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New Reports Stress Job Creation, ‘Democratic Imperative’ in Just Transition Off Fossil Fuels

It’s time for Canada to seize the “democratic imperative” for a fast, comprehensive just transition off fossil fuels, while taking advantage of new job creation in rising clean energy industries, according to two new reports issued this week.

“Just transition legislation can put Canada on a pathway to anticipate and respond to economic impacts and opportunities, to engage directly with workers and communities, and to create hope and certainty for their futures,” the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) concludes [pdf] in a 53-page report that summarizes best practices from a dozen jurisdictions around the world. “The scale of the just transition challenge is immense, but the opportunities are enormous,” and “the longer the delay, the higher the economic, social, and environmental risk.”

With Canada on track to phase out coal-fired power production by 2030, “coal workers and local communities will be highly vulnerable to potential job losses and economic hardship,” the Pembina Institute adds. “However, as jobs in the fossil fuel economy decrease, employment in clean energy is projected to rise enough to outpace those losses. While managing the impacts of the coal phaseout is challenging, the clean energy transition also creates new opportunities for communities and workers.”

With the federal government expected to pick up the pace on just transition legislation, IISD lays out eight priorities to get the details right. They include: linking just transition to a 1.5°C emissions pathway; entrenching key just transition principles like social dialogue and decent work; and committing to leave no one behind in the process, with particular attention to Indigenous rights and environmental justice.

The Winnipeg-based institute urges Ottawa to mainstream just transition principles across federal departments, hold corporations accountable to “avoid unfairly shifting burdens to government and taxpayers”, deliver “proactive, scaled-up funding” to support local decision-making, and pursue the elements of a green industrial strategy.

“Social dialogue processes should be robust, early, and ongoing,” the report states, with workers at the table and civil society “meaningfully involved”, and the government “must explicitly acknowledge the need to transition from fossil fuels.”

The Pembina report points to sustainable jobs, community economic development, and strategic financial investment as key factors in a successful job shift. It calls for an off-coal transition based on clear targets and pathways, early involvement of all stakeholder groups, steady access to transition funding, and priority access to clean energy procurement programs for affected communities.