The BC Insulator Union’s Campaign to Promote Climate Literacy in Construction (Salamander Report)

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The role of the labour movement in contributing to Canada’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use has not been the subject of scholarly attention in much of the climate change literature in recent years. Unions have largely been ignored as the academic literature and popular media have focused on the role of climate scientists, environmental NGOs, governments, industry, and professionals in addressing Canada’s climate challenges. To the extent that union actions have been acknowledged, too often it has been in the context of construction unions supporting further fossil fuel developments or forestry unions clashing with the environmental movement – narratives that fit well with the neoliberal attack on the legitimacy and rights of the labour movement. However, there are good examples of unions exercising significant climate leadership in the industries employing their members. These merit much more attention than they have so far received and point to the potential of the labour movement to exercise leadership on this vital issue.

The focus of this research paper is to document the efforts of a small British Columbia (BC) based union, the BC Insulators, to reduce energy use and GHG emissions in the work performed by its members while attempting to foster climate literacy in the broader construction industry. The union’s campaign has targeted its own members and apprentices, other construction trades, contractors, engineers, architects and industry professionals, developers, environmental NGOs, building owners and various levels of government. It has systematically expanded the focus of its campaign over the past decade, identifying new ways to promote its climate agenda and new target audiences, both in its home province of BC, nationally, and in the US insulation industry. The current paper builds on two previous studies, produced as part of the ‘Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change’ research program funded by the Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada. (Calvert and Tallon 2016; Tallon and Calvert 2017). 

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Salamander Report

Heating Up, Backing Down: Evaluating recent climate policy progress in Canada

by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood
Senior Researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)

June 13, 2019


As Canadians from coast to coast to coast grapple with record-breaking wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events, a new report finds that many Canadian governments—at both the federal and provincial level—are moving in the wrong direction on climate policy.

The study, co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program (ACW), assesses the climate policy progress of Canadian governments over the past two years with respect to long-term greenhouse gas emission reductions.

“Overall, Canada’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate are less comprehensive and less ambitious than even two years ago,” says report author and CCPA senior researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. “Many governments have failed to follow through on earlier promises and some have backtracked on climate policies already put in place.”

Among its findings, the report identifies two growing threats to climate policy progress in Canada:

  • A narrow public debate over carbon pricing is eroding political will for a more comprehensive climate policy approach. There are many other policies that are less controversial and can be just as effective at reducing emissions.
  • Canadian governments have been unwilling to introduce supply-side energy policies designed to restrict the production of fossil fuels, even though keeping much of our oil and gas in the ground is necessary to avoid the worst effects of global climate breakdown.

The report concludes that positive progress in provinces like British Columbia and Quebec over the past few years is outweighed by backsliding in other provinces. The new governments in Alberta and Ontario—Canada’s two biggest carbon polluters—have reversed the climate policies of previous governments, which puts Canada’s already-unlikely national targets even further at risk.


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Steelworkers Union Tackles Climate Change in Workshop Guide


Climate Change and Just Transition: What Will Workers Need?

United Steelworkers National Health, Safety Environment and Human Rights Conference 2017


The United Steelworkers Union (USW) in Canada has produced a new workshop guide to educate workers about the impact of climate change on jobs, and to better prepare them to ensure that government policies promoting a just transition are put in place. The workshop and guide were piloted at the United Steelworkers National Health, Safety, Environment and Human Rights Conference that was held in Vancouver in 2017.

The workshop guide leads union members through discussion topics and activities, such as asking participants to answer the question, “What can your workplace do to combat climate change?”

Topics covered include:

  • How Climate Change Connects Us
  • How Climate Change Contributes to the World of Work
    • Employment
    • Forestry
    • Mining
    • Transportation
  • Just Transition
  • What Does a Green Job Mean in Relation to the Environment?
    • Collective Agreements
    • Political Lobbying
    • Green Procurement
    • Training
    • Employment Insurance
  • National Concern for the Economic Growth of Canada


A main focus of the workshop is the need for a just transition to a greener economy.

