ACW Mourns Passing of Green Built Environment Expert, Prof. Colin Patrick Gleeson

Prof. Colin Gleeson, University of Westminter (U.K.)


The ACW community is mourning the loss of one of its most important collaborators, Prof. Colin Patrick Gleeson, who passed away March 7 in London, U.K., after a lengthy illness.

Colin Gleeson was a Reader at the University of Westminster’s School of Architecture and the Built Environment, an academic staff member of the ProBE Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment, and a valued member of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Response to Climate Change (ACW): Canada in International Perspective research project, based at York University, where he participated in both the Built Environment and International Policy working groups.


ACW’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé, Professor of Work and Labour Studies, said, “Colin Gleeson has been with us from the beginning: a brilliant researcher, pioneering analyst, gifted writer, and essential to our project. He has been with us from the first days and his work is increasingly used internationally. On another level, Colin is a vivid friend, filled with energy and a hunger to delve deep and deeper on the widest ranging topics. Two images stay with me: I can see Colin standing inside the door of the London Review of Books bookstore after coffee for 5 at a table for 2, talking animatedly with my husband, an architect and an engineer, their backs against the outdoor sunlight, Colin’s hands raised and flailing to make his point. And another time, we are all, the ACW group, at a staid conference on labour process. Colin’s presentation needs a big screen, and there he is, running to leap at the screen to point out the high parts, twirling and returning to the screen from another angle. Vivid, warm, a lifelong friend to his friends… I will miss him.”


Long-time colleague at the University of Westminster, Professor Linda Clarke, added, “I will always picture Colin, rushing into my room, sitting himself down, and enthusiastically explaining a new idea, sharing a discovery or asking for thoughts on something or other, which often involved opening his laptop and going into detail. He loved being involved in the ACW programme. When we went on research trips, including to Denmark, Glasgow, Yorkshire, Devon, Colin would endlessly quiz, question and discuss with whoever we were visiting, always curious, eager to learn, and interested. On our many long journeys together whether to Brussels, Copenhagen or Canada, we had a constant banter going, back and forth, enjoying each other’s company. He was the life and soul of our Research Centre, ProBE (Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment), the expert on low energy construction, stalking up and down waving his arms as he gave a presentation. And in the union, he would be relied on to attend meetings and the first on the picket line, holding a placard high in the air. We are all going to miss him.”


Associate Professor John Calvert, Simon Fraser University, said, “Colin was unique in many ways because he combined his professional training as a building science engineer with a commitment to applying his knowledge in the social sciences and, particularly, the areas of workplace organization and labour relations. He was an incredibly curious person who was always asking questions about how and why we did things the way we did. He was also dedicated to making workplaces more democratic and more responsive to the needs of the people who actually carried out work on the job site. He had a profound commitment to using his skills and knowledge for the benefit of working people, a task which he fulfilled to a remarkable degree, both in his research and in his teaching.”


Dr. Colin Gleeson conducting research for his ACW Green Transitions in the Built Environment project.


Colin Gleeson originally worked in all types of construction ranging from housing to hospitals, offices and factories, which involved an eclectic mix of design, installation, consultancies and academia. He started in academia by teaching a women’s plumbing course and then guest lectured at the Hogeschool in Amsterdam and University College London. He presented his research to the European Commission, the European Social Fund, the European Construction Social Partners, the European Trade Union Institute, the British Council, as well as at low energy and vocational education conferences. Colin Gleeson completed his PhD at the University College London in 2014 and he had a BA in environmental engineering.


