Working together to demand action on Environmental Racism

CBTU Canada has joined Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change to engage community and labour activists through a research project on environmental racism.

What does #BlackLivesMatter, and the unshakable moral principle that it represents, have to do with climate change? Everything. Because we can be quite sure that if wealthy white Americans had been the ones left without food and water for days in a giant sports stadium after Hurricane Katrina, even George W. Bush would have gotten serious about climate change.

Similarly, if Australia were at risk of disappearing, and not large parts of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Tony Abbott would be a lot less likely to publicly celebrate the burning of coal as “good for humanity,” as he did on the occasion of the opening of a vast new coal mine.


Continue reading on rabble blog



“Too White to Solve the Climate Crisis?”

Environmental groups have a diversity problem. Here are some ways we can fix it.
By: Jesse Firempong


A US group tracking green groups’ diversity, found 20% of staff at the largest 40 US-based environmental non-governmental organizations identified as people of colour in 2018, even though racialized people make up about 40% of the American population.


“People are scared to talk about race,” says Kenyan-born Wanjiro Ndungu, who works in fundraising at Greenpeace Canada’s Toronto office. She’s also our organization’s diversity manager. “I think what makes change happen is being able to deal with that uncomfortable experience,” she adds.


Greenpeace has created more diverse hiring panels and a new staff equity committee.


Continue reading article here

Disasters foretold: Boeing 737 Max 8 and Lac-Mégantic

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Canada has reportedly still allowed Boeing 737 Max 8s to fly, albeit without passengers after they were grounded almost a year ago. This news emerges despite the fact that crashes involving the plane — Lion Air in Indonesia in October 2018 and, five months later, Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa — killed 346 people, including 18 Canadians. Read the full article here:


United to stop environmental racism


‘In Unity, Strength’ is the foundational belief of the labour movement, but what does unity look like? – Christopher Wilson, CBTU

Over 150 Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) delegates from across Canada and the United States came together to stop environmental racism by participating In the Green Is Not White workshop designed to expose the disproportionate impact of climate change upon racialized and Indigenous communities.

Christopher Wilson’s recent article in Our Times magazine takes the reader inside the room: “ ‘In Unity, Strength’ is the foundational belief of the labour movement, but what does unity look like?” Wilson is 1st Vice-President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Ontario, Canada Chapter; and project lead with the ACW’s (Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change) Environmental Racism Research Project. He is also the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Ontario Region coordinator.


Read the article on


The workshop, delivered at the CBTU Region 1 Conference, opened with a Territorial Acknowledgement that drew linkages to the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples both north and south of the border with a call to action to Trade Unionists to engage in a process of decolonization across Turtle Island.


Read Territory Acknowledgement – Environmental Racism (PDF)


Credit to Denise Hampden, Regional Education Officer Public Service Alliance of Canada



Our Times magazine’s union exchange on “Green is not white”

Green is not white: Environmental Justice for all
by Shanice Regis

The Green is Not White workshop brings cases of environmental racism closer to home by providing local examples and giving participants the tools to identify environmental injustices in their own homes, communities, and workplaces.

The workshop explored the problem of environmental racism, analyzing it within the scope of pressing environmental and climate change issues.

Anishinaabe guest speaker Danielle Boissoneau, of Garden River First Nation, spoke about the resilience of Indigenous peoples in the face of environmental genocide perpetuated by Canadian governments — from the poisoning of their land and water to the forcible removal of Indigenous peoples from their homes. She also discussed her role in helping to organize the Hamilton Harbour Water Walk, which brings awareness to the environmental issues happening in the harbour.




UK’s Greener Jobs Alliance Heralds Committee on Climate Change Report

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The UK’s Green Jobs Alliance, a close counterpart of ACW, is extolling the independent Committee on Climate Change’s recent publication, noting, “This [CCC] report will change your life…”

In a statement, the Greener Jobs Alliance said,


The UK must end its contribution to global warming with a new target of net zero emissions by 2050, the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) told the government on 2 May And for the first time ever in an official report, the government is told to deliver a Just Transition for workers and their communities.


The 2050 target date for zero emissions will disappoint many demonstrating across the UK. But the committee’s call for a Just Transition across many sectors of the economy looks very much like a new industrial strategy for a Zero Carbon Britain. It should now reinforce this message by setting up a Just Transition Advisory Group, with union representation from the industrial, energy, public and voluntary sectors.




ILO Draws on ACW Research to Promote Worker Engagement in Addressing Climate Change

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International Labour Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook Report 2018 draws on York Partnership Programme ACW to promote worker engagement in addressing climate change


World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with jobs
World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with jobs

In its flagship report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs, released in Geneva this month, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) says that action to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will result in sufficient job creation to more than offset job losses of 6 million elsewhere. In fact, twenty-four million new jobs will be created globally by 2030 if the right policies to promote a greener economy are put in place.

The ILO’s report devotes a key section to the importance of workers organizations, such as unions, in reducing the harmful impact of climate change, stating that “… the participation of workers’ and employers’ organizations must be integrated in mitigation and adaptation policies.”

The UN agency notes that environmental clauses negotiated into collective agreements can have a positive impact, and draws upon data contained in the unique Green Collective Agreements Database compiled by York University’s Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective (ACW) research project.

“Through collective agreements, employers and trade unions have worked together to identify areas, including GHG emissions, where a reduction in environmental impact could be achieved without losses in jobs, pay and working conditions,” it states. The ILO report includes a detailed table of 19 green clauses from collective agreements, grouped into five categories including green procurement, green travel, cutting waste and saving resources, the right to refuse work, and whistle-blower protection.

“I am delighted that our research on worker agency in reducing climate change is being taken up by such a prestigious and influential body as the United Nations International Labour Organization,” said Principal Investigator Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé of York University’s Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

York University’s ACW research project is winning increased recognition by international and Canadian institutions. The ILO report is the second time a UN agency has used research produced by the ACW, following the citation of ACW’s work by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) secretariat in 2016.

As well, Dr. Lipsig-Mummé was named finalist for prestigious Impact Award by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in 2017, and she was the 2018 winner of the Sefton-Williams Award for Contributions to Labour Relations by the University of Toronto’s Woodsworth College and the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources.

The only tripartite U.N. agency, since 1919 the International Labour Organization (ILO) brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective (ACW) research project is a SSHRC-funded partnership grant which brings together 56 individual researchers and 25 partner organizations from seven countries, and is based at York University.

World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs, published by the ILO, is available from the ILO website at:–en/index.htm


Download the full report (PDF)


Our Times Cover Story: A Green Economy for All

The cover story of latest issue of Our Times, Canada’s independent labour magazine, features the Environmental Racism project of Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW). Journalist Hanseena Manek takes us inside the workings of this exciting initiative which is a partnership between ACW and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Photos for the article were provided by Rose Ha of Photography for Social Good.

“We want to ensure that the new green economy is inclusive of racialized people,” says Christopher Wilson, a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), and Ontario regional coordinator for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). “Climate change is at the forefront of a number of policy discussions, and we want to be part of that process. If we’re not, the transition to a new green economy is not going to be just, and we’re going be left on the margins.”

Wilson, along with PSAC Ontario union negotiator Jawara Gairey, is leading a ground-breaking research project called Environmental Racism: The Impact of Climate Change on Racialized Canadian Communities: An Environmental Justice Perspective. The initiative was launched in 2017 by York University’s ACW project, in collaboration with CBTU. Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) itself grew out of the university’s Work in a Warming World research program, founded and headed by professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé.




(Re)claiming Just Transition

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Who controls the meaning of the phrase “Just Transition”?

Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) Collaborating Researcher, Professor Dimitris Stevis of Colorado State University, says that we have recently entered a period of deep contestation over the ownership and meaning of Just Transition.

As any concept, whether democracy or sustainability, becomes more prominent it becomes increasingly contested. This is no mere disagreement over definitions. Rather it reflects competition over investing terms with particular meanings.

