Who Deserves a Just Transition?

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

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

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

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


Read more on Medium.com



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

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

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

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

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

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


Read more on HillTimes.com


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.


Read the report on PolicyAlternatives.ca






Environmental Racism: Adding African Canadians’ Voices to the Climate Change Debate

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By Mark Brown

A ground-breaking undertaking between The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Canadian Chapter (CBTU) and an organization known as Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) threatens to blow a hole through the climate change debate that rivals the current hole in the ozone layer.

With the inception of a ground breaking research initiative called “The Impact of Climate Change on Racialized Canadian Communities: An Environmental Justice Perspective” the two organizations have lunched a research initiative on Environmental Racism. The goal of the research project is to assess the effect of climate change on racialized communities within Canada. The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) is a partnership grant of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Photo of Carla Lipsig Mumme
Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé
Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW)

Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé is the Principal Researcher for Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW). When asked how did the CBTU/ACW partnership came about Dr. Mummé stated that the ACW is a 7-year grant funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). With 47 individual researchers and 24 partner organizations the ACW spans 4 countries. Included among the list of organizations were York University, (Lead Organization), the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Ontario Federation of Labour and more. Dr. Mummé went on to say that “CBTU was invited to become a partner organization given the organizations unique mandate to provide a voice for workers of African-descent along with CBTU’s engagement within the environmental justice movement.”

Dr. Mummé was then asked what the ACW expects to achieve by this project? “Climate literacy for every stage and age in the Canadian workforce,” she stated. “Community involvement and mobilization in the struggle to slow climate change; making resources and curriculum available for green training and education by unions for labour environmentalists and students; Youth—young workers and young students—taking leadership to reduce greenhouse gases in their schools and their workplaces; a larger role for young people who are passionate about the environment, in shaping union renewal. Linking greening work and youth union activism in union renewal. ACW hopes that Black Trade Unionists, and other racialized communities’ engagement in the fight to slow global warming will point the way to new pathways to green jobs. CBTU is very well placed to recognize pathways to new green jobs that are developing from responding to the threat of climate change, and to take steps so that this and the next generations of Black Trade Unionists are leaders in the shift to a green world of work. CBTU is very well placed to be a model for other communities as well.”

Photo of Chris Wilson
Chris Wilson, 1st Vice President and International Board Member of CBTU Canada

Chris Wilson is the Project Lead, 1st Vice President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Canada and an International Board Member. When asked why African-Canadian workers should be concerned about climate change? He responded by stating that, “The destructiveness and speed of climate change is a call to action. This project is designed to explore the impact of climate change upon racialized communities within Canada.”

Wilson went on to say that, “A significant amount of research has gone into exploring the impact of Climate change upon indigenous peoples with the Idle No More movement. This project intends to bring this vision of community mobilization around climate change to other racialized communities by drawing Black Trade Unionists and other racialized communities into the fight to slow climate change while linking this fight with the development of pathways to good green jobs for the aforementioned communities.”

Wilson further stated that, “The debate over climate change is already here and the consequences are real; CBTU and ACW want to ensure that the voices of Black Trade Unionists are included in this debate to ensure that as our economy evolves and adapts to climate change and the voices of racialized workers are heard.”

According to the ACW’s website the research project is expected to encompass multiple stages with a focus upon research and mobilization.

The first stage is described as a participatory research model which evolves the use of social media to engage anti-racist activists in the process of collecting written materials that have been composed about environmental racism.

The second stage of the project is comprised of a workshop/focus-group of Black Trade Unionists. The purpose of this stage is to accumulate research data on the participants’ experience surrounding climate change and environmental racism.

The third stage is expected to provide a workshop/community forum for community engagement. The themes of the workshops include:

  • What is to be understood by the words “environmental racism?”
  • How it is affecting communities and their environment?
  • Exploring case studies in Canada.
  • The present and future role of racialized communities in the “Green Economy” and Developing an Environmental Racism Charter

The fourth and final stage of the project will be a joint report and video. Both the video and report are expected to be housed on the ACW and CBTU Canada websites.

Whether one believes in the existence of climate change or believes that climate change is fiction what is evident is that the debate on climate change has been ongoing for some time. What is also apparent is that if the African Canadian voicesof this generation continue to be omitted from the debate the African Canadians faces of the next generation risk being omitted from the solution.

Picture of Mark Brown


Mark Brown is the Chair of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council’s Equity Committee, an Executive Board Member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist (CBTU), An Executive Board Member of the Labour Education Center and a member of the Toronto Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Contact him on Facebook and Twitter @MarkAAABrown

“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)



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


Download the presentation (PDF)


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)