A Future Beyond Fossil Fuels and a Just Transition for Workers and Communities

As momentum increases for green recovery across the globe, many Green Budget Coalition recommendations are aimed at facilitating a transition to an economy less reliant on the oil and gas sectors, a dynamic that is already in motion as new technologies provide alternatives to fossil fuels, as investors reduce their exposure to a declining sector, and as countries worldwide ramp up their ambition to mitigate climate change.

However necessary that transition is, it will not succeed unless we concern ourselves with the welfare of affected workers and communities. And if those stakeholders cannot see a prosperous future for themselves beyond fossil fuels, there will be resistance to the transition. The Green Budget Coalition welcomes the announcement of public consultations on just transition. We also stress the importance of having a dialogue between tripartite partners (labour, industry and governments) and non-tripartite stakeholders, adhering to the International Labour Organization Guidelines, and effective industrial policy to develop and support the green industries of the future. In particular, just transition presents opportunities to encourage Indigenous leadership and participation in the low-carbon economy, and to advance goals around reconciliation through Indigenous engagement.

The impacts of COVID-19, especially on the oil and gas sector, demonstrate the urgency for the government to follow through on its promise to implement a national just transition strategy, giving workers access to the training, support, and new opportunities needed to prosper today, and in the future.

In tandem with the proposed legislative process, the Green Budget Coalition strongly encourages the Government of Canada to follow through on the recommendations provided by the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Workers and Communities.81 We are encouraged by the recent announcement to initiate broader consultation and analysis on just transition in Canada with communities and industries beyond coal.

Embedding a just transition in Canada’s budget and climate agenda will set a strong precedent as the world moves to a low-carbon economy and help increase public support for climate policy.

The Green Budget Coalition encourages the federal government [NRCan, ESDC, PCO] to:

  • Implement and adequately fund the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Workers and Communities’ full suite of recommendations;
  • Identify opportunities to scale up just transition funding for all workers in industries impacted by a transition to a low-carbon economy and the communities that rely on these industries;
  • Move forward with legislation, creating a robust Just Transition Act to support workers and communities, that is grounded in social dialogue and the ILO Guidelines;
  • Implement a national just transition strategy, create a federal authority whose work is informed by experts from diverse fields including organized labour, Indigenous groups, environment, economic development, and social work;
  • Identify opportunities to strengthen job creation through carrying out strategic green industrial policy planning, with involvement of affected workers and communities while leveraging opportunities for Indigenous engagement, capacity- building, inclusion and leadership; and
  • Build on and ramp up pilot projects such as Calgary Economic Development’s Edge Up, that work in partnership with existing educational institutions to retrain unemployed workers from the oil and gas sectors. Identifying the right level of investment for just transition-related measures should entail dialogue and tripartite-plus processes82 (including labour, employers, Indigenous groups and other partners). For a sense of the scale of what may be required in Canada, the EU Just Transition Fund is EUR 17.5 billion, in addition to public loan facilities and schemes to mobilize up to EUR 60 billion in investments, and the EUR 145 billion Social Climate Fund that will assist poorer households with transition. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that adequate funding for the proposed legislation would be $16.5 billion per year decreasing over time.


Vanessa Corkal – vcorkal@iisd.ca
Marc-André Viau – maviau@equiterre.org
Lisa Gue – lgue@davidsuzuki.org