That is now the case with Just Transition, a concept that has been around for several decades but has only recently become globalized. It is important that we demand that green transitions serve the common good because they are not inherently socially just and, in fact, are frequently less just than other transitions, such as gender or racial emancipation. Nor are they necessarily ecologically just. Decarbonized industrial policy can be as ecologically unjust as the current, carbon-based, industrial policy by externalizing harms across space, time and ecosystems.

It is, therefore, important to think about it systematically so that we can, at the very least, differentiate initiatives that co-opt and dilute its promise from initiatives that contribute to a global politics of social and ecological emancipation.



Who Deserves a Just Transition?

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In a new article published by, international trade and climate policy researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood says deciding who is included in the Just Transition conversation is a more complicated question than it first appears.

If a productive, equitable outcome for all workers is the goal of a Just Transition, then we must look beyond the immediate impacts on fossil fuel workers and consider who else may be vulnerable. Failing to put equity considerations first can result in Just Transition policies that ignore the people most in need of support.

As governments increasingly take up the Just Transition cause and start putting money into social projects and programmes, these equity considerations need to be put at the forefront of the conversation.

Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood (@hadrianmk) is a researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and a contributor to Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change.





Fate of 3,500 coal-power workers, and more, at stake with new ‘just transition’ task force

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The task force will lay out a path to help Canada transition to the new, job-rich low carbon economy.


It has been a long time coming. The Trudeau government is poised to launch Canada’s first federal task force on a “just transition” for workers affected by policies intended to mitigate climate change. In this case, it’s the government’s plan to virtually eliminate traditional coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, which may put up to 3,500 coal miners and power workers out of work in several provinces.

The task force announcement comes more than a year after the government declared its intention to phase out coal in November 2016. Since then, coal-dependent communities have been left wondering if they had been forgotten by the federal government, and labour leaders have been calling for action by Ottawa.

Establishing the Just Transition Task Force for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities is more than good policy— it’s good politics.

Policy-wise, the terms of reference released by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna on Feb. 16 task the nine-member panel and two cochairs with providing knowledge, options, and recommendations to the minister on implementing a just transition for workers and communities directly affected by the accelerated phase-out of coalfired electricity in Canada. The federal budget included $35-million to support those efforts.

Politically, by acknowledging and acting on the need for a just transition for coal miners and power workers, the government is helping to ensure that it continues to generate the social licence required to combat climate change, and to move the country down the challenging path to a low-carbon economy.

Public opinion currently supports climate change-fighting efforts, but if working people are left with greater economic insecurity than before, a backlash could be generated—the same kind of backlash that generated millions of votes south of the border for Donald Trump and his anti-Paris Agreement stance. Nobody wants that.

In affirming this proactive approach, Ms. McKenna acknowledged in a statement that: “We know the environment and the economy go hand in hand, so we’re committed to making that transition a fair one for coal workers and communities.”

Members of the panel will have diverse backgrounds, including workforce development and sustainable development experts, a past executive from a major electricity company or utility, and a municipal representative appointed in consultation with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The five remaining members will be drawn from labour, including the Canadian Labour Congress, a provincial federation of labour, and three from unions representing affected workers.

It makes sense that there be strong representation from labour.

Unions support the kind of action that links reducing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, with the growth of jobs that “green” work itself. Active workplace environment committees promote and practise conservation. Unions provide green education programs for their members, and have been on the front lines with allies in the environmental movement demanding positive change. Recently, Canadian and European Union unions have begun exchanging “climate bargaining” clauses when negotiating with employers.

Unions have also been working closely with Canada’s universities to research the best approaches to climate action in the workplace. The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) project based at York University brings together 56 individual researchers and 25 partner organizations and unions in seven countries, and its ground-breaking research on the idea of “just transition” has been recognized by the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The world of work is both a major cause of climate change and a potentially powerful actor in slowing global warming. Unions and professional associations are very well placed for adapting work itself in order to mitigate greenhouse gas production.

Despite generating only 11 per cent of Canada’s electricity supply, coal-fired electricity is responsible for 72 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector, which is Canada’s third highest greenhouse gas-creating sector after oil and gas, and transportation.

This makes ending coal a good place to start. Achieving a just transition to a low-carbon economy on that scale calls for strategic creativity in repurposing coal communities so that new enterprises are enticed to set up shop in a former coal region, creating a need for new and retrained expertise.

Federal and provincial governments will need to contribute to every phase of these green transitions. It will take some years, but there are already models in Australia, Germany, and elsewhere, for transitioning not only fossilfuel workers but also formerly fossil-fuel communities.

That’s why this important first step will teach us a lot about how we can help workers and communities join the emerging renewable energy boon. The task force will hear from stakeholders from local communities, labour, industry, clean tech, finance, academics, and non-governmental organizations, and will make site visits to a representative number of facilities and communities that will be affected by the coal phase-out.

When the task force makes its recommendation in the fall, let’s be ready to ensure that there is the political support to turn these ideas into action.

Carla Lipsig-Mummé is a professor of work and labour studies at York University, and winner of the 2018 Sefton-Williams Award for Contributions to Labour Relations.
The Hill Times


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200,000 High-Carbon Workers Face a “Terminal Decline” Without Federal Support

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People living and working in Canada’s high-carbon oil, gas and coal towns are worried about the impact of moving to a zero-carbon economy will have on their livelihoods – and for good reason.

According to a column published in the Hill Times by researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, hundreds of thousands of Canadians face a “terminal decline” as Canadian governments ramp up their climate policy ambitions.

“At the extreme, nearly the entire economy of Fort McMurray, Alta., is directly tied to the oil industry, including one in every three jobs,” writes Mertins-Kirkwood. “Canada’s social safety system isn’t robust enough to support a ‘just and fair transition’ to the clean economy for all workers, leaving fossil fuel-dependent communities at risk.”

In his new report titled “Making decarbonization work for workers: Policies for a just transition to a zero-carbon economy in Canada,” co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces project (ACW), Mertins-Kirkwood shows potentially affected fossil fuel workers are not limited to Alberta. From Fort St. John B.C., to Bay Roberts, N.L., there are communities across the country with deep dependence on the fossil fuel industry, “And they are vulnerable,” he warns.

Communities concerned about the need for a just transition for affected high-carbon workers will be watching the federal budget closely when it is released on February 27. In his column, Mertins-Kirkwood says, “It’s time our government put forward a plan to fulfill its promise of a ‘just and fair transition’ to the clean economy.”




Low Energy Construction at City Building (Glasgow)

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The European Housing Crisis is the subject of the latest issue of CLR News. Featured in the journal is an article on City Building (Glasgow) by the ProBE (Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment) research team, based at the ACW partner institution, the University of Westminster.

City Building offers an example of how to address the housing crisis. With this publicly accountable model, 2,200 construction workers are employed directly under good trade union conditions, an inclusive manufacturing arm is integrated, a substantial programme of vocational education and training is offered for young people, and good quality and energy efficient social housing is provided for working people in Glasgow and surrounding areas.


Low energy construction 

Glasgow House
Glasgow House

City Building has developed the Glasgow House (see photo), the first of the kind in Scotland. These innovative low energy houses have high levels of insulation and airtightness, efficient heating systems and solar thermal panels and demonstration a two-thirds reduction in energy costs compared with a typical there-bedroom house. The key features of these highly-insulated timber frame houses, with pre-manufactured floor and roof cassettes manufactured by RSBi, are: high levels of insulation; windows and sun rooms to suit orientation capturing sun energy; simple forms of construction using locally-sourced and assembled materials; efficient heating systems using solar thermal panels; educating residents to benefit from special features in their houses.

The City Building workforce is currently involved in various energy efficiency schemes including solar thermal, photovoltaic, combined heat & power, ground source heat pump & voltage & boiler optimization technologies. A 2017 example is off-grid district heating installation, utilizing a Large Scale Air Source Heat Pump as the primary heat source to 350 properties at Hillpark Drive in South Glasgow. City Building also utilizes its own Building Management Systems Team to develop, implement and monitor control systems within Glasgow City Council and The Wheatley Housing Group to ensure buildings are performing as efficiently as possible, in many instances reducing utility bills by as much as 30%.


