Why a ‘just transition’ doesn’t have to pit jobs against the environment

Many labour groups support Paris targets, global climate strikes


A study by Clean Energy Canada found that the clean-energy sector was growing at a faster rate than the rest of the economy. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

One of the recurring themes among some politicians and business leaders is that climate change presents a binary choice between preserving jobs or the environment.

But that’s not the way Dwaine MacDonald sees it. MacDonald is one of the co-founders of Trinity Energy Group, a company based in Stellarton, N.S., that makes commercial and residential buildings more energy-efficient, through better insulation and thermal barriers. And business is very good.

To give a sense of Trinity’s expertise, in 2010, the company worked on a 14-bedroom farmhouse that every year required 14 cords of wood and two barrels of oil for their heating needs. Trinity’s retrofit brought it down to four cords of wood and half a barrel of oil.


Dwaine MacDonald established Trinity Energy Group in 2006, and the business has grown to 80 employees since then. (Submitted by Shelby MacDonald)

This example shows why the International Energy Agency has identified energy efficiency as one of the most effective ways of reducing carbon emissions. It also shows why a concerted transition to a low-carbon economy can be beneficial to both the environment and blue-collar and unionized workers, including those in the fossil fuel industry.

Since MacDonald and his partners launched the company in 2006, Trinity has grown to 80 full-time employees — and he estimates that about a quarter of them are people who were let go from, or simply left, jobs in the Alberta oilsands.

“I could be hiring more people if I could keep up with the demand,” said MacDonald. “It’s slowing us down right now, just trying to find the right people.”

As a sign of labour’s stake in the environmental challenge, Unifor, the largest private-sector union in Canada, voted to join the global climate strikes scheduled to take place across the country and around the world, on Sept. 20 and Sept. 27.

Major unions in France, Germany and Italy have also announced their intent to join the climate strikers.

Changing tone

The working class is increasingly on-side with climate action, said Jamie Kirkpatrick, program manager at Blue Green Canada, an organization that advocates for workers and the environment, and is aligned with Unifor and the United Steelworkers.

But Kirkpatrick acknowledges there is “fear and concern” among some workers about what a transition to a low-carbon economy means for them. Part of that has to do with the sometimes abrasive tone of climate activists.


Trinity’s specialty is making homes and businesses more energy efficient, which the International Energy Agency has identified as one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions. (Submitted by Shelby MacDonald)

“I think a lot of environmental efforts were focused on ‘shut this thing down,’ ‘phase this out,’ ‘get rid of that dirty, nasty industry,'” said Kirkpatrick. “And I think we’ve learned a lot about how everybody involved is a human being, and we could talk about [a transition] in a more human way.”

You can see that more measured tone in the messaging of the federal Green Party, for example. The party’s platform includes halting federal subsidies to the oil sector and cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project as part of a larger effort to drastically reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

But Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has stressed “we are not at war with fossil fuel workers. We are not at all willing to leave any part of Canada or any community behind.”

Kirkpatrick said his organization strives to “make the connections, and make it true that you can have a good job and a healthy environment.” SOURCE

 

New energy efficient buildings aren’t enough, experts say — we have to retrofit the old ones, too

Canada Green Building Council says building sector has tremendous opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint


Vancouver’s The Exchange hotel was formerly the Vancouver Stock Exchange. It’s now waiting on its LEED plantinum certification. (The Exchange)

The Canada Green Building Conference is taking place in Vancouver this week, and a major portion of the program will be pushing the need to retrofit older buildings to reduce their carbon footprint.

Thomas Mueller, president and CEO of the Canada Green Building Council, says buildings contribute about 30 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions — mostly because of their heating, lighting, and cooling systems.

Cities like Vancouver have taken the lead in constructing low-emission buildings. But Mueller says new buildings alone won’t be enough for Canada to reach its targets to reduce greenhouse gases.

“We can’t build our way out of it,” Mueller said in a phone interview ahead of the conference.

