At the same time, many of Canada's environmental and activist organizations are working hard to show Canadians, and Albertans in particular, that we can indeed have it all-we can have a real impact on climate change, create jobs and re-stimulate the economy and secure economic growth and prosperity in perpetuity.
The literature supporting the concepts of "green jobs" or a "green economy" has been around for some time now, but it really took off last year after the bottom fell out of the global economy and governments world-wide began engaging in stimulus spending. The theory was that, by directing their stimulus spending intelligently, governments could accomplish the dual goals of kick-starting the economy and beginning the transition toward a green economy.
In Alberta, for example, the Alberta Federation of Labour, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club collaborated on a report which showed how many Albertans could be put back to work through government support for things like home energy retrofits and public transit. The Parkland Institute followed this up with a report outlining how much more effective government stimulus would be if it was directed toward public services and renewables instead of toward royalty breaks and oil patch incentives.
It wasn't long before the focus of the message became economic growth itself-green policies were soon touted not only as the key to economic recovery, but also long-term economic growth. In the last two months alone, for example, we have seen a major report by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation showing how Canada could meet scientific-based emissions targets while continuing to grow our economy at nearly the same rate as if we did nothing. We have also seen a book by an Alberta consultant suggesting that we could continue to grow Alberta's energy-intense economy, and continue exploiting the tar sands, while being entirely carbon-neutral.
There is no question that all of this research is important and valuable-the evidence is now incontrovertible that we can meet short term environmental goals while promoting economic recovery and growth. The danger is that these short-term goals have become confused with the long term picture of what a "green economy" could and should be.
Anyone who has read Dr. Seuss's The Lorax understands fundamentally that a green economy is incompatible with one based on perpetual growth. In fact, it was exactly as the book's Onceler was in the middle of a rant defending his need and right to keep growing that the last Truffula Tree gets cut down, killing the forest forever.
So while it might be true that, in the short term, we can reduce our impact on the environment while continuing to grow the economy, in the long term it is not enough to simply reduce our negative impact-We have to eliminate it. And that is incompatible with economic growth. At some point we will need to come to terms with the reality that capitalism as a system depends on perpetual growth, and that if we want a truly green and sustainable economy, then we need to come up with a different system. "Greening" capitalism may buy us a bit of time, but in the end its growth imperative will still completely consume our limited resources.
We must also keep in mind that neither Alberta's economy nor environment exist in a vacuum. By focusing our energies on finding ways to make capitalism greener, we ignore the many environmental, social and global injustices inherent in capitalism. Where will the factories for solar panels, wind turbines, high-speed trains and buses be built? Whose labour will they exploit and whose rivers will they pollute? Will green capitalism still result in five percent of the population accumulating 95 percent of the wealth? Will those indigenous populations around the world who are currently the victims of uncontrolled economic expansion be victimized any less by "green" economic expansion?
Van Jones, the US based green jobs guru, has suggested that because climate change is putting our very survival in jeopardy, it is necessary for us to focus first on greening our existing economy. Once that has been accomplished, he argues, we can then turn our efforts to building a new economy which will be just and sustainable.
History tells us a different story however. Once we make advances, our energies are turned out of necessity toward protecting those same advances, not making new ones. Consider, for example, the extent to which our social programs and health care have been under attack since the day they were implemented. Have we been able to fight for more justice, or have we been too busy fighting to keep what little we've got?
We have an opportunity today to push and fight for the creation of an economy that is truly green, sustainable and just. Yes, it is critical that we take immediate steps to deal with climate change, but if we don't also work to deal with the long-standing social, environmental and global injustices wrought by our economy, then we will truly be no further ahead. We can't bring a green and just economy to be by simply making capitalism greener and kinder. We need a total overhaul. If we lose sight of that, we will never get there.
Vue Weekly, Week of November 19, 2009
Byline: Ricardo Acuña
So-called "green jobs" are growing at more than twice the rate of traditional jobs in Canada--9.1 per cent over the last decade compared with the average of 3.7 per cent--but it's the skilled trades that could stand to reap some of the biggest gains as new green initiatives in sustainable energy and construction get underway across North America.
When U.S. President Barack Obama earmarked $98 billion as part of the economic stimulus package for environmental and sustainable energy projects, it gave an important boost for the emerging field, a trend that has been slowly gaining steam in Canada in the past 10 years.
"I don't think there's any doubt that companies are certainly looking at green jobs as a mechanism to increase sales, increase share price . . . and we now need to get some good definition of what these green jobs are," says Grant Trump, president of the Environmental Careers Organization of Canada (ECO).