Trade union involvement

In City Building, the unionisation rate is reported to be nearly 100 per cent, across three unions: UNITE (services, plus former UCATT joiners), UNISON (office staff) and Community (remaining RSBi staff). The Joint Trade Union Council, which includes representatives from each trade union, actively engages with the management of City Building.


“City Building (Glasgow): An inspiring Model for Social Housing Production,” was written by Linda Clarke, Colin Gleeson and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen of the University of Westminster. It is published in the CLR News 3/2017 (European Institute for Construction Labour Research).


Read CLR News No 3/2017


Solar Panels Will Move Forward in 2018, Predicts ACW expert

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ACW Co-investigator Warren Mabee of Queen’s University expects more advances in solar panel development in 2018.

“This is a sector that’s growing faster than any of the other energy sectors out there,” he told the CBC. “It’s going to continue moving forward.”

Record cheap electricity is transforming world energy markets as Canada struggles to keep up, reports the CBC. But Mabee is also looking for 2018 to provide key advances in solar panel development as the industry inches closer to grid parity — the point at which it might be cheaper for people to generate electrons on their roof than to buy electrons from a utility.

“It might not happen next year, but we’re moving closer and closer,” he said. “That’s going to be a hugely disruptive moment in the Canadian power industry.”

Warren Mabee is Canada research chair in renewable energy development and implementation at Queen`s University in Kingston, Ont.


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Climate Change and the Workplace often Overlooked by Experts

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If 80% of carbon dioxide emissions come from industrial production, as the International Labour Organization has suggested, then why isn’t more effort devoted to mitigating climate change in the workplace?

That’s the question ACW co-investigator Caleb Goods, based at the University of Western Australia, is asking in a new research note published by the Journal of Industrial Relations. “A central, yet, overlooked, aspect of contemporary employment relations is the growing impact climate change is having on workplace relations,” writes Goods.

With the world of work being responsible for so much in greenhouse gas emissions, he adds, “the workplace evidently needs to be a site of deep environmental change, a transformation that will shape and be shaped by core employment relations (ER) issues.”

Workers and the economy are being impacted by rising temperatures. For example, a 2015 heat wave in India resulted in taxi unions in Kolkata urging drivers to avoid working during the hottest periods of the day. Such rationalization of working hours will become more common in the future.

Even efforts to mitigate climate change will impact workers. As we transition to a low-carbon economy, people will discover that “green jobs,” as Goods points out, are often poorly paid, lesser skilled, non-union, and are in male-dominated areas of the economy such as energy and construction. These jobs will be replacing better-paid, and more secure high-carbon jobs, such as the 60,000 jobs in the Australian coal industry that were lost in 2015-2016.

The good news is that efforts toward “climate bargaining” can provide possible models for meaningfully advancing climate change actions in the workplace. Goods notes out that enterprises tend to have better climate outcomes when workers are involved. “More extensive and deeper participation, direct and representative, in workplace climate planning and action accompanies greater organizational climate change commitments,” he writes.


Read more in the Journal of Industrial Relations


What Killed the Energy East Pipeline?

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In the fall, TransCanada Corporation announced that it was pulling the plug on its Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline Projects, to the dismay of their supporters and the delight of their detractors. As ACW Co-investigator Warren Mabee of Queen’s University argues, the reasons for Energy East’s demise are more complicated than they might appear.

Map of pipeline


In his media release on October 5, TransCanada President and Chief Executive Officer Russ Girling declared that, “After careful review of changed circumstances, we will be informing the National Energy Board that we will no longer be proceeding with our Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications.”

Girlings’s remarks pointed the finger at the federal regulatory system for the cancellation of the projects. Others piled on.

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Sheer took to Twitter to blame Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying: “He’s added new hurdles to Canadian energy producers that don’t apply to foreign companies selling into Canada.” Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall blamed the Liberals for Energy East’s demise because they “moved the goalposts at the last moment by asking the regulator to consider the impact of upstream greenhouse gas emissions.”

On the other side, a coalition of environmentalists, municipalities and indigenous groups that opposed the projects were celebrating a victory. “Both the Northern Gateway fight and this Energy East one show that when First Nations stand together, supported by non-Indigenous allies, we win,” Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake told the CBC.

But Queen’s University’s Warren Mabee poses the question in a recent article on, “Did regulation kill Energy East?”

“In many ways, this mega-project would have been the most ambitious infrastructure build ever undertaken in Canada, surpassing the political difficulties associated with the construction of the national railways at the end of 19th century,” writes Mabee.

At more than 4,500 kilometres, the project would have been the longest pipeline in the country, requiring the co-operation among the federal government, six provinces, 75 municipalities and more than 50 First Nations as it spanned the continent from Alberta to New Brunswick.

So, did regulation kill Energy East? “Many other factors also hurt its chances of getting the green light,” concludes Mabee, adding a new perspective to what is sure to be an ongoing debate over the future of pipelines in Canada.



ACW Collaborating Researcher Lee Loftus Named to BC Climate Advisory Council

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The province of British Columbia has created a new advisory council to provide strategic advice to the government on climate action paired with economic growth, and has appointed Lee Loftus, ACW Collaborating Researcher and project Steering Committee member, to the council.

Environment Minister George Heyman said the council will be charged with developing a new climate strategy for the province while balancing BC’s economic needs. He further announced that he will introduce legislation next spring that mandates the government to cut emissions by 40 per cent over the next 13 years.

“The reason we’ve put together this advisory council today is to help us work through the issues of how we balance reductions across industry, across buildings and homes, and across transportation in order to meet those targets,” he told Global News.

Loftus is a supporter of reducing GHG emissions through improved construction practices. As Business Agent of the BC Insulators union, he has long advocated for improved training and construction methods to help combat climate change.

A recent report published by ACW, called “Promoting Climate Literacy in British Columbia’s Apprenticeship System: Evaluating One’s Union Efforts to Overcome Attitudinal Barriers to Low Carbon Construction,” documented Loftus’ efforts.

“I’m trying to instill that pride back into people; this really is a skill set, this is really something you can be proud of. Because what you’re doing doesn’t just give you a pay check, it actually provides an advantage to the community and an advantage to the environment,” Loftus told researchers Corinne Tallon and John Calvert.

Industry representatives on the council include Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers past president and CEO Dave Collyer. The co-chairs of the council are Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith and Teck Resources Limited sustainability and external affairs senior vice-president Marcia Smith.

The council will hold its initial meeting soon, followed by quarterly meetings where advice and feedback on climate policy will be forwarded to the environment and climate change strategy minister and the climate action secretariat on a regular basis, according to a government statement.

Book Launch: Climate Change and Gender in Rich Countries

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Friday, November 10th 2017
5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.

Noah Meltz Reading Room
CIRHR Library
University of Toronto
121 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 2E8




Climate change is at the forefront of ideas about public policy, the economy and labour issues. However, the gendered dimensions of climate change and the public policy issues associated with it in wealthy nations
are much less understood.

Climate Change and Gender in Rich Countries covers a wide range of issues dealing with work and working life. The book demonstrates the gendered distinctions in both experiences of climate change and the ways that public policy deals with it. The book draws on case studies from the UK, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Spain and the US to address key issues such as: how gendered distinctions affect the most vulnerable; paid and unpaid work; and activism on climate change. It is argued that including gender as part of the analysis will lead to more equitable and stronger societies as solutions to climate change advance.

This volume will be of great relevance to students, scholars, trade unionists and international organisations with an interest in climate change, gender, public policy and environmental studies.

CARLA LIPSIG-MUMMÉ, Project Lead, Work in a Warming World (W3) and Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) research programmes.

MARJORIE GRIFFIN COHEN, Simon Fraser University

ELLIE PERKINS, York University
Canadian Indigenous Female Leadership and Political Agency on Climate Change

KENDRA COULTER, Brock University
Towards Humane Jobs: Recognizing Gendered, Multispecies Intersections and Possibilities

LINDA CLARKE, University of Westminster
Women and Low Energy Construction in Europe: A New Opportunity?

