May 22, 2024

IN 2023, WE SAW FIRSTHAND THE catastrophic effects of climate change, from wildfires to floods across Canada. As we enter 2024, it’s an important time to renew our commitment to fight climate change and reduce its impacts on our communities.

Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) are acting, and leading the clean transition in the construction sector, with the Building it Green program. It has been in development since 2021 and formally launched in January with funds from the federal government’s Union Training and Innovation Program. Building it Green is climate education by tradespeople, for tradespeople — focused on equipping them with the knowledge they need to connect the dots between their work and climate impacts.

In fact, many tradespeople are already doing green and environmentally sustainable work on jobsites. Bulldozer operators move and save topsoil to preserve it, and glaziers and insulators are reducing energy consumption in new construction and retrofits which are crucial for reducing our overall energy consumption. And, as you’ve read previously in this issue from the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry Local 516 (UA Local 516), heat pumps are important in lowering energy use — and Canada needs many more of them.

Building it Green is in the process of developing and finalizing its curriculum, which uses a train-the-trainer model to share the basics of climate change with trades instructors through short online courses and longer in-person training sessions. The program is being developed by CBTU staff and our project partners — Skillplan, the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation and the Climate Industry Research Team. It will be offered virtually to instructors across the country. It’s currently being piloted by British Columbia Infrastructure Benefits in B.C. and Mainland Building Trades in Nova Scotia. It will help apprentices, journeyworkers and instructors understand the impact of their actions at work on the environment.

As Canada moves toward its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, it is skilled tradespeople who will lead the transition, building and updating the infrastructure that Canadians rely upon in their daily lives. The federal government is also helping drive the transition with programs such as investment tax credits for employers in the clean energy sector who adhere to strong labour conditions, including prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. Backed by training and funding, tradespeople across Canada will be on the front lines of the transition to a net-zero economy.

A 2021 survey from Abacus Data revealed that 70 per cent of skilled tradespeople are concerned about the costs of retraining and new certifications as jobs shift toward projects in the green economy. Skilled tradespeople worried about job security and wages will hopefully find themselves at the forefront of this energy transition through the Building it Green program, and with support of the federal government. For tradespeople interested in learning more, Building It Green webinars launched in February offer locals the chance to ask questions. Canada’s Building Trades Unions will continue to provide updates about Building it Green, and we are excited to see where the program leads from here. Head to our website at and be sure to follow us on social media @cdntrades for the latest news.

by Amy Burlock