Earth Day: Any strategy on climate change must include a just transition

“The key is a comprehensive strategy that supports workers, their families and communities as partners in change, not victims of change. With a just transition strategy in place, the possibilities are rich and the vision of greener communities in a low-carbon economy is bright.” — James Clancy, NUPGE National President

Ottawa (22 April 2016) — Today, on Earth Day, leaders from around the world are gathering in New York to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are on hand to put Canada's official stamp on the Agreement. 

National conversation about climate change and clean growth

At the same time, the federal government has launched an interactive website for Canadians to submit their ideas on how to address climate change and promote clean growth. The government sees this as an opportunity to hear what people are saying, share ideas, and provide a way for the public to engage in a bigger conversation about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The website will be taking feedback from the public until June 1. 

Since being elected, the federal government has been playing catch up on the climate change file, after the decade of neglect by the former Conservative government. Initiating discussions with the premiers, being active within the United Nations on the environment, signing the Paris Agreement, all signal that climate change is a major priority for this new government. 

What's missing is a job creation plan

One of the government's focuses will be on generating "ideas for new innovation, technology and job creation."  Up until now, the public has heard little about the government's plan to create jobs, in general, not to mention how to make a just transition from resourced-based jobs to green jobs. 

Alberta is experiencing what happens when a government refuses to give up its reliance on oil and gas. Despite decades of massive revenue for the province, the former Progressive Conservative government refused to diversify its economy. As the price of oil has plummeted, thousands of workers have lost their employment, putting their families at risk. 

"What's happening across the country in resource-based industries shows why we desperately need an action plan that allows workers to transition to greener jobs in growth areas," says James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "For this to work, the plan must include substantive skills training and opportunities workers will need in order to excel in these new sectors."

Move to a low-carbon economy must include just transition

The move to a low-carbon economy does not happen overnight. It is a deliberate process and requires planning and preparation from all levels of government. This process must include a just-transition strategy which means creating sustainable jobs that protect the environment and offer lasting employment and economic security for communities.

The labour movement has been working on a just-transition strategy for decades. One of the main premises of just transition is that the costs of shifting away from our dependence on fossil fuels should be shared across society rather than be borne alone by those most affected by this shift. 

Workers must be partners in change, not victims of change

“The key is a comprehensive strategy that supports workers, their families and communities as partners in change, not victims of change,” says Clancy. “With a just-transition strategy in place, the possibilities are rich and the vision of greener communities in a low-carbon economy is bright.”

"On this year's Earth Day, we are hopeful that this new government will match the "sunny" campaign promises with concrete action," Clancy said. "Our communities and our economy depend on it." 

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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