Workers and trade unions should be concerned with the lack of policies in place protecting the rights of all workers who will be affected because of a direct or indirect loss of their jobs as a result of climate policies. Some sectors of our economy are already or will soon be targeted by these measures. We as workers, employers, and labour unions need a better understanding of the impacts these measures will have on employment, not with a view to blocking them, but to ensure that the most vulnerable will be prepared to face the necessary changes and not pushed even further into exclusion. – Climate Change and Just Transition: What Will Workers Need?


The workshop and guide were produced in partnership with the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective,” (ACW) a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Program-funded project, based at York University, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.


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Just Transition and Beyond Just Transition: Canada in Action

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Roundtable Summary Report
August 27, 2018, Ottawa

Prepared by C.M. Flynn


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

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

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


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Deep Cleavages Amongst US Labour Unions with Respect to Climate Change, Finds Report


Labour Unions and Green Transitions in the USA: Contestations and Explanations
By Dimitris Stevis, Professor, Colorado State University


From the author:
“In broad terms there are now two camps amongst US labour unions with respect to climate change and renewables (the two not always related). On one side, are those unions that believe that something needs to be done about climate change and that renewables are a good strategy. On the other side are those that are opposed to meaningful climate policy –even as they claim that climate change is a problem.”

This report outlines the deep cleavages with respect to climate policy but also argues that the views of unions are more complex and contradictory than the opposition-support dichotomy. Additionally, it seeks to understand what explains the variability in union responses to climate change and policy. What can account for the contradictions evident amongst and within unions?


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‘Road Map’ Needed for Built Environment Professional Education in Asia-Pacific, Finds Report

Built Environment Curricula in the Asia-Pacific Region: Responding to Climate Change

By Tony Dalton and Usha Iyer-Raniga, RMIT University

Originally published 15 November 2017

ProSPER.Net (this is not an ACW publication)


This project, led by RMIT University, Australia, looked at five case studies of Built Environment (BE) professions from China, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Contributing institutions to the project included the University of Tongji, China, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, University of the Philippines, Philippines, and Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia.

In the current urban century, cities face multiple challenges. Current and future built environment professionals, whether involved in city governance and planning, urban development, or urban design, need to practice ethically and sustainably as they cope with rapid economic change, technological change, social change, urban growth, climate change, resilience and adaptation pressures. They need to be supported so that they can develop competencies and practices around good planning and design, environmental knowledge, principles of social equity, and good governance.

Developing these competencies in many parts of the Asia-Pacific is not easy. Both cities and higher education systems in many countries are growing very rapidly. This means that the systems used to regulate city building and grow the number of graduates able to design, build and regulate city building are under considerable pressure. In this context little attention has been given to ensuring that sustainability knowledge is at the core of the curriculum of built environment academic programmes such as planning, project management, architecture and engineering.

The project found that governments in the five Asia-Pacific countries studied struggle to implement green building codes. Built environment professional associations and regulators of the professions fail to recognise the challenge of climate change and sustainability. Future graduates will not have the capacity to contribute to decarbonisation of the built environment unless there is systemic change in what students are taught. Built environment programmes typically offer sustainability courses as electives, not as core. This needs to change so that knowledge of climate change and sustainability become core graduate attributes.


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EU’s Green Building Strategy has Major Implications for Construction Workers, Report Finds


Green Transitions in the Built Environment: Europe
The role of trade unions in the transition to low carbon construction: examples from Denmark, Germany, Italy and UK/Scotland

By Linda Clarke, Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, Colin Gleeson, Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), University of Westminster, UK

Despite the variation in actual progress and the divergent approaches of Member States, the EU’s green transition strategy for the built environment is in the process of implementation and has major implications for the sector and for construction workers. This transition to green construction in the EU is a long and challenging process and, as shown in this report, varies between countries, driven by strategies formulated, interpreted and implemented in very different ways.

This report presents findings from an investigation into the role of trade unions in the transition to low energy construction (LEC) in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Scotland/UK. The study addresses the aims of the Built Environment Working Group, leading the construction strand of the ACW research programme. The key objective is to research the role of workers in the transition to low carbon construction by identifying and examining trade union involvement, whether this takes the form of policies, proposals or practical action. This report concerns the European part of the investigation.


