Four recommendations to support workers in nation-wide phase out of coal power: Pembina Institute

New report offers insights for a just transition that ensures access to opportunities in a net-zero economy and provide a blueprint for other energy sectors to follow

According to Pembina, as many as 4,628 jobs will be impacted by Canada’s coal phase-out. Shutterstock photo.

The Pembina Institute issued a new report examining government plans to address the impact of the coal industry’s decline on its workforce as jurisdictions in Canada accelerate the phasing out of coal power.

Workers and communities that have relied most heavily on the coal industry are highly vulnerable to the economic consequences of the looming deadline to end coal-generated electricity by 2030.  According to Pembina, as many as 4,628 jobs will be impacted by Canada’s coal phase-out.

“It’s extremely important that workers have access to new openings in related sectors that, unlike coal, will experience significant growth,” said Binnu Jeyakumar, Director, Clean Energy, Pembina Institute.  She added “Putting in place good support systems will solidify a future where communities can thrive as individuals experience the benefits of a healthy economy.”

Although the clean energy transition has been underway for a number of years, most efforts to ensure a smooth transition for affected workers have only been made recently.  Through the lens of a just transition, Pembina’s report, Supporting Workers and Communities in a Coal Phase-out, puts forward four key recommendations on how best to provide access to new job opportunities in a net-zero economy.  They include:

  • Setting clear targets and pathways toward decarbonization and communicating information to stakeholders in a timely manner. Clear communication about the pace, goals, and pathways of the energy transition measures provides the certainty needed for affected workers, communities, and industries to plan their futures.
  • Involving all stakeholder groups early in transition negotiations. Early participation is essential for crafting just transition policies that address the challenges faced by workers and communities most affected by the energy transition.
  • Establishing transition financing mechanisms in decarbonization policy design. A steady source of funding should be used to ensure the overall stability of just transition initiatives.
  • Prioritizing impacted communities in clean energy procurement programs. Governments and utilities need to prioritize purchasing renewable energy from former coal communities, with a focus on community and Indigenous project ownership.

Recognizing that a “just transition” can refer to multiple aspects of energy and environmental justice, access, and inclusivity, the report focuses on its application to Canada’s coal workers and communities in the context of the Paris Agreement. That Agreement states that a just transition must include “the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities.”

Grace Brown, Senior Analyst, Pembina Institute said “It is critical that adequate support be provided to achieve a transition that not only mitigates the impacts of lost revenue and jobs, but also provides wide-reaching benefits from the energy transition.”

As Canada moves toward a decarbonized future, coal workers are on the frontlines of the economic changes ahead. Creating a meaningful and equitable transition for coal-reliant communities and coal workers can help lay the groundwork for other sectors that will need to develop comparable systems to navigate the shift to new areas of growth.

“This transition support, if done well, can provide a blueprint for the efforts needed to ensure a just and equitable transition in other sectors of the economy, as they, too, are impacted by shifts in the global economy and climate action,” said Brown.

While the Canadian government has acknowledged the importance of a just transition in achieving sustainable decarbonization in Canada’s climate and jobs plans, the promised Just Transition Act was absent from the federal climate plan and most recommendations made by the Just Transition Task Force have yet to be implemented.

Download a copy of Supporting Workers and Communities in a Coal Phase-out

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