Careers in science and engineering will be one focus area of these green jobs as new technologies and processes are developed, but the skilled trades will also play an important role and provide new career opportunities for trades workers.
Green energy and construction projects will open up new careers in manufacturing, construction, operation and maintenance of projects such as wind turbine farms, building retrofits, solar panel installation and transit-line building, for example.
"It definitely increases the job prospects for people in the skilled trades because a lot of the skills they're acquiring in the current process of apprenticeship programs . . . are definitely transferable to some of the things that are on the horizon," says Shaun Thorson, executive director of Skills Canada.
Mechanical CAD designers, fabrication workers, sheet metal workers and construction trades are all among jobs that will be affected by the trend toward green and sustainable projects in a variety of sectors, he says.
"It's important for people to start to think about the skills they have and how those skills are applied to occupations they might not have considered before," says Thorson.
Many wind farm projects, according to Skills Canada, have been stymied because of a lack of qualified people to construct towers and service the turbines. Existing homes are being retrofitted to become more efficient and some are even installing solar panels or cogeneration systems to sell power back into the grid.
Skilled trade workers have a role to play in all of these examples, requiring Red Seal journeymen in about 50 trades to keep up to date with emerging technology.
There are about 8,000 parts that go into the production of a wind turbine tower, for example, and trades workers and manufacturers need to be on top of the latest processes used in various green initiatives, says Thorson.
How a job gets classified as a "green job" is still something that's very much up for debate, however.
On Sept. 1, the first day of the WorldSkills Calgary 2009 competition, ECO will be hosting international delegates from organizations similar to ECO from around the world to discuss how to define a green job and how they fit into the real job market.
The WorldSkills competition will also be a good opportunity for young people to think not only about a career in the skilled trades, but how the environment could play a greater role in where they end up working if they decide to pursue a career in the trades.
In 2008, there were 530,000 jobs in Canada related to the environment, a number that is predicted to grow by 8.8 per cent in the next five years, according to ECO data.
The Alberta Federation of Labour, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club of Canada issued a joint report this year called, Green Jobs: It's Time to Build Alberta's Future, which showed the trend toward developing more sustainable energy sources could provide jobs for electricians, computer and electrical engineers, iron and steel workers, welders, construction workers and sheet metal workers.
The green movement is certainly landing on the radar screen of more and more executives.
"We certainly know that on the health and safety side, and environmental considerations, that for industry in general this is at the top of their priority list," says Trump.
Calgary Herald, Mon Aug 31 2009
Byline: Derek Sankey
Alberta has the capacity to create over 20,000 jobs in the short run, and tens of thousands more long term by shifting its focus to a green economy, according to a new report from Albertan environmental groups and the Federation of Labour.
Greenpeace, Sierra Club Prairie and the Alberta Federation of Labour teamed up to release Green Jobs: It's time to build Alberta's future on April 22. The report suggests three areas where the Alberta government can immediately create jobs while beginning a green economy: retrofitting homes towards greater energy efficiency, building a high-speed light-rail transit corridor between Edmonton and Calgary and encouraging solar and wind power production by providing a feed-in tariff for green energy inputted to the grid.
"There's a different future for Alberta, one able to diversify and expand the economy while protecting our environment," said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace's tar sands campaigner. "The old ideology, of environment vs. economy, is dead. The ideology of the future says you have to have a strong environment to create a strong economy."
The Green Jobs report says a $2 billion government investment in home retrofitting would make 600,000 homes across the province more energy efficient while immediately creating 6,500-14,000 jobs over two years. Those new jobs would be focused on the construction industry, and timely given the fact that unemployment in the Alberta construction industry has increased 14 per cent over the past year, putting 22,000 construction workers out of work.
Alberta's Department of Employment and Immigration has not released a specific response to the report, but spokesperson Terry Jordan said the idea of building a green economy fits with Alberta's objectives.
"A green economy addresses environmental health and sustainability issues," Jordan said. "With advances in science and technology, a green economy uses cleaner and more renewable resources, decreases reliance on hydrocarbons, reduces energy consumption and increases efficiency. The next generation of environmental careers will help shape Alberta's future opportunities."
For the feed-in tariff idea, the report's authors took a cue from Ontario. In March 2009, Ontario became the first North American jurisdiction to attempt a feed-in tariff on renewable energy. Ontario's proposed plan involves implementing a guaranteed price of over 80 cents/kwh for individual rooftop solar production and roughly 44 cents/kwh for large-scale solar production, to encourage the development of renewable energy from a wide range of sources.
Although the Green Jobs report did not provide specific numbers about the cost of an Alberta feed-in tariff, Hudema suggested it would be similar to the Ontario rates.