BIPASHA BARUAH, Western University
Renewable Inequity? Women’s Employment in Clean Energy in Industrialized, Emerging and Developing Economies

Charley Beresford and Lee Loftus discuss the “Jobs for Tomorrow” report

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A recent report by the Columbia Institute concluded that getting to “net zero” emissions by 2050 could generate nearly 20 million jobs in Canada. (See our post on the report)

According to the authors, Jobs for Tomorrow is the first study to predict potential impacts on the construction industry if Canada implements policy and investments, both public and private, to meet our Paris Agreement goals.

The study found that serious efforts to decarbonize the Canadian economy will create significant opportunities for those in construction trades.

ACW caught up with Columbia Institute’s executive director and research team leader for the report, Charley Beresford, in Vancouver. We also spoke with Lee Loftus, who is Business Manager of BC Insulators Local 118, and Executive Director of The British Columbia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council, which is a partner organization with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) project. The report was commissioned by Canada’s Building Trades Unions.


ACW: Charley, in what important way does your research further our understanding of the relationship between climate change mitigation and adaptation, and employment?

Charley Beresford
Charley Beresford

CB: This is a significant contribution to climate action dialogue and practice; here at home in Canada and in other countries too. We are already getting broad enquiries. Jobs for Tomorrow looks at job opportunities as we transition to a low carbon economy through a new lens — Building Trades — and its clear that we can’t transition to a low carbon economy without the active participation of people who work in the building trades. We will need huge build outs in clean electricity systems, greening our buildings; both new and old, and in our transportation systems. These are the three pathways to Net Zero that we focussed on in our report, but it should be noted that there are building trades implications in all sectors and the jobs numbers we have described in the report are consequently conservative.

ACW: Were either of you surprised by the findings?

Lee Loftus
Lee Loftus

CB: Yes, we were. When you consider that we will need new infrastructure and that it is the building trades who build things, it’s logical, but the scale of our findings surprised us.

LL: I was not surprised by the findings. The work we do in the construction sector is always leading edge in both technology and design, so as we move to a lower carbon economy I would expect our industry to be the builders delivering the infrastructure that will help us meet Canada’s commitment to 2050 and Net Zero. The numbers are larger than I expected and I am glad they broke out direct and in-direct jobs rather than trying to lump them together.

ACW: The report avoids the use of the term “green jobs.” Why so?

CB: The term “green jobs” has many interpretations. Some think it applies only to those jobs that are directly interfacing with our natural environment. We think it applies to those jobs that contribute to a reduction in green house gas emissions. In the case of Jobs for Tomorrow, we are not talking new types of jobs, we are talking about existing skills applied to new types of projects.

LL: Green Jobs are great jobs, but there is too much confusion in the term. We avoided this job description even though many will claim the green projects are green jobs, but they are just an extension of what we do today. The electrical, Run of the River and Dam construction, district energy, bio mass is work we have been doing since I started in construction back in the 1970’s. So to call them green would be miss leading as nothing has changed.

ACW: Lee, do workers constructing “green buildings” require special training? If so, should infrastructure spending include any training needed for the workforce?

LL: That’s an interesting question. The construction industry is always embracing tech change and the required training. There will be some additional training required, but not that much. What really needs to be reinforced is the need for infrastructure spending to require mandatory apprenticeship training. The Building Trades believe that its workforce should be made up of 25% of workers to be in training at all times.

ACW: Charley, how will reducing emissions from the highest emitting areas of the economy – Canada’s mining, oil and gas industry – impact efforts to create jobs in other sectors? Is there a need for “just transition?”

CB: As Canada transitions to a low carbon economy, investments and jobs will follow. Oil and gas will play a different role in the economy. Investment is already driving change, as evidenced by International fossil fuel companies divesting themselves from oil sands projects. No one is suggesting that there will be an immediate reduction, but there will be a transition.

ACW: Is there a danger that the billions of dollars committed to be spent on infrastructure by governments could be directed toward projects that will not help to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions? e.g. highways instead of transit? If so, what impact would that have?

CB: Our opportunity to take action on climate change through our infrastructure investments is here now. How we choose to build our infrastructure will influence our low carbon economy trajectory. It’s important that infrastructure investment decisions be accompanied by a climate impact analysis.

ACW: The study suggests a small increase in hydroelectic power and a large expansion of wind power. With public resistance to new dam construction in BC, and new wind farms in Ontario, for example, will public opinion have to adjust in order to achieve these job-creation goals?

CB: The reaction to Manitoba’s wind farms was very different than in Ontario. Farmers there welcome the income the wind farms bring. How programs roll out matters. Distributed energy — producing electricity closer to where it is being consumed is one of the pathways forward – for hydro and other sources of clean electricity, and community engagement is essential.

ACW: Lee, what effect do you hope the release of the report and its findings will have on government policy, and public opinion?

LL: We think this report will provoke government to looks for a pathway concerning jobs and climate change. We think this is well thought out and will become a basis for public policy at all three levels of government.

As to the Public Opinion, we are hopeful that the public will better understand the role of the construction industry plays in our economy and how we have been leading change for generations. Any new design, any new technology, any new shift in public policy is always delivered by those who build it and that’s what we do, we build things. We want them to know none of this is new to us and hopefully they will see a future in joining our workforce to take an advantage of good paying and community supporting jobs.

This document is something we have been lacking for our members. We never (or rarely) promote the work we do, we just move to the next job. The report will allow us to explain to our members that the work they do today and the Jobs for tomorrow are the answers to Net Zero by 2050. It will allow them to tell their children at the dinner table, that what they did at work today is helping save the environment. It should change the conversation on the jobsites and in the lunchroom to a positive. It should allow our members to look beyond a specific project and look to the bigger picture.

CB: We are hoping this landmark study points the way forward to accelerated investment in the low-carbon infrastructure we need for a low carbon economy! The jobs numbers are reassuring for those who may be worried about whether there are jobs in a low carbon world. In the meantime, we know we must exponentially intensify our climate commitments to keep the hope of staying within 2 degrees of warming possible. Our study shows that the more intensely we build out the low-carbon infrastructure we need, the more we create good, family supporting jobs. Good for the planet and good for our economy!

ACW: Thank you Charley Beresford and Lee Loftus!

Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions

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Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions
By Tyee Bridge and Richard Gilbert

July 2017


Columbia Institute
2600—1055 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6E 3R5

Commissioned by Canada’s Building Trades Unions


This paper explores some possible implications for the building trades in the context of global warming and Canada’s commitments to climate action. The construction industry plays a critical role in the national economy by supporting production in all other sectors. Rather than resulting in net job losses, a net zero Canadian economy has the potential to create huge opportunities for those in construction and other industries.

As one of 197 international signatories to the Paris Agreement, Canada has pledged to achieve net zero emissions — a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and their absorption across Canada by natural and man-made means — between 2050 and 2100 in order to keep global warming below 2°C and work toward 1.5°C of warming.

Without policies in place to address global warming, the world is on track to reach average temperatures of over 4°C by the end of this century.2 Canada’s current national commitment is to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

This paper goes beyond Canada’s current commitments, accelerating the transition to envision an aspirational scenario in which the Canadian economy has achieved net zero by 2050.





A paper from a colleague organization



Trump’s first 100 days – Pipelines and immigration policies strengthening Right and dividing Left

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During his first one hundred days President Trump delivered on some of his ‘promises’, failed in others, and changed his mind in many instances. But, overall, he has promoted a politics of intolerance and authoritarianism while, at the same time, he has been ‘disciplined’ by US capitalism and its aggressive geopolitics that have been evident for some time now.


In evaluating Trump’s first 100 days it is important to recognize that he has given voice to some nativist elements within US politics that had hitherto been marginalized. But it is also important to underscore that he has given voice and a cover for even larger intolerant elements that have been integral parts of the Republican coalition for several decades.


Trump’s travel orders and immigration practices breed authoritarianism not only because they are taking place but, also because they are justified in nativist terms. The relevant state agencies have become more aggressive and, unfortunately, unions in the sector are supportive of such politics. The continued shift of some of these unions to the right is adding to the authoritarian wing of the US labor movement that includes substantial elements of the police and other law and order entities. It is not surprising that Republicans, in states where they have recently attacked public sector unions, have sought to treat law and order unions differently from other unions.


