Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

12 Dec 2019

A fair change in a greening world

Posted by Michael Keating

We are heading into a period of disruptions greater than the world has ever seen. The surging climate crisis is bringing increasing droughts, fires, storms and floods. They will get worse. A series of other environmental problems, including overfishing, deforestation, land degradation, water shortages, the decline and loss of other species and a host of pollutants, will add to our misery. The world is trying to respond, but too slowly. Climate change is the biggest issue. People are coming to accept that we need to rapidly move from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy. This will mean huge changes to energy, transportation and a host of other sectors that have run on coal, oil and gas for generations. It means billions of people will have to find other types of work and other sources of energy. Globalization of trade gave us a foretaste of the kind shocks and repercussions. Industrialized countries, particularly in North America and Europe, saw tens of thousands of jobs vanish as companies moved production to lower wage nations, particularly in Asia. This had huge social and political impacts in the job losing nations, as people lost good paying work and went on unemployment or took lower paid jobs. It led to a reaction against the politicians who embraced freer trade but failed to compensate the people who were thrown out of work. The discontent is helping to fuel the rise of populist leaders. But, this is small potatoes compared to the changes we need to make to prevent catastrophic climate change. The UN Environment Programme warns the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 to meet the internationally agreed goal of no more than a 1.5°C increase in temperatures over pre-industrial levels. We need to virtually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This is a call for a stunningly rapid transformation of the world economy. It would mean a rapid decline in the production and use of fossil fuels. It would mean the replacement of virtually all the world’s vehicles, including, cars, trucks, buses, planes, ships and other motorized equipment with non-polluting motors. It would require replacing a vast number of heating and industrial systems, such as boilers and furnaces in homes, office buildings, institutions and factories. Then there is the human impact. While millions of new jobs will be created and vast wealth generated by the work needed, millions of jobs will disappear or be radically changed. We cannot ignore the people who will be affected. We need all governments to start working on a global just transition strategy that treats displaced people fairly and sees that they get training for new jobs or get fair retirement packages. What is being done in the world? The European Union’s new Green Deal for Europe proposes €100 billion [about CAD146 billion] of the EU budget and investment loans from the European Investment Bank to fund a “just transition” in poorer, eastern member states whose economies currently rely on fossil fuels. This is the kind of investment the former West Germany has made in the former East Germany since reunification. The International Institute for Sustainable Development has published a paper, In Search of Just Transition: Examples From Around the World, that provides some examples of how countries are starting to grapple with change.

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