Bob McManus, spokesperson for Alberta Energy, said the government does not subsidize any fuel source and has no plans to do so.
"If you look at what they're paying as a subsidy in Ontario, around 42 cents per kilowatt hour, that's a huge subsidy," he said. "When something's in its infancy, it might work, but if it gets popular there's a huge cost associated with that."
Hudema, however, believes an investment in renewable energy would be good for the future of Alberta, especially small northern communities like Fort Chipewyan.
"If we develop heavily in renewables through a feed-in tariff, there are huge benefits for small communities to control where they're getting energy," Hudema said. "There's tremendous potential for lifting communities off the grid, especially around the Fort McMurray area."
Slave Lake Journal, Tues May 12 2009
Byline: Shawn Bell
May 2009: Say No to Old Dutch Chips; Keep Energy Jobs in Alberta; Green Jobs; Friends of Medicare Rally
Say No to Old Dutch Chips
- Rather than bargain fairly, Old Dutch Chips on March 30 locked out 170 workers at its Calgary plant. The workers are simply looking for provisions that most workers take for granted: sick pay, minimum hour guarantees, stronger food safety standards and a requirement that all workers pay union dues. The workers, members of UFCW 401, are asking Albertans to not purchase Old Dutch products until the company agrees to a fair deal. Old Dutch chips include the generic brands made for Safeway and Superstore. Take a bite out of Old Dutch profits ...
How To Keep Energy Jobs in Alberta
- Alberta's boom has started to bust with the global economic recession, and thanks to the Alberta government's insistence on a "hands off" policy in the oil sands, thousands of future jobs in upgrading and refining will be located in the U.S. instead of Alberta. The AFL has released a new report, "Lost Down the Pipeline," examining the problem and offering solutions on how we can retain these high quality jobs in Alberta when the downturn ends. Read Lost Down the Pipeline ...
Getting Some Green...Jobs That Is
- The old claim that we have to choose between jobs and the environment is a myth. It is possible to take action to protect the environment AND create good jobs at the same time. To prove it, the AFL has partnered with the Sierra Club and Greenpeace to craft a groundbreaking report on the potential for green jobs in Alberta. Called "Green Jobs: It's time to Build Alberta's Future," it defines a "green job" and looks at concrete ways we can put Albertans to work improving the environment and strengthening our economy at the same time. Read the Green Jobs Report ...
See It On YouTube
- You read our reports. You surf our website. You check out Labourbytes. Now you can see the video version of AFL activities. The AFL has begun producing short videos of our report releases and other events and posting them on YouTube, just like all the cool kids do. Also, for ease of reference, we are linking them to a single page in our website. So, next time you are looking for the AFL's position on an issue, try checking out our YouTube video. http://www.afl.org/pressroom/youtube.cfm?pageId=434&action=preview
AFL Officers Re-elected
- At the AFL Biennial Convention at the end of April, both AFL President Gil McGowan and Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Furlong were re-elected . The Convention also selected a new Executive Council to guide AFL activities for the next two years.
Stand Up for Public Healthcare!
Friends of Medicare Rally
Saturday May 9, 2009 @ 1:30pm
Alberta Legislature, Edmonton
We are standing up to tell our Health Minister that we do not agree with the attack on seniors, the threats to our services, closures of hospitals, along with the rest of the dismantling that has been occurring.
Let's give the Health Minister a strong message that we want positive improvement to our public Healthcare system!
We are organizing buses and car pools from around the province!
If you are wanting to get on one of these buses, call the Friends of Medicare: (780)423-4581. Stand up for Medicare ...
Public Interest Alberta's 5th Anniversary Celebration
Friday, June 5, 2009
Chateau Louis Conference Centre
11727 Kingsway, Edmonton
This evening will give us an opportunity to come together to socialize and reflect on the important work we have undertaken over the past five years. We will also be presenting our annual Public Interest Award to this year's recipients.
Tickets - Individual $65.00 / Table of 8 - $500.00
6:00 pm - Cocktails
7:00 pm - Dinner
8:00 pm - Celebration & Entertainment
Did you know ...
Green Job Creation in Alberta
Short Term: 53,000 to 65,000
Medium Term: 85,000 to 140,000
Possible Green Jobs:
- Retrofitting buildings
- Building and operating public transit
- Manufacturing Green Products
- Building High Speed Rail
- Creating Green Energy Infrastructure
The emerging cooperation between labour and environmental groups is flipping the traditional story, and creating a new way to see the environment and the economy. People get it. They understand that you can have a clean environment and a strong economy, and they like the idea of governments pursuing policies that will lead to the creation of green jobs.