Green development advocates like Mueller say the building sector may be one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, but it also has “tremendous opportunity” to affect change.

“It’s the only sector in our economy where we actually have a financial benefit by doing the right thing,” he said.

Retrofitting options

There are about 250,000 large buildings in Canada, Mueller says.

To reduce their carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, up to 60,000 of the existing buildings over 25,000 square feet would need to become 20 to 40 per cent more efficient.

Older buildings can be made more efficient through improvements like installing double-glazed windows, more efficient furnaces and LED lights. MORE

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Canadian homes and businesses could have much smaller carbon footprint by 2050, says joint IEA-NEB report

NDP Environment Plan: A clean economy that works better for people

Let’s build a fairer society  where everyone is included.


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh presents the party’s plan for climate change in Montreal on Friday, May 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Creating good jobs across the country. Creating at least 300,000 new jobs building the clean energy future that will support families and bring local work to communities across the country – and providing the training and supports that workers need.

Kickstarting clean energy by stopping fossil fuel subsidies. Canadians are paying the price while big polluters profit. Ending oil and gas company subsidies means we can invest in renewable energy, and get Canada powered by net carbon-free electricity by 2030.

Saving you money while building for the future.By making all new buildings in Canada energy efficient by 2030, and retrofitting existing buildings by 2050, we can make a big dent in climate change and save families $900 or more every year.

Setting targets and meeting them. Revising Canada’s pollution targets so they’re in line with what scientists say is needed to stop dangerous climate change – and then holding ourselves to hitting them.

Cheaper, cleaner, more convenient transit.Changing the way we get around by moving to 100% electric transit and free public transit, investing in high speed rail, and bringing back critical rural and northern transit routes.

Zero-emission vehicles. We’ll make it easier to get and use Canadian-made zero-emission vehicles by making them more affordable, and build a network of charging stations across the country so nothing will slow you down.

Protecting our communities by investing in our communities. Extreme weather conditions like floods and forest fires are threatening people’s homes and jobs. From farming to forestry, supporting community climate action and energy projects will protect families and boost local economies.

No more single-use plastic. Plastic pollution threatens our oceans, our wildlife, and our health. It’s time to make plastic bags, cutlery, and other one-use items a thing of the past. SOURCE

WORDS NOT ENOUGH: TRUDEAU LIBERALS MUST DECLARE CLIMATE EMERGENCY AND FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE WITH URGENCY

” While Liberals and Conservatives use the issue to beat each other up, a closer look shows that they actually have the same emission targets and the same love of pipelines, and that both parties will exempt the biggest polluters from paying a price.”
-Jagmeet Singh on climate change

Last Monday, New Democrats called on Justin Trudeau to declare an environment and climate emergency. Canadian communities are already paying the price of climate inaction and the NDP is calling on the Liberals to bring in strong measures to fight climate change.

“It’s increasingly clear that if we fail to act now to fight climate change, the costs will be immense. The Liberals’ policies – from continuing fossil fuel subsidies to buying and pushing for expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, to practically eliminating the carbon tax for some of Canada’s biggest emitters – are sending Canada in the wrong direction,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. “Canadians should be able to count on their government to have the courage to do the right thing on climate change, while creating good jobs and making life more affordable for Canadians.”

In addition to declaring a climate emergency, the NDP’s motion urges the Liberal government to bring forward a climate action strategy that prioritizes reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, sets ambitious targets with measures to hold the government accountable, takes concrete action to reduce emissions and invests in building the clean energy economy we need now.

“Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have adopted Stephen Harper’s weak targets, and those won’t even be reached for two centuries. And the Conservatives have no plan to tackle climate change. Tackling climate change means we all have to work together and we need to make sure no worker or community is left behind,” added Singh. “We have already started laying out our plan with our commitment to make all buildings – including homes – more energy efficient. This plan will save you money, create good local jobs and fight climate change. New Democrats have a proud tradition of fighting climate change and we will not stop. SOURCE