ACW Collaborating Researcher Lee Loftus Named to BC Climate Advisory Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Abstract

 

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)