Denmark is getting off fossil fuels. Are there classes for Canada?



What On Earth54:01Easy methods to ditch fossil fuels with out leaving staff behind

After greater than a decade spent fascinated about fossil fuels and local weather change, Angela Carter was in search of a “beacon of hope” to encourage Canada with various visions for what an oil and gas-dependent society might grow to be.

Carter, an vitality transition specialist with the Worldwide Institute for Sustainable Improvement and affiliate professor of political science on the College of Waterloo, discovered that hope when Denmark made a landmark choice to cancel future allowing for oil and fuel exploration within the North Sea in late 2020.

A rustic of 5.8 million individuals, Denmark earned the equal of $109 billion from oil and fuel extraction within the North Sea between 1972 and 2020. The nation goals to be impartial of fossil fuels by 2050, and has dedicated to renewable energy for all vitality calls for — together with electrical energy, heating, trade and transportation — by that date.

In November 2021, Denmark was one of many founding members of the Past Oil and Fuel Alliance, together with six different international locations and the province of Quebec.

It made Carter curious to know why a rustic so “entrenched” in fossil fuels would determine on “an finish date on its fossil gas extraction,” she mentioned. She adopted her curiosity to Denmark to search out out.

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With many analysts forecasting fossil gas demand to peak and begin dropping by 2030, teachers like Carter, involved staff and union leaders are having conversations about what this implies for jobs and communities.

There’s worry amongst Canadian staff that the vitality transition will depart them out. However some are trying internationally to Denmark and Germany for inspiration on adapt.

The ‘elements’ to vitality transition in Denmark

Esbjerg, a city on Denmark’s west coast, has lengthy been a hub for trade within the North Sea. As its massive fishing trade started to say no, offshore oil and fuel growth took off within the early Seventies.

Now, wind generators and associated know-how make up a multibillion-dollar export trade

A bird's eye view of wind turbines
A fowl’s eye view of wind turbine blades at Port Esbjerg. (Port Esbjerg)

Strolling across the city’s port, Carter discovered the hope she’d seemed for. “The blades on these wind generators are over 100 metres lengthy. It is laborious to think about even the dimensions of them. They usually’re in every single place,” she mentioned.

Seeing the wind trade in Denmark first-hand was, to Carter, the promise of “what the longer term could be” in Canada.

She in contrast Denmark’s vitality transition to creating a cake. The “elements” embody authorities funding, local weather and vitality coverage, assist for staff — and importantly, “large public engagement,” she mentioned.

Excessive warmth and drought circumstances in Denmark over the summer season of 2018 put local weather change within the highlight, prompting protests forward of the 2019 election. Social Democrat Mette Frederiksen gained on a platform that included local weather change.

A headshot of a woman.
Angela Carter visited Port Esbjerg in Denmark for her analysis on vitality transition. (Hilary Gauld)

The Danish authorities determined to revisit the upcoming licensing spherical to probe for oil and fuel within the North Sea “in mild of the elections and in mild of the … public calls for for local weather motion,” mentioned Jens Mattias Clausen, EU director for Concito, a Copenhagen-based think-tank.

On the time, Clausen labored for Denmark’s ministry of local weather and vitality. The French oil and fuel firm Complete withdrew its utility for additional offshore exploration “due to the uncertainty” the delays in licensing had brought on, mentioned Clausen.

How authorities helped construct provide chains in wind vitality 

The place controversy has been a latest hallmark of public debate about vitality transition in Canada, issues are much less polarized in Denmark, mentioned Jesper Financial institution, the chief industrial officer at Port Esbjerg.

“We don’t see this transition as a alternative between one sort of vitality or one other sort of vitality, we see this as a development or a pure growth,” he mentioned.

In 2021, 43.8 per cent of Denmark’s energy manufacturing was from wind electrical energy from each on and offshore generators, in line with the Worldwide Power Company. However the success of wind vitality in Denmark did not occur with out assist from the Danish authorities. A few of that got here within the type of funding to construct wind farms.

“That was a great way to construct up provide chains,” mentioned Financial institution, explaining that by about 2019, the wind farm proposals now not wanted monetary assist as a result of the trade had taken off.

“Then we began investing in vessels,” he mentioned. “The port began investing in additional direct infrastructure for offshore wind.”

A headshot of a man with glasses.
Jesper Financial institution describes the transition from offshore oil and fuel to offshore wind in Denmark as a ‘pure growth.’ (Port Esbjerg)

Financial institution has toured friends from all over the world by the busy port — in a single week alone welcoming guests from port associations in Poland and Baltic international locations, an Australian authorities official and a bunch from the Netherlands. 

Denmark has grow to be a vacation spot for guests from Canada, too. Final month, workers from the Nova Scotia authorities visited to study classes because it embarks on a plan to develop an offshore wind farm by 2030 to supply inexperienced hydrogen.

Assist for staff key to Danish vitality transition

When Jakob Lykke was rising up in Esbjerg, his future profession appeared inevitably tied to the North Sea: working within the transport, fishing or fossil gas sectors.

“I selected the oil and fuel [sector],” mentioned Lykke, who now works as a union chief representing staff on the port, known as dockers.

A man in a white shirt poses for a picture in a field.
When Jakob Lykke was rising up in Esbjerg, Denmark, his future profession appeared inevitably tied to the North Sea. (Bent Sørensen/Video Vest)

Many dockers work in each offshore wind and offshore oil and fuel, he mentioned, describing them as “able to do the job” of working within the wind sector as extra work turns into out there with Denmark’s push to construct extra offshore generators.