The Administration’s decisions regarding pipelines have reinforced the fossil fuel economy while Trump’s gestures towards the building and construction unions have found some willing responders and are reinforcing their business unionist tendencies. It is not likely that renewables will decline as a component of the US energy mix. In fact, they are likely to grow. For every California, however, there will be a Texas where the production of renewable energy is a purely economic act unassociated with a climate or broader environmental policy plan. We can well look down the road to another Superfund, except that the next time around it will involve abandoned solar and wind farms.

Health care

Trump’s health care proposals are drawing the line against any broadening of the public domain. His choice for Education Secretary deepens the parasitical privatization of the public sector that allows profiteers to have access to and benefit from the public budget while limiting their risks. In all these moves he continues to appeal to those elements of the working and lower middle classes who need someone to blame for their precarity –whether women, blacks or immigrants- other than the real culprits.

At the same time, however, the new president is contributing to the reassertion of US capitalism over US society and beyond. His claims about keeping jobs in the US are revealed to be empty public relations, while US capital and capitalists – and the associated geopolitics – are “disciplining” Trump. Increasingly his broad economic and strategic choices affirm the direction of US imperialism as it has unfolded over the last few administrations – from the pivot to East Asia to reorganizing West Asia.

Trump as cover for “crony capitalists”

But here it is important to understand that it is not just Trump that is moving the USA in an authoritarian direction. Rather, the intolerant, crony capitalist elements that have long controlled the Republican Party and the USA House and Senate can now use Trump as an excuse or a decoy for accomplishing what they have been seeking for decades.

If Trump is someone we can readily associate with regressive policies, we should not lose sight of the class-based and conservative social politics emanating from the rest of the Republican Party, as evident in the priorities of Vice-President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The irony may be that by the time they are done hiding behind Trump they may discover that it is too late to reverse the road to a deeper authoritarianism that will devour them, as well.

Democrats struggle to respond

And, of course, Trump and his allies are successful because the dominant forces within the Democratic Party, in their obsessive determination for centrism, have allowed these reactionaries to move the center very far to the right. Moreover, they have resolutely resisted those elements of the Democratic Party that could, in fact, spearhead an alternative agenda.

This has not taken place simply because the Democrats are tactically forced to follow the Republicans in their rightward move. Rather, it is evidence that the dominant forces within the Democratic Party are themselves central elements of the capitalist alliance that rules the USA and which supports the privatization of the public domain and the atomization of society. President Obama’s decision to speak to a financial entity for $400,000 should not leave us with any doubts about who controls the Democratic Party at present and the long road facing those who want a more democratic and egalitarian USA.


Dimitris Stevis is Professor of the Department of Political Science at Colorado State University, and Co-investigator of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research programme.

It’s time for a green jobs plan for Ontario

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By Mark Rowlinson and Keith Brooks
Hamilton Spectator

Ontario’s climate plan will create jobs. Ontario needs to make sure that they are good jobs that go to people who need them most.

Ontario’s first cap-and-trade auction raised $472 million last month, which means that Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan has some funding. That plan includes an investment of between $1.9 and $2.7 billion over a five-year period in increasing the energy efficiency of Ontario’s buildings, which could create nearly 33,000 jobs.

These jobs can be good jobs that provide living wages, benefits plans, and career opportunities. The jobs can also provide career pathways for disadvantaged Ontarians who may have faced barriers to employment. But that won’t happen, unless the province commits to making it so.

In a new report titled Building an Ontario Green Jobs Strategy, we make some suggestions for how Ontario can make this vision a reality — where addressing climate change also helps alleviate social and economic inequity.



Mark Rowlinson is the Assistant to the Canadian National Director of the United Steelworkers and the president of Blue Green Canada. Keith Brooks is the Programs Director at Environmental Defence and a Director of Blue Green Canada. They are also associated with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change project as a Collaborating Researcher and Co-investigator, respectively. 


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Climate: a Union Issue in Canada

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by Martina Frisk


When unions and employers negotiate collective agreements, they speak mainly about wages and conditions. But climate change can have a place in the discussions, and even included in the contract clauses,” says Carla Lipsig-Mummé, professor of labour studies at York University, Canada.


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The just green transition: Canada’s proactive approach

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By Béla Galgóczi, Senior Researcher at the ETUI

The EU is losing its leading position in climate and energy policymaking

In the search for good practices and ambitious policies and initiatives on how to manage climate change and the transformation to a zero carbon economy, we increasingly need to look beyond Europe.

Since 2004, Europe has been a leader in adopting ambitious climate policies. However, in recent years the EU has lost momentum in greening its economy and its leadership in this area is eroding rapidly. Since 2011, clean energy investment in Europe has halved, mostly due to austerity and policy uncertainty. Progress in energy efficiency has also been extremely modest and much of the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions recorded in Europe is attributable to slow growth and recession.

Europe is losing ground: New investment into renewable energy, bn USD (Bela Galgoczi, Europe’s energy transformation in the austerity trap, ETUI, Brussels, 2015)

The recent ‘Clean Energy’ package launched by the European Commission can be seen as a recognition of the loss of Europe’s former leading role in the green transformation. While it is a positive sign that the Commission has once again set itself the target of ‘achieving global leadership in renewables’, it does not mention that this was a position already occupied by the EU between 2004 and 2011.

The success of the COP21 in Paris showed that there is now a global commitment to getting climate change under control. Several regions and countries outside Europe are setting out ambitious energy and climate policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency and move towards a greener production and consumption model.

Canada, which until only recently had a bad reputation in this area, is catching up with its energy policy and green economy ambitions. Europe has clearly had a better track record in the past, but in terms of current climate policies and ambitions, Canada and certain US green states are outperforming it. Furthermore, it is China that now takes the global leadership in clean energy investment, far outstripping Europe.



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African Trade Unions Embrace Climate Change

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Trade unions in Africa are moving to embrace climate change and green collar jobs that preserve or restore the environment in traditional sectors such as manufacturing and construction, or in emerging green sectors such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.

For years, the trade union movement in Africa has turned a blind eye to issues of climate change, choosing to focus mainly on occupational safety and health despite the disastrous effects of the phenomenon on ordinary jobs that are the lifeline of unionism.

With clear global indications that climate change and green jobs are the new phenomenon, trade unions in Africa have embarked on researches to find ways of adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change and embracing green jobs.


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Biggest US coal company funded dozens of groups questioning climate change

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Peabody Energy, America’s biggest coalmining company, has funded at least two dozen groups that cast doubt on manmade climate change and oppose environment regulations, analysis by the Guardian reveals.

The funding spanned trade associations, corporate lobby groups, and industry front groups as well as conservative thinktanks and was exposed in court filings last month.

The coal company also gave to political organisations, funding twice as many Republican groups as Democratic ones.

Peabody, the world’s biggest private sector publicly traded coal company, was long known as an outlier even among fossil fuel companies for its public rejection of climate science and action. But its funding of climate denial groups was only exposed in disclosures after the coal titan was forced to seek bankruptcy protection in April, under competition from cheap natural gas.


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Green jobs grow as oil employment falls

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The number of jobs in the global renewable energy industry grew by 5 per cent last year, in stark contrast to the steep losses suffered by the oil and gas sector.

Solar, wind and other clean energy companies employed 8.1m people worldwide in 2015, up from 7.7m the previous year, according to data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental body based in Abu Dhabi.

Another 1.3m people were working in the large hydropower industry, which Irena counts separately because numbers fluctuate so sharply from year to year they would distort the overall picture.

The agency’s figures reflect a global shift that has seen renewable power soar in big Asian markets and falter in older markets such as the EU, where green energy jobs fell for the fourth year amid sluggish economic growth.

While overall growth in green energy jobs has slowed from the 18 per cent annual increase the agency reported last year, it still represents a brighter employment picture than in the oil and gas industry, where tumbling crude prices have exacted a heavy toll on employment.