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Unions Make City Building (Glasgow) a Model of Sustainable Construction and Employment


City Building (Glasgow): an inspirational model of low energy social housing and public building production

By Linda Clarke and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), University of Westminster, UK


City Building is a not-for profit building organization with an in-house training centre, a large apprenticeship scheme, and a highly unionized, directly employed workforce.

In the last ten years, City Building has developed as a successful social enterprise with sustainable and high standard employment and construction practices. As well as continuing to be responsible for maintaining all Glasgow City Council’s building stock and for managing its new construction projects, it competes for work in the open market, developing expertise in low-energy construction and building on its history of social housing production.

What sets City Building apart from any other construction company are the strong social ethos and good employment practices that guide its ‘business model’. Another unique feature is the involvement of the trade unions that played, historically, a significant role in shaping the ethos that underpins City Building’s operations. The Joint Trade Union Council includes representatives from each trade union and is actively engaged with the management of City Building at the highest level, in what is described as ‘a great relationship’.


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“Climate Stability and Worker Stability: Are they Compatible?” Asks New Report

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Climate stability, worker stability: Are they compatible?
by Dr. Louise Comeau, Research Associate, University of New Brunswick and Devin Luke, University of New Brunswick
December 3, 2018

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

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


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Report Reveals Regions with Highest Share of Fossil Fuel Workers by Province; “Just Transition” Plan Needed

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By Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)
January 25, 2018




Communities across Canada need a national strategy to ensure the move to a zero-carbon economy leaves no one behind, according to a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW). For the first time, the report uses census data to identify the regions in each province with the greatest reliance on fossil fuel jobs.

The new analysis comes after the federal government announced last fall it will launch a task force in 2018 on a “just transition” policy framework for certain sectors. In general, the broad goal of a just transition is to ensure an equitable, productive outcome for all workers in the decarbonized future.

“The transition to a clean economy will create significant opportunities for Canada, but the process may also present hardship for certain workers and their communities,” says study author and CCPA researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. “The fact is, Canada’s social safety net is not yet robust enough to support a just transition for those impacted. That needs to change.”

Among the study’s findings:

    • Fossil fuel dependence is overwhelmingly concentrated in Alberta, with a few hot spots in Saskatchewan and British Columbia;
    • However, there are communities from coast to coast where the share of fossil fuel jobs is relatively high. Bay Roberts, N.L.; Cape Breton, N.S.; Saint John, N.B.; Sarnia, Ont.; Estevan, Sask; Wood Buffalo, Alta.; and Fort St. John, B.C., have the greatest share of fossil fuel workers in their respective provinces;
    • In addition to a national just transition strategy and targeted policy measures for fossil fuel-dependent communities, Canada’s social security programs should be enhanced to better support workers in any industry facing job loss and retraining costs;
    • Governments must also invest in workforce development programs to ensure there are enough skilled workers to fill new jobs created by the zero-carbon economy.

“The threat of job losses is not just a problem in the oil patch. This research makes it clear there are communities across the country that rely on fossil fuel jobs for their prosperity,” adds Mertins-Kirkwood. “There’s no doubt we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but in doing so governments must prioritize the stability of communities in vulnerable regions and the well-being of workers across the country.”

“Making Decarbonization Work for Workers: Policies for a just transition to a zero-carbon economy” is a co-publication by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program, based at York University and funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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The Training of Canadian Architects for the Challenges of Climate Change

by John Mummé, Architect

The paper examines an often-overlooked dimension of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the built environment: the training of construction professionals to participate most effectively in the large-scale reduction of GHGs. Architects are one of the key construction professions and this project explores the training of students at Canadian architecture schools – the professionals of the future.

The built environment sector is a crucial element in the struggle to reduce greenhouse gases in the face of climate change. Recent studies show the sector to be responsible for as much as 44% of GHGs and energy use. As a result, the importance of the sector in both the production and the potential reduction of GHGs makes the question of how construction professionals in general, and architects in particular, are trained for climate-literacy both pressing and important. There is, however, surprisingly little research on the education of Canadian construction professionals for climate change.

To begin to fill this gap, this study examines how Canadian architecture schools are training the next generation of architects in regard to climate change. This study looks at the training of architects in the eleven schools of architecture in Canada whose programs have been accredited by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board, and how these programs deal with the issues of climate change in their curricula.