The “Offshore Academy” permits staff to review full time for as brief as per week up to some months, studying expertise that enable them to hop between industries, all whereas making what Lykke calls “a good wage.”

Angela Carter observed that oil and fuel staff considered themselves as “vitality staff” and have been “delighted to make that transition” to wind if jobs have been out there.

“If we are able to unlock this within the Canadian context, we won’t assist however win.”

Employee fears of what is perhaps misplaced

In Canada, there are indicators of change within the oil and fuel sector.

In 2022, about 126,000 individuals have been employed in oil and fuel extraction and assist companies, in comparison with about 158,000 in 2012, in line with Statistics Canada.

However some Canadian staff say renewables do not presently supply the identical high quality of life.

“I’ve had presents to go work in wind farms and … [it] simply wasn’t financially helpful to me to do it,” mentioned a Newfoundland oil and fuel employee named Chris in an interview with Laura Lynch for What On Earth.

CBC has agreed to not use his final identify to guard his job safety in his function working for an organization that does inspections for trade, together with oil and fuel websites.

Chris lives an hour outdoors of St. John’s together with his spouse and younger youngster, and usually travels throughout Canada for work on numerous industrial websites.

“Our system relies round cash, sadly, so it actually limits my capability and my drive to hunt out these jobs,” he mentioned.

“Everyone retains speaking about these so-called inexperienced jobs,” mentioned Terry O’Connor, who’s a heavy gear operator on oil and fuel development initiatives and lives in Pemberton, B.C. “The place are they? What are they?”

How employee opposition result in change in Germany

Ensuring staff have been financially supported was a vital a part of one other case examine Angela Carter and different teachers have studied: Germany’s plan to section out coal, which began for financial causes many years in the past, earlier than local weather considerations.

After Germany signed coal import agreements with different international locations within the wake of the Second World Warfare, it noticed its home trade rebound within the late Nineteen Fifties, making a glut fairly actually piling up outdoors mines, mentioned Petra Dolata, an vitality historian and affiliate professor on the College of Calgary.

The primary massive protest by miners occurred in 1959, mentioned Dolata, who grew up in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, a coal mining area. Employees talking up for his or her job safety would play a big function within the phaseout of coal within the coming many years. Between then and the mid-Nineteen Sixties, 165,000 miners misplaced their jobs, she mentioned. 

A row of houses with a smokestack in the background.
The Datteln 4 coal-fired energy plant nonetheless operates in Datteln, Germany, however the nation plans to section out coal-generated energy by 2038. (Submitted by Petra Dolata)

Due to public outcry, Germany made a plan to assist staff.

Unions, trade and governments “sat collectively and talked about, ‘How will you make this phaseout, this closing of mines, extra socially acceptable?'” mentioned Dolata.

The consequence was the creation of a “semi-public” coal firm in 1969, which lined about 80 per cent of coal mines. It was primarily based on what Dolata interprets as “the German coal adjustment act.”

The act mapped out a “managed phaseout” that allowed staff at closing coal mines to search out work at different mines inside the firm, and supplied retraining to different workers.

Whereas Germany was subsidizing the coal trade, it additionally invested in new financial alternatives within the area, together with automotive manufacturing, textile factories and universities.

Power transition not nearly local weather

Germany’s final laborious coal mine closed in 2018 and a full phaseout of coal energy technology is deliberate for 2038 as a part of the nation’s local weather plan.

Carter says there’s an financial case for Canada to spend money on new industries like Germany did.

“If we all know that international oil demand is declining … making ready for that and making ready communities and staff is actually … a necessary act to take proper now,” she mentioned.

Germany’s coal phaseout slowed down within the Seventies and Nineteen Eighties when the worldwide oil disaster hit, however by the Nineties issues began to alter.

“In 1997, the German authorities on the time introduced that it could now not be prepared to subsidize coal the way in which it did earlier than, and that basically was a significant turning level,” mentioned Dolata.

A man and a woman stand in front of a closed door, posing for a picture.
Petra Dolata’s dad and mom, Werner and Elisabeth Dolata, reside within the former coal mining city of Datteln, Germany. (Submitted by Petra Dolata)

Once more, miners took to the streets, prompting renewed authorities assist for staff. Her father, Werner Dolata, discovered that he would begin his personal phaseout to retirement early, at age 53. Whereas it meant some monetary loss, he was glad for the brand new plan, calling it Geschenk des Lebens, roughly translated to “gifted life.”

Not all staff have been as effectively protected as Dolata’s father, she mentioned. For instance, girls working in shops in mining cities who misplaced jobs as their workplaces closed.

“That is for me the fascinating parallel after we even discuss Alberta,” mentioned Dolata. Individuals who aren’t instantly employed within the sector could have fears or “trepidations about what would occur to a area that’s so outlined and identifies with one vitality provider,” she mentioned.

A woman poses for a portrait.
Petra Dolata grew up in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, a coal mining area that’s now a part of her discipline of examine as an vitality historian and affiliate professor on the College of Calgary. (Submitted by Petra Dolata)

In January, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith known as the time period simply transition “divisive, polarizing language.” In March, the federal authorities launched its Sustainable Jobs Plan, dropping the time period simply transition.

“This has grow to be virtually an ethical battle.… Both you imagine that we have to cease producing oil and fuel or you do not,” mentioned Dolata. “That is a really totally different battle than saying we have to guarantee that individuals hold their jobs.”

Dolata thinks a key lesson Canada might study from Germany is the function that unions performed in negotiating with trade and authorities to offer assist for staff.

A spokesperson with the Pure Assets Canada mentioned the federal authorities plans to launch its sustainable jobs laws by the top of 2023.

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