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Four Massachusetts teens just won a major victory for the environment

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On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state hasn’t abided by the environmental reforms laid out in the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act. The decision overturned rulings by lower courts that sided with the state, marking a reversal from previous opinions. Now, the state’s Department of Energy Protection must take a number of specific measures to make sure that by 2020, the state emits 25% fewer greenhouse gases than it did in 1990.


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The arsonists of Fort McMurray have a name

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By Martin Lukacs

These arsonists have a name and they’re hiding in plain view—because their actions, at the moment, are still considered legal. They’re the companies that helped turn the boreal forest into a flammable tinder-box. The same companies that have undermined attempts to rein in carbon emissions. The same companies that, by their very design, chase profits with no mind for the ecological and human consequences.

An uncovered report produced in 1970 by Imperial Oil, the Canadian branch of ExxonMobil, put it crystal clear: “Since pollution means disaster to the affected species, the only satisfactory course of action is to prevent it.” Except the oil company proceeded to spend decades lying about what they knew, and ensured the disaster would be as profound as possible.


Read the full article in The Guardian


Get rich, or save the planet? Why not both?

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by Dan Woynillowicz, Merran Smith and Clare Demerse


The federal government wasn’t the only thing that changed in 2015. Global energy markets roiled with unexpected changes: oil and gas prices plunged, as did capital investment. Coal companies were going bankrupt. And many analysts predicted that clean energy investment would similarly stall out; how, they asked, could renewable energy possibly compete with cheap oil, gas and coal?

But clean energy did compete — and it won.

As Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports, more money was invested in clean energy in 2015 — a record US$329 billion — than in oil and gas (US$321 billion). That trend also held when you looked only at investments in electricity generation, with investment in renewable energy outstripping investment in fossil fuel power by a margin greater than two-to-one.

The countries that saw most of this investment are also worth noting: for the first time, more money was invested in clean energy in developing countries than in developed ones. Clean energy investment in China was up 17 per cent to US$110 billion last year, and China is expected to remain the world’s dominant clean energy player in the years ahead. India saw clean energy investment rise 23 per cent to US$10.9 billion — and with some of the most aggressive renewable energy growth targets in the world, India is just getting started.

Investment was up also in leading developed countries: Investment in the United States grew 7 per cent to US$56 billion, rose 3 per cent to US$43.6 billion in Japan, and the UK saw investment grow 23 per cent to US$23.4 billion.

How did Canada fare? Not so well: we saw a dramatic 46 per cent drop in clean energy investment, to US$4 billion.

But there are signs that 2015 will prove anomalous, rather than the start of a trend. The end of 2015 was marked by a flurry of changes in Canada’s clean energy landscape: new commitments to renewable power in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the promise of carbon pricing in more provinces and a renewed federal commitment to climate leadership on the global stage in Paris. This was reinforced by the Vancouver Declaration, which saw provincial and territorial leaders and the new prime minister agree to work together to develop a pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, and implement it by early 2017.

“The future markets, the technologies, the energy systems will be low-carbon,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, said during a visit to Canada earlier this year. “Whether you build the next pipeline or not … the economy of Canada will not be centered around a fossil-fuel based extractive economy.”

While carbon-based fuels will remain an important part of the global energy system and Canada’s economy for decades to come, their dominance and longevity are increasingly uncertain. Take just two of our fossil fuel exports — oil and gas.

Canada’s oilsands are a high-cost, high-carbon source of oil, so today’s low oil prices are already posing a challenge to the sector. As we move to an increasingly low-carbon world, demand for oil — particularly oil with a high carbon footprint — can be expected to drop.

A perfect illustration of what the transition to low-carbon means for oil demand comes from projections that show a significant scaling-up of electric cars. A recent analysis from Bloomberg found that continued declines in the cost of electric car batteries — they fell 35 per cent last year alone — will make electric vehicles cost-competitive with internal combustion engines by 2022.
That would drive a big boost in electric vehicle sales — and the displacement of 2 million barrels per day of oil demand by 2028.

And why is 2 million barrels per day of oil displacement significant? It’s a glut of oil on the market, equivalent to what triggered the 2014 oil crisis.

The prospects for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports also face growing uncertainty. The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released data showing that LNG imports into Japan, South Korea and China dropped five per cent in 2015. And just as demand for LNG is softening, there has been a surge in LNG production. The result? Stubbornly low prices and fierce competition among would-be LNG producers.

B.C. is competing with a host of other prospective LNG suppliers, but it’s also competing with other forms of energy. The restart of nuclear reactors in Japan, coupled with growing use of renewable energy, is expected to push down LNG imports by as much as 10.5 per cent by 2020. And a recent study from economists at the Brattle Group, a respected economic consultancy, suggests that North American LNG faces increasing competition from renewable energy.

The Brattle group’s study, LNG and Renewable Power: Risk and Opportunity in a Changing World, finds intensifying links between global natural gas and electricity markets. With renewable power costs falling all the time, the study suggests there is significant investment risk in proposed LNG export projects in North America: Why import LNG when you can use clean power for less? The Brattle group concludes that if the cost of renewable power is low enough in the markets to which B.C. wants to sell LNG, “it could dampen the attractiveness of North American-sourced LNG as a fuel for electric generation and the willingness of market participants to continue to contract for LNG export infrastructure.”

So when Prime Minister Trudeau recently told the World Economic Forum that his predecessor “wanted you to know Canada for its resources … I want you to know Canadians for our resourcefulness,” he was, like Wayne Gretzky, skating to where the puck is headed. We’re going to need that resourcefulness to seize the opportunity of transitioning our energy system to clean energy, and to effectively capture its export potential.

Which brings us back to the Vancouver Declaration and its commitment to delivering a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change. What would success look like?

Countries leading the way on clean energy and climate action — developing new technologies and services, deploying them at home and exporting them abroad — stand to benefit economically and environmentally, and will emerge as the energy leaders and economic winners of the 21st century. If we’re truly going to realize a pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, we need a unified climate and energy plan — call it a clean energy plan — that delivers on both our emission reduction obligations and our economic aspirations.

Central to such a plan must be the role that electricity will play in decarbonizing Canada’s economy, as illustrated by study after study, which should be assertively communicated as a key strength and advantage for Canada. As the Canadian Council of Academies’ recent report on Technology and Policy Options for a Low-Emission Energy System in Canada noted, “low-emission electricity is the foundation for economy-wide emission reductions in transportation, buildings and industry.”

In other words, we need to electrify parts of the economy currently reliant on fossil fuels. As the Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity has noted, the fact that we already have such a clean grid (Canada’s power is 65 per cent renewable today) and plentiful renewable energy resources distributed across the country offers Canada a competitive advantage over our peers. But it’s going to take a joint effort by federal and provincial governments to enable growth in renewable energy at the scale we need. That means choosing smart, strategic clean energy policies across Canada, from carbon pricing to electricity infrastructure.

Beyond the economic opportunities associated with deploying more renewable energy and other clean energy solutions in Canada, careful consideration needs to be given to how governments can foster and support export opportunities for Canadian companies — from clean electrons to the U.S to clean energy technologies and services to markets around the world.

Thanks to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan south of the border — which expressly allows states to import new Canadian clean power as a means of attaining their targets — the North American Electric Reliability Council believes that Canadian power exports to the U.S. could triple by 2030.

Looking beyond our neighbour, there are growing clean energy opportunities in markets around the world, including key trading partners such as countries in the EU, Africa and Asia. Canadian project developers, technology developers, manufacturers and energy service providers are eager to take advantage of those opportunities. Competing successfully will require dedicated support from the federal government, which could be modelled after President Obama’s American Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, launched in 2009.

After a decade of federal indifference to climate and clean energy, we have some catching up to do. So it’s great news that Canada’s governments have set themselves an aggressive deadline to deliver a national framework for clean growth and climate change. If they succeed, it will prove to be a turning point for the future of Canada and all Canadians.


Clare Demerse is a senior policy advisor at Clean Energy Canada, and Participating Researcher with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change Research Group.