The details of Colin Gleeson’s funeral are as follows:

Friday, 5 April 2019, 2:00 PM
West Norwood Cemetery & Crematorium
and afterwards at The Rosendale pub, 65 Rosendale Rd, London SE21 8EZ


Wishes of the family:

Because of Colin’s passion for energy conservation we are asking people not to buy flowers. Instead if you would like to, please send donations to St Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham, SE26 6DZ. Direct link:


The European Social Fund produced an interview with Colin Gleeson about his work in 2012, which can be viewed at


His work for ACW may be viewed on the website at

Colin’s last two projects, in addition to the ACW work, were:

  • Analysis of data from heat pumps installed via the Renewable Heat Premium Payment Scheme (RHPP) to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) A major contract with research consortium from UCL, BSRIA, SP Technical Sweden for UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), 2014-2017.
  • EU Progress Fund:  European Retrofit Network: The European Retrofit Network provided a methodology for retrofitting social housing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions with an analysis of their VET requirements for an EU-wide retrofitting industry. The Westminster package focused on retrofit interventions to quantify emissions savings for different housing typologies. The research entailed emissions reduction modeling and interviews with stakeholders, including social housing providers, architects, project managers and building contractors.


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?


Download the Full Report (PDF)


Green Transitions in the Built Environment: Europe


Presentation by Linda Clarke, Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, Colin Gleeson, ProBE (Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment), University of Westminster, at ACW All-Team Meeting’s Researcher Presentations.

November 2018


View the Presentation (PDF)


‘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.


Download the Full Report (PDF)



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.


Download the Full Report (PDF)


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’.


Download the Full Report (PDF)


Workshop asks “What kind of Green and Just Transition?”




DATE: Thursday 12 July 2018, 12 noon-18.00pm

VENUE: Room CG28, University of Westminster Marylebone Campus, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS (opposite Madame Tussaud and diagonal from Baker Street tube station)

There is much discussion as well as divergent approaches to the question of a just transition to a low carbon economy, revolving around what is achievable by the market or by ecological modernisation and whether instead a much more radical transformation is necessary. This workshop addresses this debate and is concerned in particular with the active role of workers and the trade unions in this transition, including examples from the built environment of successful intervention.

Many researchers who are part of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective (ACW) research project will be participating in the workshop.

Speakers include:

  • Dr Peter Bonfield (tbc), Vice-Chancellor University of Westminster
  • Linda Clarke, ProBE/University of Westminster, ACW Associate Director
  • Béla Galgóczi, European Trade Union Institute, ACW Co-Investigator
  • Colin Gleeson, ProBE/University of Westminster, ACW Co-Investigator
  • Professor Malcolm Kirkup (tbc), Dean, Westminster Business School
  • Mercedes Landolfi (Fillea CGIL, Italy)
  • Carla Lipsig-Mummé, York University, ACW Principal Investigator
  • Sam Mason, Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union
  • Philip Pearson (GJA)
  • Vivian Price (US)
  • Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, ProBE/University of Westminster
  • Lisa Schulte, Middlesex University
  • Dimitris Stevis, Colorado State University, ACW Co-Investigator
  • Fred Steward, University of Westminster, ACW Co-Investigator

and others.

A complete agenda, speakers, and biographies are available here.

To reserve a place and for further information, contact, Melahat Sahin-Dikmen at or Linda Clarke at

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.


Download the Full Report (pdf)




“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.


Download full report (PDF)



ACW leads conference stream on climate change and labour


4-6 April 2017, Sheffield, UK

At the 35th International Labour Process Conference, held in Sheffield, UK, ACW ran a special stream titled “A Volatile Political Economy: Work, Climate Change and Labour: Labour Process Perspectives”. This was for the second year running, last year’s theme at the ILPC conference in Berlin being Labour, Work and Climate Change: a labour process perspective. The stream this year was led by Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé of York University, Toronto, Canada and Professor Linda Clarke of the University of Westminster, UK, together with Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress and Dr. Elaine Bernard, Director of Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School, US.