It also looks, for international comparison, at a number of major non-Canadian architecture school
programs recognized as substantially equivalent to those of the Canadian schools.

Website analysis and a number of discussions with program heads, faculty, and students from a number of schools were conducted on the program requirements and course offerings from the various schools, to see whether and what type of courses on climate change are offered, and through which conceptual lens the issue is viewed.


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“Ambition Gap” Plagues Canadian Climate Change Efforts, Finds Report


(York University, Toronto) Efforts to curb climate change in Canada are being hampered by a serious “ambition gap,” finds a new report by researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. The study compares federal and provincial government greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, mitigation policies, emissions, and workforce adjustment policies.

“Tracking progress: Evaluating government plans and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada” is co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) research program, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and based at York University.

In the report, Mertins-Kirkwood identifies three common themes in Canadian climate policy: an ambition gap between promises and policies, widespread dependence on and continued promotion of fossil fuels, and an absence of workforce transition policies.

“Canadian governments take climate change seriously insofar as they generally recognize the risk it presents and are taking steps to mitigate emissions. However, collectively, Canadian governments do not take climate change seriously enough to act with the necessary level of ambition,” writes Mertins-Kirkwood. “In some cases, the ambition gap between targets and projections is staggering.”

The absence of a robust just transition strategy is another key issue in Canadian climate policy. Canadian governments have so far been hesitant to tackle the potentially negative impacts of climate policies on fossil fuel workers and their communities. “Public support for emissions mitigation measures is undermined when jobs are lost in the process,” adds Mertins-Kirkwood.

“Tracking progress: Evaluating government plans and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada” is the latest in a series of four reports produced for the ACW’s Domestic Policy Working Group—chaired by Bruce Campbell—which is investigating Canada’s evolving domestic climate policy landscape.


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Evaluating the Impact of the BC Insulators’ Union Campaign to Promote Improved Mechanical Insulation Standards in BC’s Construction Industry

These papers are part of a series being produced for the ACW’s Built Environment Working Group—chaired by John Calvert —which is investigating the BC Insulators union’s efforts to promote a major climate initiative in the construction industry.

Buildings account for between 35% and 40% of GHG emissions and energy use (Stern 2006, IPCC 2014). Consequently, improving the energy efficiency of buildings is an important mechanism to address climate change. One key method to accomplish this objective is through establishing higher energy efficiency standards for mechanical insulation (e.g. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning – HVAC) systems.

The BC Insulators Local 118 represents unionized skilled insulators who have a Trades Qualification (TQ) and have completed a 4 year apprenticeship in HVAC systems and related building insulation methods. Over the years, the BC Insulators campaigned to encourage municipalities in BC to require higher insulation standards in their building requirements and procurement contract tenders.

The BC Insulator’s initiative is unique in Canada. It illustrates the efforts of a labour organization to promote a major climate initiative in the construction industry.

This project documents the Insulators’ campaign, including the union’s rationale for initiating it, describe its various components and evaluate the extent to which it has influenced standards of mechanical insulation in BC. The study explores the question of why the BC Insulators chose to align their campaign with climate change objectives and why they decided to target local governments as a key part of their strategy for generating broader industry support for the enhanced standards they favoured.


The Union as Climate Change Advocate: the BC Insulator’s Campaign to “Green” the Culture of the Building Industry in British Columbia
April 2016
By John Calvert and Corrine Tallon, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University (SFU)

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Promoting Climate Literacy in British Columbia’s Apprenticeship System: Evaluating One Union’s Efforts to Overcome Attitudinal Barriers to Low Carbon Construction
April 2017
By Corinne Tallon and John Calvert, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University SFU)

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Promoting Climate Literacy in British Columbia’s Apprenticeship System: Evaluating One Union’s Efforts to Overcome Attitudinal Barriers to Low Carbon Construction

By Corinne Tallon and John Calvert

Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Prepared for the International Labour Process Conference (ILPC), Sheffield, United Kingdom, April 4 – 6, 2017




Buildings account for a significant component of total energy consumption and are thus a critical target in lowering society’s carbon footprint and mitigating climate change. While there has been considerable progress in developing new technologies, materials and building designs to achieve this goal, one key element of making buildings more energy efficient is too often overlooked: the competency and commitment of the workforce responsible for the building construction. There is considerable evidence of a significant gap between the needed skill sets for low carbon construction and the capacity of the training and apprenticeship systems to deliver appropriate skills – including climate literacy – to the construction workforce, both in Canada and internationally. Furthermore, an apparent gap exists in terms of interest and investment on the part of government, employers, and union leaders within the industry to encourage this type of training and, more importantly, implementation of this training on the work site.

