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Teacher Magazine Volume 29, Number 3
March 2017

To fix climate change – Make it someone’s job

By Helesia Luke, Coalition Co-ordinator, Green Jobs BC

Soon to be the largest demographic in our work force, 18 to 25-year-olds consistently identify climate change as an urgent issue. They understand that they will likely experience the worst effects of climate change. Youth entering today's labour force also face increasingly precarious and part-time employment.

Germany and China are well on their way to reaching emission goals through ambitious climate policies while simultaneously creating jobs. China recently announced an additional $361 billion for renewable power generation by 2020. This will create over 13 million jobs. In California, climate policies have created over 500,000 good, family-supporting jobs. State-certified apprenticeship programs funded with joint employer and employee contributions ensure skilled workers can build clean energy infrastructure. And UC Berkeley researchers were surprised to discover many of those jobs were created in areas of high unemployment and low-income levels.

Here at home, while oil and gas currently represents only 3.4% of our provincial gross domestic product, the sector seems to punch above its weight when it comes to influencing the province's jobs plan. The government's updated jobs plan is still focused on yet-to-materialize liquefied natural gas projects.

Local governments in BC are doing the heavy lifting on green job creation. Nelson and Summerland, and First Nations communities like the Lower Nicola Indian Band near Merritt are building innovative, community-owned solar arrays. Municipal by-laws and building codes in North Vancouver are creating green jobs for tradespeople. And local incentive programs are helping residents retrofit their homes for energy efficiency-a win-win for everyone.

While local leaders should be commended, the lack of provincial leadership means BC is playing catch-up with our trading partners when it comes to building a low-carbon economy that could put more people to work today and tomorrow.

What could BC's climate and jobs strategy look like? Let's stop thinking about them as two separate things. Globally, climate policy is driving green job growth. Every million dollars invested creates fifteen jobs in clean energy compared to two jobs in the oil and gas sector.

While we may have already been lapped, the starting line to create good, green jobs in BC is not hard to find and doesn't require technological discoveries. Residential and commercial buildings account for a high percentage of greenhouse gas emissions and we do have the expertise to increase energy efficiency. With population growth, public transportation is more important than ever and doesn't require megaprojects to solve. Sustainable forestry management could create more jobs and higher value products. The low-carbon economy requires many of the same skills and occupations: engineers, accountants, tradespeople, teachers, installers, programmers, administrators, and communicators, to name a few.

The first step is a provincial climate and jobs plan that recognizes what other jurisdictions already know: if you want to fix climate change, create an economy that values reducing emissions and then make it someone's job.

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