Government of Canada releases “Just Transition” discussion paper on transitioning to a “low-carbon economy.”

On July 20th, Natural Resources Minister O’Regan introduced the consultation process on the government's “Just Transition” plan to deal with workers hurt by the short term energy transition that the Trudeau government is proposing.

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“The future success of our economy hinges on our ability to compete in an increasingly green, low-carbon global economy. We want to work with partners to ensure a just transition for all Canadians and to be successful in transforming to a low-carbon future.” That’s the lead statement on a “bold and ambitious action” plan put out by the government.

On July 20th, Natural Resources Minister O’Regan introduced the consultation process on the government’s “Just Transition” plan to deal with workers hurt by the short-term energy transition that the Trudeau government is proposing.

The government says that the purpose of “Just Transition” is “to transform our economy to take advantage of new markets, new supply chains and new opportunities for economic growth and job creation.”

“To seize these opportunities, we need to build on the agility and resilience of Canada’s workforce so that it is equipped with the range of skills required to deliver on this ambition.”

The “Just Transition” plan seeks to transition the labour force in Canada and address “challenges for those that will need to pivot to new jobs.”

The government says they recognize “that the transition will have varying impacts across the country, between regions, sectors and demographics.” Currently, the energy sector in Canada makes up almost 800,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada. The majority of those jobs will be impacted by the energy transition.

The “Just Transition” discussion paper says that the government is currently developing legislation to transition the Canadian economy to a “low-carbon economy.” It was not made clear in the discussion paper what would be in the legislation.

Also absent from the discussion paper were any references to emerging oil and gas technologies that Canadian energy companies have said could lead the industry to become net zero in the medium term. In the last several months, major Canadian oil and gas producers have committed to the net-zero goal by 2050.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage expressed concerns:

“The federal government’s intention to hastily phase out Canada’s world-class oil and gas industry is extremely harmful to the hundreds of thousands who directly and indirectly work in the sector, and will be detrimental to Canada’s economic recovery.”

“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, strong global demand for oil and gas is projected for decades to come,” stated Savage.

“That source of energy has to come from somewhere, and Alberta is well-positioned to meet that demand. Yet it seems Ottawa is content to hamstring Canadian industry while letting other jurisdictions with lower environmental standards dominate the global market.”

The federal government says that this plan is part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement.

“Canada’s actions to address climate change at home and abroad are guided by the Paris Agreement goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

The government also wants to make the “just transition” “inclusive by design”:

“The just transition must be inclusive by design, addressing barriers and creating opportunities for groups including gender, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, Black and other racialized individuals, LGBTQ2S+ and other marginalized people.”

The government did not report on how many of these individuals currently work in the energy industry or how their needs are different from other energy workers.

Another principle of the Just Transition program focused on in the discussion paper is fostering  “international cooperation” as one of the four main focuses. It seeks to have net-zero for “all people.” It is not clear whether that means that Canada will be funding projects in other countries. 

Here next steps in the program:

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