The report, entitled Green Jobs: It's Time to Build Alberta's Future, was commissioned by Greenpeace, Sierra Club Prairie Chapter and the Alberta Federation of Labour. This unique coalition responds to the interest Albertans have in a strong bottom line that also supports ecological health.
"This report shows what we've been saying for some time now: that a green economy is a healthy economy. Right now, we have the ability to put tens of thousands of Albertans back to work building the future," said Jeh Custer, Energy Campaigner with the Sierra Club Prairie Chapter. "All we need is a little bit of vision and a lot of leadership."
The green jobs strategy is needed now at a time when Alberta has record job losses and its first deficit in over a decade. Alberta has slipped from having the lowest unemployment levels in Canada to third. Since August 2008, employers have cut over 135,000 full-time positions.
The vision in the report will breathe new life into the province's economy and help improve its environmental track record, which has recently come under international criticism.
Green Jobs: It's Time to Build Alberta's Future, shows a new way forward. It outlines what a green economy should look like. The green jobs of the future include electricians, computer software engineers, iron and steel workers, electrical engineers, electrical equipment assemblers, welders, metal fabricators, electrical equipment technicians, construction workers, machinists, construction labourers, operating engineers, and electrical power line installers and repairers, and sheet metal workers - a truly "green collar" industry.
"It's time this government invests in people and put our dollars towards building safe, vibrant and sustainable communities in Alberta," said Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "This report shows undeniably that a green investment will allow us to diversify our economy, to stabilize it and to put tens of thousands of people to work immediately building our green energy future."
Other green jobs could be created in providing water treatment for First Nations communities, improving wastewater treatment systems, reforestation, and cleaning up contaminated sites. These opportunities can create many more good green jobs in rural and urban areas.
"Instead of investing $2 billion in false solutions like Carbon Capture and Storage, the government should choose solutions that will help every Albertan," said Mike Hudema, Climate and Energy campaigner with Greenpeace, Canada. "The time has come to let go of what's clearly not working and begin focusing our energy on creating the clean, green economy that will sustain us for generations to come. It's time to build the future."
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For more information, please contact:
Gil McGowan, President, AFL, office - 780-483-3021; cell � 780-218-9888
Jeh Custer, Sierra Club Prairie Chapter, 780-660-5483
Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Tar Sands Campaigner, 780-504-5601
Jessica Wilson, Greenpeace Media and Public Relations Officer, 778-228-5404
The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan scuttled notions of a national cap-and-trade program Wednesday, warning other provincial and territorial heads they consider it a thinly-disguised attempt to siphon their provinces' petroleum riches.
"There's only one inter-regional transfer of wealth in this country and it's called equalization," Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach warned. "There won't be another one from the province of Alberta, and that's as straight an answer as I can give."
Although climate change is high on the agenda for the Council of the Federation's three-day meeting in Quebec City, attempts to find common ground among the 13 leaders derailed at the onset.
The two Prairie premiers placed themselves firmly at odds with Canada's most populous provinces, Ontario,
Quebec and British Columbia, which, along with Manitoba, support a national or international carbon trading market aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, whose province is reaping the benefits of a burgeoning energy industry and other surging natural resource activity, vowed to battle alongside Alberta.
"We will fight aggressively against any initiative that would redistribute not just wealth, but opportunity, and threaten our 'have' status," Wall said.
"(Our prosperity) is good for the country," Wall said.
Prosperity, however, is only touching parts of the country these days.
As Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland contemplate what to do with huge budget surpluses and travel the country -- even the world at times -- to find workers to fill a bounty of jobs, recession fears are stalking other regions.
Ontario, home to roughly 40 per cent of Canada's population, is grappling with the loss of tens of thousands of auto industry jobs and the possibility of becoming a have-not province.
Although the federal equalization policy, which provides struggling provinces payments to provide comparable levels of public service, is not slated for discussion in Quebec City, talks on climate change are increasingly intertwined with worries about the economy.
Calls for harmonized greenhouse gas regulations are likely to remain unheeded in the fallout.
"Climate change requires a pan-Canadian approach -- not stop-gap measures, province by province," said Paul Moist, national president of the country's largest union, CUPE.
"We're worried. We can't have 10 versions of climate change plans."
Yet that is actually what's emerging in the absence of strong federal government leadership on the file, charged a new report from the David Suzuki Foundation on Wednesday.
The conservation group's climate change report card gave top marks to British Columbia, which recently introduced a carbon tax at fuel pumps and a cap on emissions from industrial stacks.
Manitoba ranked highly, too, and Quebec and Ontario garnered praise for their policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and proposed cap-and-trade system.
