Not just a transition, a just transition?

This post was written by Oil Sands Divestment and published on November 19, 2021.

Oftentimes in the context of a sustainable future, we hear the term ‘Just Transition’, advocated for by environmental organizations such as for years, and more recently discussed by the Canadian government. The Just Transition includes retraining workers in some of Canada’s most polluting industries to work in the low-carbon economy, in order to reduce the impact on individuals while propelling the Canadian economy forward with green alternatives. 

But is a just transition really possible, and how many jobs will be created?

According to a report published by Clean Energy Canada in 2019, jobs in the fossil fuel energy sector are predicted to shrink by 0.5% annually whereas jobs in the clean energy sector are predicted to grow 3.4% annually, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in Canada. On top of this, the report predicts that by 2030 Canada’s clean energy sectors which includes transport, energy, grid infrastructure, buildings, and industries will employ 559,400 people. Considering that as of June 2020 158,028 Canadians were employed in the oil and gas sector, and the numbers are rapidly decreasing, it’s safe to say a just transition in employment is possible and it’s already starting. In July 2021, in conjunction with the launch of their Just Transition Engagement project which calls on stakeholders to discuss proposed legislation to support the Just Transition, the Canadian Government announced it is “building a clean energy future that leaves no one behind”. Additionally, preceding this announcement the Canadian government released a report titled A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy in which they identify the growth potential of the clean energy sector. 

However, the Canadian government continues to finance fossil fuels, dishing out a minimum of $18 billion to the oil and gas sector in 2020, while at the same time only allocating $15 billion to climate initiatives throughout a ten year period. Despite this, “market changes will occur regardless of government decisions, and Canada could fall behind if our policies don’t allow our energy sector to excel at home and grow abroad.”