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Minister McKenna has just announced a new task force of leaders from the labour and environmental movements as well as industry to help shape a transition plan for thousands of coal workers who will soon be out of work. The task force is also expected to lay some of the groundwork needed for other tough transitions anticipated for workers in Alberta. I have been persistently arguing for a high-level task force to build the transition plans for moving to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and ideally 2030, and it will be interesting if this new task force with its narrower focus may be more 'doable'. 

Photo by Gustavo Quepón on Unsplash

If I was asked for advice, I would recommend that it clarify its process and boundaries at the very beginning, for example, is it also going to deal with stranded assets? Will all of its deliberations be open or closed? Will all its reports be available to the public? Why only develop one transition plan, why not several different scenarios that outline the costs and benefits, that can then be presented to political leaders for decisions? Should there be a peer review process for their scenarios and plan(s)? Are they going to deal with the ethical question of continuing to export coal internationally and how to transition away from these exports?

I am also concerned that there is one sustainable development expert, thus, the suggestion that a peer review process for their final deliberations would increase legitimacy and acceptance. Sustainable development is all about interdisciplinary research, there is no one expert who can respond to the complexity of the messy, wicked problems we are now facing.

This is an important step forward, and hats off to Minister McKenna.

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