The concept of a “just transition” is a call for social, economic, and environmental justice as the world moves toward a global low-carbon economy. The Government of Canada has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and this will require big changes in our most polluting industries, including Canada’s oil and gas sector. Many fossil fuel industry workers support climate solutions that lead to net zero carbon jobs, as long as they have access to those jobs (Abacus Data 2021). What’s needed is a roadmap to get there.
Canada’s oil and gas sector has already seen significant job losses, which are expected to intensify as global demand for oil and gas declines. In this transition there are numerous elements that must be considered such as: How can oil and gas workers be supported? How can these workers—along with rights holders and other stakeholders—be included in decisions that directly impact their livelihoods and well-being? How can companies and governments ensure that costs and benefits of the transition are fair? How does this impact the broader economy of oil-dependent communities and regions, and what are those economies transitioning to? Who should lead this work? And, how can we ensure that we do not replicate existing inequities in the low-carbon economy?
Canada is not alone in facing these challenges. Denmark, Scotland, and New Zealand are among the countries that have made commitments to transition their oil and gas sectors (in whole or in part). While their contexts differ, these cases nevertheless bring relevant lessons and leading practices that can inform Canada’s approach to a just transition in the oil and gas sector.