Study shows Canada can meet Kyoto and protect energy workers

Energy union backs action on climate change
April 30, 2002

(OTTAWA) The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has released a new study laying to rest the myth that tens of thousands of jobs will hit the scrap heap if the federal government endorses the Kyoto Protocol.

Canada's largest energy union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers, and the David Suzuki Foundation joined the CCPA this morning at a news conference to release the study on climate change.

Making Kyoto Work: A Transition Strategy for Canadian Energy Workers finds that there are tremendous economic opportunities in becoming more energy efficient and developing new technologies--in alternative fuels, fuel-efficient vehicles, and in wind, geothermal, and tidal power. The study develops a transition strategy that allows Canada to meet its Kyoto Protocol commitments and at the same time provide transition support and employment for energy workers who lose their jobs.

Dale Marshall, a resource policy analyst with the BC office of the CCPA and author of the study, estimates that 12,800 Canadian energy workers will lose their jobs over the next 10 years if Canada acts upon its Kyoto commitments, but over the same period, 16,000 new energy jobs will be created.

Marshall says that "new jobs won't necessarily require the same skills or be in the same region, which is why we need a strategy to help workers with transition."

The 150,000-member CEP has endorsed the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and the union's energy policy includes such a strategy.

"The study supports our view that in the short term, though workers could lose their jobs as we go through this transition, this will be offset to some degree by the creation of jobs in the renewable energy industries that are growing across Canada," says CEP President Brian Payne.

"It doesn't have to be a question of jobs or the environment," says Payne. "Clearly, we can have both."

The David Suzuki Foundation supported the implementation of a Just Transition plan for energy workers. Gerry Scott, from the Foundation, states "Even though there will be an overall increase in jobs, some workers will find that their jobs will be phased out. A sound transition strategy ensures that these workers do not carry the whole cost for climate protection."

"This is the kind of leadership and forward-thinking we need," said David Suzuki. "Instead of denying the need for change as other interest groups have done, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union is working to manage the problem."

The report estimates the cost of a Canadian "Just Transition" program for displaced energy workers at approximately$1 billion over ten years. "This is a small price to pay to ensure that Canada's energy workers aren't left out in the cold," states Marshall. " In addition, Canada should make other smart investments that would create jobs in emerging industries, including establishing energy efficiency funds, shifting subsidies from conventional energy to renewable electricity production, and funding public transit." The federal government could pay for these investments out of the income raised by auctioning off tradable emission permits.