This research paper examines the efforts of one building trades union to promote climate literacy within British Columbia (BC) via the classroom. The BC Insulators union has responsibility for training all mechanical insulation (MI) trades’ workers in the province under an agreement with the BC government. It delivers the classroom training under contract with the province’s largest public training college, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). As part of its commitment to address sustainability and green construction practices within the industry, the union has introduced a ‘Green Awareness’ course to their apprenticeship program curriculum. The two-module course was introduced in 2011 and is taught over the course of the first two years of the four-year program.

After conducting a review of the ‘Green Awareness’ course content, the research team performed qualitative interviews with a cohort of 2nd and 4th year apprentices. The former cohort had, at the time of the interviews, received both modules of the new course. The fourth-year cohort on the other hand had completed most of their classroom training before the module had been fully refined. They therefore had not received the formal ‘Green Awareness’ training. The purpose of this research was to determine whether exposure to the new ‘Green Awareness’ course content influenced the apprentices’ views on climate change, and whether they identified links between climate change, their performance as insulators, and the performance of the construction industry more broadly.

The interviews identified significant differences in the two cohorts’ levels of understanding of the links between the construction industry, MI, and climate change. Degree of understanding and interest also varied depending on the sector in which the apprentice had employment experience and the specific types of projects on which they had worked. Significantly, apprentices identified a number of barriers to their ability to implement best practices and low carbon construction, including: lack of co-ordination between insulators and other trades; the absence of stringent inspection of finished work; pressure to complete tasks at the expense of quality work; and a more general pattern of industry indifference to implementing best practices and low carbon construction. These findings indicate the need for further refinements in the content and delivery of the ‘Green Awareness’ course material. The authors conclude that incorporating climate change-related course content into the training process is an important step in fostering climate literacy within the industry and should be encouraged in other trades. However, its degree of impact will be limited unless more sweeping changes are made to the organization and culture of the construction industry itself.


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Canada’s evolving domestic climate policy landscape

These working papers are a series of three preliminary reports being produced for the ACW’s Domestic Policy Working Group—chaired by Bruce Campbell—which is investigating Canada’s evolving domestic climate policy landscape. These three preliminary reports—addressing Federal Government action, provincial government action, and domestic labour policy in Canada—will be integrated into a final report in spring 2017.

The preliminary reports take as their starting point the working group’s baseline report, which was completed in October 2015. That report provides context on the current profile of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada as well as the suite of climate policies in place at the federal and provincial level through October 2015.


Tracking progress: Evaluating government plans and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada
May 2017
Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood
International trade and climate policy researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)

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Evaluating government plans and actions to reduce GHG emissions in Canada: Just transition policies
January 2017
Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood
Research Intern, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

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Evaluating Government Plans and Actions to Reduce GHG Emissions in Canada: Provincial and territorial progress through October 2016
November 2016
Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood
Research Intern, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)

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Evaluating government plans and actions to reduce GHG emissions in Canada: Federal progress through June 2016
July 2016
Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood
Research Intern, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)

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The Union as Climate Change Advocate: the BC Insulator’s Campaign to “Green” the Culture of the Building Industry in British Columbia

By John Calvert and Corrine Tallon, Simon Fraser University (SFU)

Prepared for the International Labour Process Conference (ILPC) Berlin, Germany, April 2016


