Jobs, Economy and Environment

Letter to former Prime Minister Harper on just transition

November 17, 2015

The CLC wrote to former prime minister Harper in March, 2015 urging commitments that would mean transition to a very low carbon economy within by 2050.

Dear Prime Minister:

As per the agreement of the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Lima in December 2014, Canada is expected to announce in March 2015 its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. The timeline is intended to support the ongoing climate negotiations and the successful conclusion of a new international climate agreement in Paris in December 2015.

We urge Canada to commit to an ambitious national greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target for the next 10 years (by 2025) that supports industry and economic stakeholders to transition to a very low carbon economy within 35 years (by 2050). The federal government, working with provinces and territories, should commit to a comprehensive INDC that includes the following:

  • A fair-share contribution to emissions reductions. We believe that Canada’s INDC must include a legally binding commitment to cut our domestic carbon pollution in Canada by at least one third within the next 10 years (equivalent to 37% below 2005 levels by 2025). Canada should also commit to substantial public finance that would lever additional, verifiable emissions reductions from investments in climate change mitigation in developing countries.

  • A fair-share contribution to climate finance by 2020. We call on Canada to commit 0.2% of GDP ($4 Billion) to publicly funded climate finance divided equally between mitigation and adaptation projects. We urge Canada to make these new and additional resources available to United Nations institutions such as the Green Climate Fund to be disbursed as grants, not loans, in order to prevent further growth in the debt burden of developing countries.

  • Public investment in infrastructure. The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) October 2014 World Economic Outlook recommends long-term public investments in infrastructure to generate employment, boost economic growth, raise longer-term productivity growth rates, and increase long-run growth potential. Public investments in low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure (such as mass transit and green energy projects) will also slow projected emissions growth.

  • A sectoral development policy to promote green and value-added production in key sectors. Targeted investments in high value-added production along with green jobs and green skills initiatives will enhance innovation and labour productivity. This will require active government strategies on trade, sectoral development, and domestic procurement measures.

  • Investment in skills training and jobs development. In the context of low oil prices and a struggling manufacturing sector, the CLC also urges the federal government to take steps to foster a training and skills development culture in Canadian workplaces. We need better collaboration between all skills development stakeholders, more and better labour market information and planning, incentives for employers to invest in training, and support for employee training and qualification.

  • Updated targets and plans every five years to reach the long-term goal of near zero greenhouse gas emissions based on the phasing in of a clean energy system. Commitment periods of five years allow for regular updating and review, with course corrections where required. Canada needs transparent, measurable and verifiable commitments to GHG reductions.

  • A national climate plan to meet domestically legislated targets that complement and enhance provincial and territorial plans. The plans should:

    • coordinate provincial approaches and establish a floor price for carbon that applies across the country.

    • build on provincial/territorial efforts to develop a Canadian Energy Strategy by establishing positive national objectives for renewable energy generation (wind, solar, biomass, small-scale hydro), energy efficiency (retrofitting homes and buildings), and low or zero-emissions vehicles. These objectives should be developed in conjunction with a national training agenda to ensure apprenticeships and skilled trades development for retrofitting, as well as labour-market adjustment and income support measures to help displaced workers retrain, relocate, and accomplish a rapid, smooth and fair transition from fossil-fuel intensive industries to green economy industries. They should also be supported by accelerated research and development in emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

    • establish stringent energy and efficiency and conservation improvement standards for all new homes and buildings, appliances, equipment and vehicles.

    • phase out subsidies to the oil, gas and gold sector that encourage exploration, development, refining, and export of these sources of energy and redirect those subsidies toward low-impact renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and conservation. This step must be accompanied by comprehensive support for worker

    • adjustment, retraining, and income maintenance to facilitate a just transition to a low-carbon economy.

    • stimulate sustainable transportation by investing in accessible urban and intercity public transit, active transportation like cycling and walking, discourage single-occupancy automobile use, and shift freight movement from road to rail.

Prime Minister, a significant increase in global average temperature will lead to widespread, harmful global impacts over the coming century, such the rapid deterioration of eco-systems, large-scale losses of biodiversity, rising sea levels, significant increases in extreme weather events, and trillions of dollars in economic losses. At the same time, the opportunities presented by the urgent need for economic adjustment are great. We are confident that the expanded investment required to achieve a just and orderly transition to a sustainable economy will stimulate economic growth and job creation, lift the long-run competitiveness and growth potential of the Canadian economy, and improve the quality of life for Canadians well into the future.

We look forward to working with you to advance effective climate protection efforts across Canada and accelerate the transition to a clean energy system. I would welcome a meeting with you and your staff to explore options with respect to Canada’s domestic contribution to the United Nations negotiations on climate protection. Canada has an important contribution to make to the Paris negotiations to achieve an agreement that sets the world on the path to climate stability and protection

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