A Big Role for Building Trades

Date: 
Thursday, August 10, 2017

Same construction work but focus moves to climate change.

By Richard Gilbert

“The construction industry in Canada is going to be busier than we have ever been as we provide opportunities to reduce Greenhouse Gas(GHG) emissions and move to advance the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Lee Loftus, president of the BC Building Trades.

The BCBT commissioned a study by the Columbia Institute to undertake original research on climate change and the role of the construction industry in transforming to low-carbon development in Canada.

“This document provides a solution,which is in defence of work and is not in opposition to the protection of the environment. I don’t think we will meet net zero by 2050, but I certainly think we will be moving in that direction.”

Loftus argues that climate change and global warming are Canada’s most important environmental, economic,and public policy challenges in the coming decades.

The Paris Agreement, introduced in December 2015 at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, commits 195 countries including Canada to educe GHG emissions that cause catastrophic climate change, while shifting economic activity away from the use from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas. This first legally binding climate change agreement mandates governments to keep global average temperature from increasing more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to keep the rise below 1.5°C.

The agreement aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions in 2050 by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference.

A recent study from the Columbia Institute entitled “Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions” views this target as a major policy challenge for the Canadian government. However, the global response to climate change is also an opportunity to invest in the construction of facilities for the generation of renewable energy, including hydro, wind, solar, tidal, biomass, and geothermal energy.

“The construction employment that our members are doing today will be no different from the work that will be done in the future as we move toward 2050,” said Loftus. “This is an exciting time for the building trades in terms of being able to look at future employment and get a better understanding of what that means.” 

The study concludes that the transformation of the national economy is one of the most important pathways to low-carbon development. It will require construction of new energy infrastructure and conversion of existing systems.

For example, the study forecasts that the construction of an electrical supply grid composed primarily of new wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power generation (43%); hydroelectric (40%); and legacy nuclear (5%) would result in more than 890,000 direct construction jobs by 2050.

In addition, net zero building retrofits and new green industrial, commercial, and institutional building construction are predicted to account for nearly 2 million direct construction jobs.  Building small district energy systems in half of Canada’s municipalities with populations over 100,000 would create over 547,000 construction jobs by 2050.

An investment of $150 billion on urban transit infrastructure–including rapid transit tracks and bridges, subway tunnels, and dedicated buslanes–between now and 2050 would create about 245,000 direct construction jobs. More importantly, the transformation of the national economy will require the work of all the trades in the BCBT.

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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BC Building Trades

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