This paper examines the efforts of one Canadian building trades’ union, the BC Insulators, to influence the culture and climate change policies of the construction industry in British Columbia. The union’s members install and inspect mechanical insulation (MI) on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial and industrial buildings. Its climate advocacy was prompted by the failure of the province’s construction industry to implement appropriate quality standards due to its culture of low bid construction practices and its unwillingness to train and employ qualified insulation workers. This failure was compounded by the reluctance of government to impose and enforce stringent building codes to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings. Recognizing the significant contribution that MI can make to reducing energy use and GHG emissions, the union embarked on a major campaign to promote the climate benefits of MI. It funded independent, technical research papers, commissioned best practice manuals with detailed guidelines on installing MI and initiated an extensive and carefully organized public education campaign to pressure industry and government to raise standards. It approached municipalities, building contractors, government officials, property developers, industry professionals and trade organizations to alert them to the importance of reducing the energy footprint of buildings. It pressured governments to raise MI standards in procurement of new and refurbished buildings and implement tougher requirements in their building codes. And it introduced climate change literacy into the curriculum of the apprenticeship system it oversees. This paper documents the union’s comprehensive campaign as an illustration of the contribution labour can make to addressing the critical challenge of global warming.


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ACW Baseline Report – Manufacturing (Auto and Forestry)

posted in: Manufacturing, Posts, Reports | 0

by Jim Chorostecki

Executive Director
British Columbia Federation of Labour


The group is proposing to study three industries: automotive; food processing; and forestry/pulp and paper. Over the last few months we have been able to complete initial research reviews of the automotive and forestry sectors, the research in the food processing sector is underway. The attached reports reflect the research that has been completed and/or planned.




The next step will be for the manufacturing working group to review research information and determine next steps.  This process will include:


1. Identifying projects and assigning leads

2. Determining project methodology and timelines

3. Assigning roles and responsibilities

4. Determining budget needs

5. Assessment and follow-up


Auto - Download the full report (PDF) Forestry - Download the full report (PDF)


ACW Baseline Report – Built Environment

By John Calvert

Associate Professor
Faculty of Health Sciences
Simon Fraser University, Canada


The overall aim of the Built Environment Working Group is to research the labour and labour process implications of transitioning to a low carbon, energy efficient building industry.

This Baseline Report has the following goals:

  1. To establish the current state of knowledge about the contribution of the workforce to ‘greening’ the construction industry;
  2. To assess the potential of labour to shape the industry’s carbon footprint.
  3. To identify barriers to the successful participation of the workforce in developing pathways to low carbon construction and develop strategies to circumvent these barriers.
  4. To identify needed modifications to employment, employment conditions, working practices and the overall organization of construction work that will improve the capacity of the workforce to implement low carbon construction (effective health and safety provisions, integrated team‐based work practices, improved vocational education and training (VET), union representation and a greater say for the workforce in shaping the industry’s future).
  5. To examine the current and potential role of unions and professional organizations in advancing this process.
  6. To analyze the workforce implications of widely used policy tools, such as energy efficiency targets, building codes and contract procurement requirements in facilitating the transition to low carbon construction.
  7. To carry out research on the role of workers and the organizations that represent them in implementing specific, innovative low carbon projects which can serve as models for wider application in the building industry.


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ACW Baseline Report – Energy

By Trista Wood and Warren Mabee

Queen’s University
Kingston, Canada

Climate change is one of the most important issues Canada is facing. While greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions do arise from natural processes, the current rapid concentration of these gases in our atmosphere is primarily being driven by human activity. Changes to the climate affect all aspects of the natural environment and have the potential to affect the Canadian economy, infrastructure, energy supply and demand, manufacturing, and services. As a consequence, it is critical that Canada move to curb these emissions.

As a signatory of the Executive summary (UNFCCC), Canada signed onto the Copenhagen Accord (December 2009) thereby committing to reduce its GHG emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The commitment represents a significant challenge for an expanding economy that is expected to be 31% larger in 2020 than it was in 2005 (Environment Canada 2014). In order to follow through on this commitment the Government of Canada is taking a sector-by-sector approach to GHG regulation and reduction.

Canada’s GHG emissions are largely related to the production and use of energy across the country. A review of all energy-related emissions are provided in the pages that follow, along with projections of future energy use. It is shown that oil and gas, transport, and buildings are the sectors most responsible for our increased emission profile. Growth in industrial and transport energy use will demand significantly more fossil fuel unless policy interventions push us towards ‘greener’ scenarios; using projections from the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP 2016), two such scenarios are explored, one focused on sustainable urban development, and the other on a future where new electricity generation from nuclear sources is constrained. In both of these scenarios, the amount of electricity used in every sector increases dramatically. This suggests that a critical issue of the future will be designing new electricity generation in order to benefit both society and the workers who are engaged in the projects.


