Skilled tradespeople laid off from Canada’s oilpatch are challenging their former industry’s narrative that only more fossil energy extraction can replace their lost jobs and drive Canada’s energy economy. The non-profit Iron and Earth submitted a Workers’ Climate Plan to the federal government earlier this week that rests heavily on green energy and meeting Canada’s climate commitments.
The report “describes how Canada can become a leader in renewable energy, and a net exporter of renewable energy products, services and technology, by harnessing the industrial trade skills of current energy sector workers,” its executive summary states.
Basing its findings on months of discussions with energy workers, as well as meetings with stakeholders in industry and the environmental sector, Iron and Earth notes that “a growing number of oil and gas tradespeople support a transition to renewable energy, so long as it provides a just transition for current energy sector workers.”
The report identifies three principles for future energy development: that it “ensure continued job opportunities for Canada’s skilled workers,” “be aligned with climate commitments,” and “build a thriving international export market of renewable energy products, electricity, and services.”
To achieve those goals, the plan proposes four priorities for federal government action: Providing short-term training and apprenticeship updating programs to “rapidly upskill” former oilpatch workers into a renewable energy work force; encouraging existing manufacturers to retool for renewable energy products; positioning existing energy sector unions, contractors, and developers within the renewable energy sector through incubator programs and collaboration initiatives; and accelerating the integration of industrial-scale renewable energy into “existing carbon-based infrastructure.”
“This isn’t about taking jobs away from people. It’s about opening up sustainable opportunities for skilled workers so their families can thrive,” Lliam Hildebrand, a tar sands/oil sands boilerplate maker and executive director of Iron and Earth, said in a statement. “We’re giving a voice to real oil and gas workers who deserve a say in these issues and want a better future.”
Iron and Earth previously announced a partnership with Newfoundland’s Beothuk Energy to jointly promote six wind projects off Canada’s east coat, producing 4,000 MW of electricity.
“An estimated 43,000 jobs were lost in the Alberta oil and gas sector in 2015 as a result of market changes,” DeSmog Canada reports. “In a survey, Iron and Earth found 63% of workers support making the transition to clean energy jobs with some training upgrades. Sixteen per cent said they wouldn’t require retraining to shift into renewable energy.”