Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to rise to speak to the motion brought forward by our party.
Why are we hearing increased calls for a just transition in energy, and what is the trigger? As my colleague clearly stated, this transition is being driven by a rapid-paced shift in energy investments away from non-renewable power to renewable power sources. IRENA, which I am happy to hear Canada has finally joined again after three years, reports that 60% of all new power generation capacity deployed worldwide has been in renewable power. That is the direction.
While investments have slightly fallen off recently, $263 billion U.S. was invested in renewable energy capacity in 2016, and the capacity continues to build. In fact, we need less investment because the costs are declining, and policy shifts toward cleaner energy are actually driving that. IRENA reports that the greatest investor in renewable power has been the east Asia-Pacific, with China as the main driver, as well as Japan, South Korea, and Israel.
Canada has also committed to deep carbon cuts, along with other nations, to address climate change and to reduce harmful pollution from burning fossil fuels. Along with its G20 partners, it promised to end perverse subsidies to fossil fuels. However, it is clearly failing to deliver, with the recent billions invested in a pipeline.
Some provinces have already committed to a substantial percentage of renewable energy generation, for example Alberta to 30% and Saskatchewan to 50% by 2030, which will mean a lot of deployment of renewable energy.
American think tanks are determining that a clean energy portfolio combining energy efficiency, reduced demand, storage, and renewables is the lowest-cost option to retire thermal electric, and is even better, cost-wise, than natural gas.
Globally, the renewable energy sector employed 8.1 million workers in 2015 alone, with an additional 1.3 million workers employed in large hydro power. The CLC has reported that, as early as 2013, 37% more Canadians were working in the renewable sector than in 2009, which amounts to over 2,000 jobs. Germany has just committed to a more fast-paced phase-out of its coal power and greater reliance on renewables, in parallel with a just transition strategy for its workers. Across the EU, renewable energy is on track to be 50% of the energy supply by 2030. As I suggested, this is the growing workforce of the world.
This is what sustainability looks like. How do we get there? Why is federal action for a just transition for workers necessary? Without foresight and action now, there is a real potential for stranded workers and stranded communities. A just transition will not happen by itself. Many are already being laid off with the downturn in world oil prices and divestment by major players. Workers, their families, and their communities are stressed. It is critical to commit to a transparent, inclusive planning process that includes measures to prevent fear, opposition, and intercommunity and generational conflict. People need to see a future that allows both security and genuine opportunity. With deeper investments in renewable power sources and energy efficiency measures, we need parallel investments in training and retraining.
As Samantha Smith of the Just Transition Centre said in a report to the OECD:
A just transition ensures environmental sustainability as well as decent work, social inclusion and poverty eradication. Indeed, this is what the Paris Agreement requires: National plans on climate change that include just transition measures with a centrality of decent work and quality jobs.
The ILO director general said:
Environmental sustainability is not a job killer, as it is sometimes claimed. On the contrary, if properly managed, it can lead to more and better jobs, poverty reduction and social inclusion.
As early as 2012, the International Energy Agency, in its “World Energy Outlook”, said:
Energy efficiency is widely recognised as a key option in the hands of policy makers but current efforts fall well short of tapping its full economic potential.... [T]ackling the barriers to energy efficiency investment can unleash this potential and realise huge gains for energy security, economic growth and the environment.
I might add, for job creation. Globally, the renewable energy sector employs millions of workers.
Who has been calling for action by the federal government on just transition? At the last two COP gatherings of world leaders on climate, the featured topic for workers and the public was a call for investment in a just transition for workers and communities.
At the eleventh hour, at the last COP in Berlin, Canada's environment minister was pressured to commit to action. The minister finally, in the third year of the government's mandate, created an advisory committee. The last three budgets have made zero reference to a just transition, and zero dollars have been committed specifically to targeted skills training for the new energy economy.
I will quote the Canadian Labour Congress. It said:
Climate change is real, and its impact on working people and their children will be immense. No amount of wishful thinking will make this challenge disappear, and we have limited time to adapt to changes and prevent further damage....Business-as-usual policies and relying on market incentives will simply not spur this transition with the speed and scale required to avoid catastrophic climate change. And they will certainly not deliver fairness for workers and their communities.
Who are these workers and what are their demands? They are oilfield and gas workers. They are coalfield workers. They work in coal-fired power plants. They are seeking job security in this evolving clean energy economy.
I will share just a couple of those stories, which have been compiled by Energy & Earth.
D. Lee, a unionized trades worker, said:
My work history involves field level oil extraction jobs on drilling rigs and other field services for those drilling rigs. I have become an electrician so that I can participate in the world's energy revolution.
Liam Hildebrand, a boilermaker, said:
I have been a boilermaker for over a decade and have proudly built a number of renewable energy projects with no retraining required. Give us the blueprints and steel and we will help Canada address climate change with our industrial trade skills!
These workers are demanding federal action, but they are not just sitting back, waiting for governments to act. Iron & Earth oil and gas workers partnered with members of the Louis Bull Tribe of Maskwacis in Alberta to train workers to install rooftop panels. Their goal is to up-skill over 1,000 oil, gas, and coal workers, as well as indigenous community members as solar specialists.
We have seen similar successes in T'Sou-ke Nation and other indigenous communities. Iron & Earth, in collaboration with Energy Futures Lab, Pembina Institute, CanGEA, and others have issued a Workers' Climate Plan: Blueprint for Sustainable Jobs and Economy, and have issued a detailed plan, calling on the federal government to revise the pan-Canadian climate strategy to address the needs of workers and to act on the unions' calls for a green economy and skills survey. ECO Canada has existed for decades and is funded at the federal level. It has been doing market analyses on environmental jobs. It would be perfect to lead this work.
In addition, they want research skills gaps filled. They want focused, short-term training programs. They want a workplace training fund. They want an energy manufacturing market analyses. They want support for incubator programs tailored to collaboration between contractors, developers, and unions seeking renewable solutions, like the Energy Futures Lab based in Calgary.
There are concerns that other nations will fill the void if Canada does not step up to the plate and finance this retraining. All of Canada's unions have shown the initiative and willingness to work for it.
Could the federal government at least finally release its regulations to speed up the shutdown of coal-fired power sector? Could the government please now release funds to fuel this workers' fund to transition them to the clean energy economy?