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ACW Baseline Subreport – Policies and Practices to Promote Work Enhancing Pathways in the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy

By Fred Steward

Professor, Policy Studies Institute
University of Westminster, London

This draft review gives an overview of the European policy context with regard to climate change. It identifies a new pervasive political discourse on the transition to a low carbon society which places a major issue of environmental sustainability high on the policy agenda. This is also associated with greater attention to policies on industry and innovation which overlap conventional trade union concerns. The transition policy framing highlights the need for active policy influence on transformative change.

An analysis is presented of the views of the principal Europe-wide trade union organization, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on this new policy context for environmental sustainability and climate change. This is based on publicly available documentary sources along with reports on a selection of European national trade union confederation initiatives and recent developments in trade union/labour movement policy by European policy institutions and analysts.

The focus of this review is to identify new policies and practices which engage with the ‘transition to a green, low-carbon economy’ from the perspective of proactive initiatives to promote work-enhancing pathways. The aim is to assess recent policy reviews and proposals in order to map out a new work-enhancing green economy transition agenda. This could form the basis for subsequent action-oriented research strands with particular policy players.

Particular aspects of interest are:

  • Engagement with the new framework of sociotechnical transitions in contrast to the established frameworks of ecological modernization or market based instruments. This embraces purposive transformative goals, a mix of social and technological innovation, and a key role for a diverse coalition of societal actors Recognition of the possibility of alternative transition pathways and that choices between them may have different implications for job creation, employment and working conditions, and skill development arising from contrasting emphases on technological production and social use, singular new products/processes versus wider system innovation, one-off skills or long term vocational change
  • Action at multiple levels of governance, not just at the national or sectoral level. Of particular interest is the role of new developments in policy and practice involving partnership with cities, local authorities and regions
  • Interventions, which are not simply reactive in terms of justice or job protection, but proactively intervene to shape the nature of the green transition, and promote an awareness of the potential role of trade unions as environmental actors or innovators
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ACW Baseline Subreport – Labor Unions and Green Transitions in the U.S.

By Dimitris Stevis

Professor, Department of Political Science
Colorado State University, U.S.


This draft baseline report provides an exploratory overview of US labor union proposals and practices regarding a green transition. It focuses, primarily, on national level unions and it does not examine proposals from other organizations. The role of labor unions at the state and local levels as well as a more systematic review of non-union proposals that explicitly address work and workers will be covered in the amplified report. My goal is not to speculate whether a green transition of some kind will take place in the US or whether workers will benefit from such a transition. Rather, one goal is to explore whether workers and unions are striving to be the agents and authors of such a green transition and what political dynamics may prevent or enable them to do so. A second goal is to explore how inclusive or exclusive the green transitions envisioned by unions may be.

The first part of this report clarifies the analytical approach that is employed and, in particular, the interface of sociotechnical transitions, politics, social power and institutions. The second part provides an overview of union strategies by sector or industry. I close with some comments about green transitions that set the agenda for additional research.


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ACW Baseline Report – Domestic Policy


By Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)


This report provides an overview of the Canadian policies and financing instruments designed to discourage the emission of carbon and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere (“green policies”). The report is focused in particular on energy policy in Canada as it relates to the production and consumption of “clean” as opposed to “dirty” energy. Energy use is directly responsible for the vast majority of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, which means any policies that encourage or discourage the production or consumption of different kinds of energy has a direct impact on those emissions. The report also presents and assesses the policy visions of Canadian governments (federal, provincial, and territorial) as they relate to energy production and consumption in the context of climate change.

To this end, the report is guided by two research questions:

  1. What policies and financing instruments have Canadian governments implemented so far to encourage or discourage different kinds of greenhouse gas-emitting activity?
  2. What green policy visions have Canadian governments put forward and what actions have they promised to take on greenhouse gas-emitting activity moving forward?
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