The stream addressed the problematic issue that, though work, worksites and production supply chains are major polluters, the new retreat into defensive nationalism adds to the difficulties of combatting at an international level the global danger we confront. It is vital to re-connect work and political economy, so that the transition to a low carbon economy becomes an international driver for transforming the labour process to the benefit of workers. Bringing workers and unions and work itself ‘in’ to the struggle to slow global warming entails rethinking the labour process through a green lens, and adapting key steps in the chain of production to mitigate greenhouse gases. It entails reconsidering the legal, political and economic contexts that hinder or facilitate workplace low-carbon adaptation, bringing labour and environment law together, criticising work design and current business models for their carbon excesses, and rediscovering the influential roles that workers, their unions and professional associations can play in adapting and improving the labour process. And, finally, it means understanding the ways in which political economies and responses to climate change affect not only the labour process, but union goals, alliances, modes of action, organisation of young workers, political strength and strategic creativity.

Within this framework, papers were presented in four separate sessions over two days by ACW researchers, academics from universities in the UK and further afield, and those from trade union organisations.

The contributions within each themed session included:

Just Transition
• Slow Greening: Climate Literacy and the Labour Movement: Carla Lipsig-Mummé, York University, Canada
• Just Transition in a Neoliberal Context: the contradictions of labour-market policy in post-petro-state Canada: Donald Lafleur and Chris Roberts, Canadian Labour Congress
• Contesting Just Transition: a sufficient challenge to capitalist labour processes? (Ewan Kerr, University of Glasgow)

Energy Provision
• Romance or Chimaera? Industry Policy and Job Quality in European Offshore Wind Turbine Manufacturing: Lisa Shulte, Middlesex University, UK
• Decarbonising the Electricity Grid: the implications for organised labour: Colin Patrick Gleeson, University of Westminster, UK

VET for low energy construction
• Promoting Climate Literacy in British Columbia’s Apprenticeship System: evaluating one union’s efforts to overcome barriers to low carbon construction: John Calvert, Simon Fraser University, Canada
• The Role of Labour and VET in meeting Low Energy Construction Targets, Linda Clarke and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, University of Westminster

Green Employment
• More and Better Jobs in a Low Carbon Future: provocations and possibilities: Steven Shelley, University of Hertfordshire, UK
• Gamification as Employment Strategy for Greening the Labour Process: Dean Stroud and Claire Evans, Cardiff University, UK
• The Role of Trade Unions in the Transformation towards a Low Carbon Economy: Bela Galgoczi, European Trade Union Institute, Belgium

Lively discussions followed the presentations, highlighting the significance of agency and vision in influencing the nature of the response to climate change and the critical necessity of bringing a labour perspective to bear on green transition approaches and policies by government and non-government organisations and agencies. Presentations were also informative about regional green transition initiatives involving trade unions, with discussions focusing particularly on British Columbia, Canada, the Ruhr region in Germany and Yorkshire and Humberside in the UK. Insights into the practical implementation, consequences and implications of green transitions were given in discussions about work and employment conditions in wind turbine manufacturing, training and skill needs in construction, and energy efficiency regulations in energy-intensive industries.

On the third day, the stream concluded with a panel discussion on ‘Green labour in dark times’, facilitated by responses to an imaginary scenario from 2035, when two major forces co-exist, digitalisation and climate change: can they combine or are they on a collision course? With examples of green transition initiatives from across a number of countries and regions, the possibility and need to allow for different green transitions pathways also came to the fore in the final debate. Above all, the fundamental role trade unions play in representing the interests of labour in what is a hugely complex, uneven and long transition to a green economy was reinforced.

It is intended that some of the contributions given at Sheffield and at last year’s Berlin conference will, together with contributions from ACW and other international researchers be included in two books and a special journal.

Linda Clarke, Carla Lipsig-Mummé and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen
June 2017

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)

Download the full report (PDF)


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)

Download the full report (PDF)

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.


