workers (and as terrorists). Clearly they see an important, and from their view necessary, wedge to drive between budding green syndicalist alliances, as between dockworkers and anarchists at some Westcoast ports and between rank and file resource workers and pipeline opponents.

The Bill contains a number of provisions that would explicitly target workers and workplace actions. These would focus on wildcat strikes, strikes of any kind that impact extractives industries or transport, and actions like slowdowns or disruptive job actions. Any workplace actions that occur outside of legally recognized union endeavors or collective agreement provisions could be targeted.

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