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Majority of Canada's oil and gas workers support move to net-zero economy: poll

The poll found most fossil fuel workers are open to retraining, especially when scholarships were offered. It also revealed some key insecurities among workers not interested in making the switch to a green economy.
Solar panel installation
Workers install solar panels on a roof. A majority of oil, gas and coal workers support a transition to a zero-emissions economy, with most favouring rapid upskilling training within 10 days, or up to 12 months with a scholarship.

Pressure has been building this year inside and outside the fossil fuel industry to drastically cut emissions in the face of global warming. 

But while major car manufacturers pledge to shift all production into electric vehicles, critics of the move to a net-zero economy often cite potential job losses in the oil and gas sector as unacceptable fallout. 

Now, new data suggests that fear could be waning.

A majority of Canadian oil, gas and coal workers support a transition into an economy where a livelihood based on fossil fuels is phased out in favour of net-zero industries, according to a recent poll conducted by Abacus Data on behalf of Iron and Earth, an organization that supports workers transition out of the oil and gas industry. 

The poll found that 61 per cent of oil, gas and coal workers “believe that Canada should pivot towards a net zero economy.” 

Another 58 per cent said they would thrive in world where fossil fuels were put on the back burner. 

Thirty-one per cent, however, said they wouldn’t support a green transition and 11 per cent said they didn’t know.

Nearly three-quarters of the workers polled were men and over half were between age 30 and 44. 

Those polled participate in trades and industrial work, office jobs, on-site supervision and the fields of science and engineering.

SUPPORT DIPS, STILL STRONG IN ALBERTA AND AMONG OLDER WORKERS

While the majority support for a move to a net-zero economy slipped to 49 per cent in Alberta, more workers from the oil-rich province supported the move than opposed it.

Of those polled, 67 per cent agreed climate change is an emerging challenge that needs to be addressed — a majority that held across all demographics and backgrounds but dipped to its lowest level of support (52 per cent) among those age 45 and up.

Age also appeared to play a big factor in why workers opposed switching to a net-zero economy. Of those opposed to the switch, 28 per cent said it was because they were too late in their career.

Other reasons workers said they opposed a move to a green economy included worries their skill-set didn’t match a net-zero world, concerns about pay cuts and because they thought their employer wasn’t going to be out of business anytime soon. 

Nearly 300 workers were sampled for the survey, with nearly half from Alberta and over a third from Ontario.

The survey was conducted from May 24 to June 11 and carries a margin of error of +/- 5.66 per cent, or 19 times out of 20.

Stefan Labbé is a solutions journalist. That means he covers how people are responding to problems linked to climate change — from housing to energy and everything in between. Have a story idea? Get in touch. Email slabbe@glaciermedia.ca.