Alberta -- which produces the most greenhouse gases in the country -- rated dead last, according the Suzuki foundation. Saskatchewan was also cited as an environmental laggard.
"The worst offender (Alberta) has skyrocketing emissions and no plans to decrease them anytime soon," the report said.
Alberta Environment spokeswoman Kim Capstick dismissed the report card's assessment of the province's climate change performance.
She noted it failed to mention the province's blockbuster announcement last week to commit $2 billion to developing large-scale projects to capture carbon emissions and permanently bury them deep underground.
Another $2 billion has been set aside for transit projects encouraging Albertans to drive less.
"Once again we are not being given credit for the incredible work that is happening here, and I'm curious as to why," Capstick said.
Stelmach brought Alberta's carbon-capture plan to Quebec City, while Wall has details of a massive pilot project in Weyburn, Sask., where more than seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide have been injected into an oil field since 2000.
The pair are expected to deliver presentations on carbon sequestration technology to their provincial and territorial counterparts today.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, though, expressed doubts Wednesday that the technology is the best answer to Canada's growing greenhouse gas emissions.
"Carbon capture is something I remember President Reagan talking about," McGuinty said in Quebec City.
"Billions and billions have been invested in this worldwide, and we're not there yet."
Meanwhile, labour mobility and trade is also expected to grab the spotlight today at the Council of the Federation conference.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan is warning major changes to Canada's internal trade rules are afoot.
He said the premiers are on the verge of signing off on new rules that could give businesses the right to sue governments for policies that hinder profits.
Calgary Herald, Thurs July 17 2008
Byline: Lee Greenberg and Renata D'Aliesio
Policy paper adopted at AFl 45th Constitutional Convention, May 10-13, 2007
EDMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour applauds today's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in the House of Commons, and says its time for all levels of government to walk the talk on helping workers who may be affected by climate change policies.
"Workers in Alberta and across Canada know that action on climate change is critical for future generations" says AFL President Les Steel. "We believe that Kyoto is an important first step in addressing the problem, but we have to do it right."
"For months we've been hearing the Alberta government say how concerned it is about the potential impact of Kyoto on jobs," says Steel. "With today's ratification vote, it's time for Klein to stop the fear-mongering and work with the labour movement and the federal government to ensure no workers are made to bear an unfair burden of implementation."
Steel says that while millions of new jobs will be created in Canada even with Kyoto in place, there will be job shifts from some sectors to others. He says the AFL has always supported Kyoto, but with a just transition plan in place to help workers adapt and train for the new jobs that will be created.
"We know that Kyoto can be implemented in a way that is good for workers and communities as well as good for the environment. The best thing that the Alberta government can do now is get on board to make sure it happens."
Don MacNeil, western administrative vice president for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, agrees.
"Our members, including 35,000 who have jobs in the energy sector, support Kyoto and know that it's the right thing to do," he says. "We have a workable just transition plan that will ensure that workers and their families and their communities can benefit from new opportunities, but it will take political will. The actions of the Alberta government in the coming months will show if their new-found concern about jobs is rhetoric or reality."
"Nobody is more concerned with jobs than the labour movement," adds Steel. "But our members know that healthy jobs and a healthy environment go hand in hand."
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 499-4135
Don MacNeil, CEP Western Regional Administrative VP @ (780) 984-5289
OTTAWA - The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, along with several other prominent labour leaders from across the country, will attend a special two-and-a-half hour meeting with federal Environment Minister David Anderson later today.
At the meeting, Steel will demand the creation of a substantial transition fund to help workers who may be displaced as a result of the Kyoto Accord.
"We're on record as supporting Kyoto. It's the right thing to do for our environment," says Steel. "But, at the same time, we can't forget about the thousands of workers who may lose their jobs. If we're going to go ahead with Kyoto, mechanisms have to be put in place to help workers and communities make the transition to a greener economy."
Steel says that millions of jobs will be created over the next decade in Canada, whether the Kyoto Accord is ratified or not. But, he says there is no doubt that Kyoto will result in employment reductions in at least a few sectors.
"The solution to this shift in jobs is not to forego action on climate change," says Steel.
"The real answer is to ensure that those who do lose their jobs are given options to find new employment, particularly in related sectors that are expected to experience growth. That's the message we'll be delivering to the Minister tomorrow: Kyoto, yes, but don't leave workers behind."
The meeting with Anderson will take place today between noon and 2:30 p.m. Alberta time. Steel will be available to answer questions from reporters after 2:45 p.m. Alberta time.
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 499-4135
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 910-1137 (cell)