When it comes to energy and climate policy, it’s important Canadians continue to keep their collective eye on the prize. From my perspective, the prize is continued market access together with fair treatment for fossil fuel workers, families and communities.
The federal government has rightly said there’s far too much polarization in the conversation around fossil fuels. We’ve said the same since the first days our group began to speak out on the topic.
We know, for example, that demand for all categories of energy supply continues to grow. That means we’ll require oil and gas for a very long time. So fossil fuels, together with other renewable sources, will form a key part of our energy future for the foreseeable future.
We must ensure Canada remains a strong energy supplier, so we’re not forced to rely on other countries for our energy resources – and other countries don’t simply take our market share when we’re capable of supplying even more of the world’s energy needs.
Several pieces of the Canadian energy puzzle exist and are ready to be put together. But let’s be very clear. There are some important caveats to solving the puzzle. Here’s how a University of Ottawa survey described the requirements of a just transition.
For any energy transition to be a just one, it has to consider human dimensions of the policy and technical issues. It must engage with stakeholders, ensure the task force is geographically and vocationally reflective of the groups affected and avoid partisanship and politicization. That seems reasonable.
For example, when a just transition task force for coal workers
released its report during the first Justin Trudeau administration in 2018, it recommended a wide range of attributes and methods for a truly just transition.
But as far as the fossil fuel just transition discussion has gone, almost in every case these aspects of fairness and justice have fallen by the wayside.
It seems obvious that workers, families and communities that rely on fossil fuel industries for their existence shouldn’t bear a disproportionate share of the costs of the transition. It’s equally clear those key stakeholders should be afforded a chance for meaningful participation. Without that, polarization will only increase.
Yet for some reason, Ottawa’s seemingly rushed efforts to execute on the coal phase-out have ignored the committee’s guidance on fairness and justice.
Affected families and communities need a regionally determined policy with longer timeframes and reasonable job replacement options – jobs in the same region and at the same time that displaced workers need them.
Here’s my bottom line: A just, pragmatic and fair transition for workers, families and communities is just as important as the technical issues of lowering GHG emissions.
Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer-initiated group that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.