Canada and a just transition off fossil fuels

At a town hall tonight on a just transition away from fossil fuels — organized by and attended by Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May and NDP climate change critic Laurel Collins, but which environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson declined to attend — May repeatedly brought up the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities as a model. In particular, she emphasized the importance of countering the narrative that escaping our fossil fuel dependence will be bad for jobs, and of respectfully consulting with the most affected communities when making policy.

The central nonsense of Justin Trudeau’s climate change policy is his unwillingness to accept that only fossil fuel abolition will let us avoid catastrophic climate change. Canada has already more than used up our fair share of the global carbon budget, and building new long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure will only increase the costs of our transition when we need to scrap them early and scramble even faster to build climate-safe replacements. Canada’s assertion that we can keep expanding bitumen sands and LNG production and exports is also entirely at odds with what fairness and pragmatism demand globally. The richest and dirtiest states need to lead the way, not keep making excuses, or the global logjam against sufficient action will be impossible to overcome.

7 thoughts on “Canada and a just transition off fossil fuels”

  1. One way to ensure Canada reaches net-zero? Spend $10 billion to retrain oil and gas workers

    Iron & Earth, an advocacy group for oil and gas workers, says massive federal investments are needed over next decade to help companies and workers transition to an economy in line with Canada’s net-zero carbon pollution targets

  2. Whose jobs face transition risk in Alberta? Understanding sectoral employment precarity in an oil-rich Canadian province

    Labour markets of oil-exporting regions will be impacted by a global transition to low-carbon energy as oil demand reduces to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement. Together with direct job losses in the oil and gas industry, indirect employment effects on other sectors should also be considered to ensure a just transition. We explore these direct and indirect employment impacts that could result from the low-carbon transition by analysing the effect of oil price fluctuations on the labour market of Alberta, a Canadian province economically reliant on oil sands extraction. We employ a mixed methods approach, contextualizing our quantitative analysis with first-hand experiences of career transitions using interviews with oil sands workers. We estimate a vector autoregression for province-wide insights and explore sector-specific dynamics using time series regressions. We find that the price discount on Canadian oil sands, which is determined by local factors like crude oil quality and pipeline capacity, does not significantly affect employment, while the global oil price does. This finding puts in doubt claims of long-term employment benefits from new pipelines. We find that at a provincial scale, oil price fluctuations lead to employment levels also fluctuating. Our analysis at the sectoral level shows that these job fluctuations extend beyond oil and gas to other sectors, such as construction and some service sectors. These findings suggest that the province’s current economic dependence on oil creates job precarity because employment in various sectors is sensitive to a volatile oil market. Furthermore, due to this sectoral sensitivity to oil price changes, workers in these sectors may be especially at risk in a low-carbon transition and warrant special attention in the development of provincial and national just transition policies. Transitional assistance can support workers directly, while economic diversification in Alberta can reduce reliance on international oil markets and thereby ensure stable opportunities in existing and new sectors.

  3. The concept of a “just transition” has existed for several decades, but it took on new meaning after the 2015 Paris climate agreement committed most of the world to transitioning to cleaner energy sources in a bid to slow climate change.

    The idea is that any efforts to adjust reliance on fossil fuels must ensure that people who work in energy industries can move to new sectors and will not be left out in the cold.

    The “just transition” debate exploded last month when Smith lambasted the federal government for a briefing document that listed the number of jobs that could be affected by the ongoing global transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

    Smith misread the total number of jobs in the affected sectors to mean the number of jobs the federal government expected would be lost, and pledged to “fight this just transition idea” with everything she had.

    A week later, the premier wrote to Trudeau warning him that the Ottawa-Alberta relationship was “at a crossroads,” and demanding that Alberta be included in all discussions on a “just transition” going forward.

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