Originally Published in iPolitics | May 12, 2016


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Speed of oilsands restart depends on workers’ return

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By Canadian Press business reporter Dan Healing


Warren Mabee, director of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University, said he thinks the companies will be anxious to see people allowed back into Fort McMurray as soon as possible because a stable workforce is critical to their operations.

“I would be looking for a better update on what’s happening on the ground,” he said. “The oilsands can continue to operate — as we said, they haven’t really lost a lot of their critical infrastructure — but what they have lost, right now, is the support mechanism that the whole city represented and that is significant.

“Without that, their costs go through the roof. It’s essential to those companies that the city gets up and running even if all the neighbourhoods aren’t inhabited, even if all of it isn’t back where it was.”

Mabee said an extended period of downtime due to infrastructure or staffing issues could lead to the industry requesting financial help through bailouts or tax incentives.


Warren Mabee, director of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University. He is also Associate Director of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change Research Group.


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Summer road trips: Can electric cars handle long drives?

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by Renee Tratch
Digital Writer,

Can the summer road trip go electric? Yes, says Keith Brooks, Director of Clean Energy at Environmental Defence.
“It can be done but it does take some planning.”

The shift from gas to electric vehicles (EV) has been happening on Canadian roads, with almost 20,000 sold in Canada to date.

For EV owners, whether living in rural or urban settings, a pure electric car on the market today will get them to their daily destinations on a single charge (that’s about 100 to 150 km; 450km with a Tesla.) But it’s the long-distance trips that are posing the biggest barriers.

“There are some gaps across the middle of Canada right now,” says Brooks. “You would really have to be strategic planning out your drive.”

Keith Brooks is the director of the Clean Economy Program at Environmental Defence. He is also a Participating Researcher with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change Research Group.


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Considering Just Transition in an Australian Context

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Why Work And Workers Matter In The Environmental Debate” appeared in the March 19 issue of Green Agenda, an online forum hosted by the Green Institute , a think thank associated with Australia’s Green Party.

It provides an introduction to the prevailing arguments about a green transition, with Australian examples and context, and argues

  1. that the world of work is a critical element in a successful shift to a green economy, and
  2. that political parties and environmental organizations in Australia need to engage more deeply with the concerns and interests of workers in the face of labour market and job disruptions.

Pointing to the “more nuanced” positions of the Leap Manifesto, the 350 movement, and Australia’s Earthworker Co-operative,  the author challenges leaders in politics, business, the environmental movement, and the labour movement, to craft and  implement Just Transition policies which re-imagine work and society, providing North American and Australian examples of what is at risk for communities and workers.

The author, Caleb Goods, is a Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia, and this essay draws on his work as  a Co-Investigator in the Adapting Canadian Work & Workplaces to Climate Change (ACW) project at York University.

Originally published on Work and Climate Change Report | March 28th, 2016


Cap-and-trade alone not enough to fight climate change

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by Keith Brooks

In the coming weeks, Ontario will finalize a new law and a regulation that will guide the province’s approach to climate action for decades to come. Carbon pricing through cap-and-trade is just one part of that plan. Which is good, because carbon pricing alone is not sufficient to cut carbon emissions to the extent required.

A key feature of Ontario’s approach is to use revenues from cap-and-trade to fund actions to further reduce carbon pollution, which is a good idea — if the province chooses those actions wisely and learns from the experiences of other jurisdictions about what not to do.

British Columbia’s example shows that a price on carbon alone is not enough to sufficiently cut emissions. At $30 per tonne, B.C. has the highest carbon price in North America. Yet, B.C. is not on track to meet its carbon reduction targets. Rather, emissions in B.C. are rising. Why? Because the price is too low and because the province’s revenue neutral system leaves no money to fund complementary programs to reduce emissions.

To rely solely on pricing, economic models say that the price of carbon needs to be $100 to $200 per tonne to achieve significant emissions reductions. And that kind of price isn’t on the table. So, a combination of carbon pricing plus complementary actions is needed.

In contrast to B.C., Ontario is taking a more comprehensive approach to fighting climate change in its Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, which is working its way through Queen’s Park. But the Act needs strengthening if it’s going to be effective.

First, the good news. The Act enshrines Ontario’s emission reduction targets in law. And the targets are solid, calling for a 37 per cent reduction of emissions by 2030 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050. The Act puts a limit on carbon pollution — the “cap” in cap-and-trade — and says the limit will decline steadily, which will help the province reach its targets.

The legislation puts a price on carbon of about $18 per tonne across most of the emissions in the Ontario economy. It’s not as high as B.C.’s price, and at less than 5 cents per litre of gasoline, it’s unlikely to have much of an impact on people’s behaviour. To those who complain that things will cost a little more under carbon pricing, the reality is that, if anything, the price is too low. But it’s a good start and the price should rise as the emission cap comes down.

The Act also commits Ontario to spending carbon-pricing revenues on cutting carbon emissions, which is the right course of action if the province is to reach its emissions reduction targets. Through the auction of permits under the cap-and-trade program, the government expects to raise about $2 billion each year, which it promised to reinvest in a variety of initiatives that will reduce emissions. This revenue is absolutely crucial to fight climate change by allowing the province to invest in the things we need more of, like more renewable energy, more energy efficiency, and pollution-free transportation options.

Ontario’s Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act is on the right track but, the Act will only be effective if cap-and-trade revenues are used for new initiatives that will significantly reduce carbon emissions. To ensure this is what happens, the rules around the use of revenue need to be tightened up before the new law is finalized. The current proposal says the money needs to be reinvested in climate action, but as written, it’s possible for the funds to be misspent on projects with dubious environmental benefits, or on projects already committed to by the government.

Quebec offers a cautionary tale on the use of cap-and-trade revenue. Quebec’s Auditor General has criticized the management of Quebec’s green fund, where the cap-and-trade revenues are deposited. Monies from that account were used to fund an oil pipeline and to fix one of Air Canada’s planes. The surest way to undermine confidence in cap-and-trade would be for Ontario to follow suit.

The good news is that there’s still time to strengthen the Act. And the really good news is that Ontario is taking a comprehensive approach to fighting climate change, which is what’s needed.


Keith Brooks is the director of the Clean Economy Program at Environmental Defence. He is also a Participating Researcher with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change Research Group.


Originally published in the Toronto Star  | April 13, 2016


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Constructing sustainable buildings in a warming world


An interview with ACW participating researcher, John Calvert
Originally published by Simon Fraser University

Did you know buildings account for almost 40 per cent of Canada’s final energy consumption and roughly 20 per cent of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions?

SFU health sciences associate professor John Calvert recently argued the need for low-carbon practices in construction in one of two chapters he wrote for Work in a Warming World, a book published in 2015.

In his chapter “Construction and Climate Change,” he writes, “The main challenge the construction-industry faces is the need for much greater investment in training the workforce in low-carbon building techniques. This needs to be supplemented by tougher building regulations and effective enforcement of building codes to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.”

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Why work and workers matter in the environmental debate


ACW participating researcher Caleb Goods has recently had a short essay, titled Why work and workers matter in the environmental debate (March 19, 2016) published in the Green Agenda (Australia)

It is not hard to imagine that the world of work is a place of deep ecological impact that will be fundamentally changed by endeavours to green the economy. The implications of climate change for all workers and employers are enormous: the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests that 80 per cent of Europe’s CO2 emissions come from industrial production. Thus, the world of work is a critical site of ecological harm and therefore needs to be a site of deep environmentally focused transformation. The interconnection between work and climate change has lead Professor Lipsig-Mumme to conclude, ‘[g]lobal warming is likely to be the most important force transforming work and restructuring jobs in the first half of the twenty-first century’.1 The reality is all work and industries must fundamentally change, and will be changed by the climate we are creating as we enter a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene2 Climate change is challenging the future of work in highly polluting industries, such as coal, and climate change related events are already impacting workers. For example, a 2015 heat wave in India resulted in taxi unions in Kolkata urging drivers to avoid working between 11am and 4pm to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion.

