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What is a just transition and is your job affected by it?

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With smoke still in the air from this summer’s wildfires and the clean-up still ongoing for many victims of the intense rains and floods, no one can deny that the consequences of climate change are hitting us hard.

Yes, we need to adapt to this new reality - we need to make our communities more resilient to prepare for the next extreme weather events. But we also have to double down on our efforts to stop the continued warming of our planet in order to reduce the severity of what’s to come.

Fossil fuels are the root cause of climate change. We need to rapidly phase them out and replace them with renewable energy sources. Canada must transition to a carbon neutral economy by 2050 and we must do it in a way that is fair and equitable for all.

🤔 What exactly is the energy transition?

The energy transition is the energy sector’s shift from the production and consumption of non-renewable fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) towards renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro). It’s an essential part of Canada’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions, and it’s already well underway, but we must go further and faster!

Will the energy transition affect your job?

Even if you don’t work directly in the fossil fuel sector, your job may be affected by climate change or by the energy transition, and that can be destabilizing and even worrisome. But for all those who work directly in Canada’s oil and gas sector, the energy transition is a significant shift in the work that they have grown accustomed to and that their local community may currently depend upon. The necessary shift away from these industries is a huge deal for these people and these communities across the country. That's why Équiterre is working hard to get the government to plan this transition now, without leaving anyone behind.

Fortunately, the future is bright ☀️ in Canada, full of sun and wind power projects, and many communities and jobs have already moved away from fossil projects and towards renewables. The principles of a just transition are supporting the necessary energy transition.

What exactly is a just transition?

A just transition seeks to help propel the phase-out of fossil fuels towards renewable energy and, thereby, the transition to a net-zero economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned. It creates decent work opportunities, aligned with our climate commitments, while respecting fundamental labour principles and rights, and seeks to eradicate inequalities and ensure social justice.

In cooperation with many other environmental organizations and labour groups, Équiterre has been, for several years, calling on the federal government to enact just transition legislation, which would help Canada:

  • Achieve its climate goals;

  • Minimize negative impacts of the transition on affected workers and communities;

  • Create good sustainable jobs;

  • Share the benefits of the transition;

  • Advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples;

  • Fight inequality;

  • Create a circular and regenerative economy that benefits everyone.

So many opportunities if we do this right

Working with those affected to plan the transition of jobs from the fossil fuel sector towards sustainable jobs is not only a good social measure, but also an economic one. There are many opportunities for new job sectors to emerge or to become more widespread, such as trades in repair and in climate adaptation. To remain internationally competitive and prosper in tomorrow's carbon neutral economy, Canada must embrace the transition.

The sustainable jobs legislation tabled this year by the federal government is meant to make the government accountable for the just transition in Canada, notably by creating an action plan that will support workers and communities through this transition. The action plan should, for example, provide significant access to training for jobs in the renewable energy sector. It’s a great step forward, but there are some important tools missing from the toolbox. Don’t worry, we’re still working on it with our partners, and there should be new developments this fall.

Why is it so important that Canada enact strong just transition legislation?

The energy transition is a complicated issue in Canada, with very strong differences in perspectives and priorities in different regions. While the federal government is trying to get all the provinces on board with its 2035 target for an emissions-free electricity grid by offering billions of dollars in tax credits and grants for electricity projects, some provinces are still reluctant. In Alberta, for example, the government has recently placed a moratorium on renewable energy projects 🤔. There are, unfortunately, still many people who want to hold on to fossil fuels, despite the devastating impacts that climate change is causing in Canada and around the world.

To reduce the intensity of future extreme weather events, we all need to get on board and make this energy transition happen, from trade unions, to Indigenous communities, governments and the private sector. All stakeholders must join the conversation if the transition is to be equitable and beneficial for all those affected.

It’s a huge challenge, but what’s at stake is no less than the viability of our living environments, and therefore our health and safety. Équiterre will keep pushing to make sure that the Canadian government gets this right. There’s no time to waste.

Nous avons besoin d’une transition juste pour tous

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