Download the full report (PDF)


ACW Factsheet: Domestic Policy


Evaluating Federal Plans and Actions to Reduce GHG Emissions in Canada

Liberal Government Progress After 1 Year in Power


The official Liberal Party platform for the 2015 federal election made climate change a central theme. The platform promised renewed cooperation with the provinces to establish a national strategy for transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Importantly, the platform assured Canadians that environmental protection was compatible with job creation and economic growth. After winning a resounding Parliamentary majority in October 2015, the Liberals began work on their climate change agenda. After a year in power, they have managed to maintain the enthusiastic, pre-election public support for climate change action even in the face of strong economic headwinds.

Whether the new federal government is actually delivering on the rhetoric requires closer scrutiny.


Download the factsheet (PDF)



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)

Download the full report (PDF)


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

Download the full report (PDF)


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)

Download the full report (PDF)


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)

Download the full report (PDF)




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.


Download the full report (PDF)


Evaluating Government Plans and Actions to Reduce GHG Emissions in Canada: The State of Play in 2016


Presentation by Bruce Campbell, CCPA & University of Ottawa, and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, at ACW All Team Meeting Researcher’s Workshop.


Vancouver, November 2016


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ACW releases three new factsheets on climate and work

York University, Toronto – The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change project is pleased to announce the release of three new factsheets that examine the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in workplaces across the country.

The factsheets cover the environmental challenges of vehicle manufacturing, forestry and the construction and maintenance of our built environment. They are useful to people interested in climate issues, including researchers, students, employers, and workers alike.

“These factsheets will help to educate employers and workers looking for ways to achieve the essential task of reducing the carbon footprint of the workplace,” said Carla Lipsig-Mummé, Project Director and Principal Investigator.

The factsheets are available through:

For more information, contact:

Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change
Ross North 819, 4700 Keele St.
York University, Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3

ACW Factsheet: Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Canadian Forestry


Energy use and emissions created by different stages of manufacturing

It is an interesting time to be looking at the topic of emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Canadian forestry, as 2015 marks the target year, announced in 2007, by which the forest industry had planned to achieve industry-wide carbon neutrality without the purchase of offsetting carbon credits. Whether this goal has been achieved will not be known until late 2016.

Overall, the industry is found to have improved immensely in its emissions intensity, as BC Federation of Labour Executive Director Jim Chorostecki has pointed out. Three trends are highlighted here: fuel switching, improved energy efficiency, and energy systems optimization.

Forestry remains a significant contributor to the Canadian economy. The combination of harvesting, wood manufacturing, and paper manufacturing contributed nearly $20 billion (roughly 1.25%) to Canadian GDP in 2014.


Download the factsheet (PDF)


ACW Factsheet: Greening Vehicle Manufacturing


Reducing the climate impact of producing vehicles in Canada

Canadians are both users and manufacturers of greenhouse gas–emitting passenger vehicles, which connect Canada’s climate efforts to thousands of jobs, and form a substantial part of our manufacturing economy.

Vehicle manufacturing employs over 100,000 Canadians and historically has accounted for over 10 per cent of Canada’s manufacturing GDP.

When it comes to the industry’s impact on the climate, researchers John Holmes and Austin Hracs point out, “The major climate change issue associated with the automotive industry is the use of motor vehicles, not their manufacture”.


Download the factsheet (PDF)


ACW Factsheet: Low-Carbon Construction of Canada’s “Built Environment”


Challenges and opportunities for creating green construction jobs

Buildings are the fourth highest source of greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in Canada, and will surpass electricity to become the third highest source by 2020. Reducing the greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by buildings is a critical area for the introduction of measures to reduce carbon emissions and energy use.

The current state of the building industry presents a unique opportunity to contribute to GHG reduction while moving the construction industry away from precarious employment and towards greener jobs that are highly skilled and fairly paid. By tackling greenhouse gas emission reduction with work-focused strategies, policy makers, unions and industry leaders can achieve the goals of reducing GHGs while creating environmentally responsible employment.


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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.


Download the full report (PDF)



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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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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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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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?
Download the full report (PDF)

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,