The question of how work-related environmental impacts could be reduced is urgent. It is clear that all jobs and all workplaces will need to be significantly greener to preserve a liveable planet. I am not suggesting that jobs in highly polluting fossil fuel industries can be greened, greening work will require industry restructuring and transformation, but it will demand the closing down of some industries in the medium to longer term. Thus, the transition I am referring to here, the “greening” of our economy, is a societal transformation whereby economic, social and political processes are shifted away from an economic growth imperative to an ecological feasibility focus that demands work, and all that this encompasses, is both environmentally and socially defensible.

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Trudeau needs unions to achieve his ambitious climate agenda


By Carla Lipsig-Mummé

Prime Minister Trudeau has invited Canada’s unions to bring their expertise to one of his new government’s top priorities: climate change.

His request has a lot of people talking. He made the appeal at an historic meeting of last fall, the first time in more than 50 years that a sitting Prime Minister has attended the Canadian Labour Congress’ gathering of union leaders.

“Labour is not a problem, but a solution,”Trudeau said, signalling a clear departure from the previous Conservative government’s contemptuous attitude toward organized labour.

The Trudeau government is on the right track. In fact, labour’s involvement in efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change is not just helpful, it is essential.

In recent research, the International Labour Organization found that the world of work in industrialized countries like Canada produces 80 per cent of human-created greenhouse gas emissions.That’s why the transition to a green economy will require the transition of work: adapt work to mitigate the greenhouse gases produced by work itself.

During the last decade, when Canadian unions were seen as the problem rather than part of a solution, unions made some gains.

In Alberta, unionized workers and environmentalists found common cause in preventing the harm caused by the rapid expansion of the oilsands.They stood together and were arrested together in protests on Parliament Hill.

Similarly, auto workers lobbied unsuccessfully for the federal and Ontario government to encourage Ford to build its new, fuel-efficient engines in Windsor instead of Mexico.The union recognizes that future jobs in Canada depend on building vehicles that appeal to climate-conscious consumer, not gas-guzzlers that have limited appeal at home and little hope of success in export markets.

Canadian unions are now preparing for a ‘just transition’ from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.The term, coined in Canada in the late 1990s was adopted worldwide. It puts the workforce front and centre in moving to low-carbon in the Canadian economy and describes a three-pronged shift.

First, unions use their expert knowledge to identify ways to reduce GHGs in the workplace.

Second, working actively with governments, unions negotiate how work is actually to be ‘greened’ in the private and public sectors.

Third, unions contribute to developing a nationwide campaign for environmental literacy, including green training for young workers and workers shifting to low-carbon production.

Financial provision is made for those workers whose industries become stranded assets. In the new, low-carbon economy, unions will be at the creative forefront in the struggle to slow global warming.

Just transition is also unfolding at the bargaining table as ‘climate bargaining.’ Workers generally know where, in their workplaces or supply chains, energy is wasted and how goods transportation could be made more efficient. Ordinary members in the whole range of workplaces—from universities to hospitals to mines to stores—have ideas about how to save energy.They want to help reorganize the workplace to make it more environmentally responsible.

‘Climate negotiators’ are beginning to be trained by their unions to include GHG mitigation clauses in collective bargaining. Unions in a whole sector are beginning to develop ‘green plans’ with environment-conscious employers, setting joint GHG reduction targets, measuring GHG reduction annually, making sure that successes are widely known and borrowed.

Climate bargaining is growing rapidly. York University’s project on Adapting Canadian Work and Workplace to Respond to Climate Change has built a database of environmental clauses negotiated into union contracts. Its the first of its kind, and contains over 100 ‘green clauses found in collective agreements across the country.The database is queried frequently by climate negotiators looking for ways help improve their workplace through collective bargaining.

Can Canada’s unions help to build a green economy? The answer is yes, they can. But it will require policy-makers to work closely with workers’ organizations like the Canadian Labour Congress and its broad array of member unions such as CUPE, Unifor, the Postalworkers, United Steelworkers, Public Service Alliance of Canada, United Food and Commercial Workers, and others, to ensure that the false ‘jobs vs. environment’ argument does not derail efforts to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Following the Paris summit in 2015, CLC President Hassan Yussuff said,‘The collaborative approach we saw in Paris must continue as Canada moves forward to meet and realize its commitments. Governments at every level, as well as business, labour and civil society organizations all have a responsibility to work together and act urgently and decisively to protect this planet’s future.’

Now is the right time for the government, employers and unions to achieve a just transition that brings about a green economy built on fairness and cooperation.

Carla Lipsig-Mummé is Professor of Work and Labour Studies at York University and Lead Researcher of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change Research Group.

This article appeared in The Hill Times on February 1, 2016
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Open Your Mind: A Q&A with Carla Lipsig-Mummé

Appearing at regular intervals in YFile, “Open Your Mind” is a series of articles offering insight into the different ways York University professors, researchers and graduate students champion fresh ways of thinking in their research and teaching practices. Their approaches, grounded in a desire to seek the unexpected, are charting new courses for future generations.

Today, the spotlight is on Carla Lipsig-Mummé, the principal investigator of the seven-year SSHRC grant titled “Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective”. She was also the principal investigator of the tri-agency research project “What do we know? What do we need to know?” and principal investigator of the CURA research program “Work in a Warming World.”

She is also a professor of work and labour studies in the Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

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New seven-year partnership to find ways to improve and adapt the workplace


By Shawn Connor, The Vancouver Sun

There has been a lot of work and research focused on the science of climate change. But there hasn’t been much focus on the way in which workers and workplaces will have to change to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change, John Calvert says.

The Simon Fraser University health sciences associate professor is part of a major new seven-year research partnership that will identify steps that can be taken to reduce the carbon-footprint in a number of areas of the economy, with a focus on the workplace and workers.

The national project is called Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective. The York University-led partnership will receive $2.5 million in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and more than $2.2 million in matching funding and contributions from partnering organizations. Partners include labour unions and business organizations, government and public sector organizations, think tanks, universities and environmental groups.

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SSHRC awards more than $2.5 million in funding to York-led research partnerships

Carla Lipsig-Mummé, professor of work and labour studies in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has received more than $2.5 million over seven years through the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Grants program.

Lipsig-Mummé will lead a project titled “Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective”, which investigates how best Canada’s diverse workplaces can adapt work in order to mitigate greenhouse gases. The project will also examine the changes needed in law and policy, work design and business models for industry and services, to assist the “greening” of workplaces and work. Among the goals of the project, Lipsig-Mummé and her research team hope to develop work-based strategies to reduce greenhouse gases and energy use and integrate international and national best practices into Canadian work. Training for highly qualified work-based environmental change experts is also planned.

“It goes without saying that slowing global warming is a huge issue,” says Lipsig-Mummé. “The world of work has been neglected terrain in responding to climate change, but the structures of work, of modern business organizations, and of unions make it easier, not harder, to adapt work in order to mitigate greenhouse gases. After all, work creates the majority of GHGs produced by human activity in developed countries like Canada.”

The national project, which will also receive more than $2.2 million in matching funding and contributions from partnering organizations, includes 38 individual members and 19 partners in four countries. The team’s partners are labour unions and business organizations, government and public sector organizations, think tanks, universities and environmental groups. Team expertise spans natural and applied sciences, engineering, management, law, environmental studies, social sciences and organizational leadership.

“We are delighted by the results of the recent SSHRC competitions, reflecting York’s leadership in large-scale collaborative research projects,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research and innovation. “Professor Lipsig-Mummé is conducting important research with partners in government, academia and public sector organizations to help workplaces in Canada address important issues of climate change and develop work-based strategies to reduce greenhouse gases and energy use.

Two York researchers also received $313,396 in funding under the Partnership Development Grants Program, which provides support to foster new research and related activities with new or existing partners; and to design and test new partnership approaches for research and/or related activities.

“York University is committed to supporting the growth and development of initiatives to enable the recognition of the University as a Canadian leader in sustainability research,” added Haché.

The announcement was made earlier today by the Honourable Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder. In total, $44 million is being awarded to support funding for 57 new Partnership Development Grants and 14 Partnership Grants.

For a complete list of Partnership Grant and Partnership Development Grant awards, visit the SSHRC website.

Arielle Zomer, Research Communications, York University, 416-736-2100 ext. 21069,