Just transition needed for Canada’s climate change plans

Blue Green Canada on just transition and Canada's pending climate change plans in The Hill Times

 

'Failure to include just transition in Canada’s pending climate change plans and principles will mean we risk playing catch up rather than leading our conversion to a lower carbon economy.'

 

Blue Green Canada's President and assistant to the national director of the United Steelworkers, Mark Rowlinson and the Executive Director of Environmental Defence and a Blue Green Canada board member, Tim Gray were published in The Hill Times today. 

Here is the full op-ed as published:

It was significant to hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say, during his visit last week with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, that “Canadians help other Canadians when they are facing tough times ... and that’s what we’re going to do.”

As we act on climate change Canadians will need to continue to help other Canadians through some tough times.  The drop in oil prices and the resulting jump in unemployment are causing hardship for many workers and communities in Alberta and other parts of Canada. As our Prime Minister and First Ministers set in motion the real work of transitioning to a low carbon economy, they must remember the communities and workers who have a lot at stake in this transition.

Whether the price of Canadian oil rebounds to its previous record highs or it settles in at today’s bottom of the barrel value, sooner rather than later all “carbon intensive” employers and employees will be face-to-face with the global need to produce less carbon dioxide.

This Friday will mark two months since the end of the COP21 meetings in Paris. Having been in Paris during the climate change negotiations we both saw first-hand how Canada’s governments have recognized the need to join the global majority in respecting dire climate science and acknowledging that we must begin to act now.

In Paris, Canada led many nations in a push to have just transition and decent work provisions included in the operational portion of the global climate agreement. This would have meant there was global recognition that the costs of our transition to a low carbon economy should not be unfairly and disproportionately borne by working men and women.

A just transition means helping others whose livelihoods are vulnerable to the necessary actions to cut our CO2 pollution. This means starting today to work with communities, workers, their unions, and industries to identify vulnerable jobs and begin to plan for the changes ahead.

Failure to include just transition in Canada’s pending climate change plans and principles will mean we risk playing catch up rather than leading our conversion to a lower carbon economy.

Waiting for the next jobs crisis is not sound economic policy. Acting now to begin the transition of workers and communities into lower carbon employment opportunities can help steer clear of the shock and very real hardship being felt today in Alberta.

Alberta’s climate plans acknowledge the importance of just transition and Canada’s climate plans must as well.  Alberta’s plan recognizes the need to identify workforce impacts related to the coming energy transition and call for early preparation of planning, training, and transition program options.

Support for a thorough review of labour force market impacts at provincial and community levels are needed to assess which different transition strategies may need to apply. Just transition programs including EI reforms, retraining opportunities, relocation support, the creation of industry supported transition funds, and other activities need to be tailored to the circumstances of workers and their communities rather than a one size fits all approach.

The first step toward this needed change is for Canada’s climate change plans to recognize the need for the coming transition to be a just one.

As Premier Notley said, Albertans “are facing some very serious challenges, we need a federal partner who understands these challenges, especially the economic and jobs situation in this province, and is prepared.”  

For Canada to emerge and thrive in a post-Paris global economy we all need to be prepared and we cannot afford to wait for things to get worse to act.