The 50th Earth Day - need for action more critical than ever!

“In the past, our lack of action has allowed even greater destruction to the environment. Today, we are seeing politicians actively use climate change and environmental protection as wedge issues to rally their base. Attacks by governments on organizations who are legitimately seeking a more sustainaible environment are reprehensible and must be condemned." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa (19 April 2019) — Since 1970 the world has marked April 22 as Earth Day, making Earth Day 2019 the 50th time we have collectively marked this important occastion. Today, the need for action is more critical than ever. Unfortunately, instead of action and collective effort, we are seeing right-wing politicians turn a concern that should be non-partisan into a poltical wedge issue.  Because of the polarization this causes, we are in fact moving further away from the low-carbon, sustainable economy that we need.

Climate change is the greatest challenge humanity faces. Every day there is more evidence of the destructive force that a changing climate can unleash on our lives and that disproportionately targets the most vulnerable around the world.

Unions are promoting solutions that address climate change, as well as build a sustainable economy. Working through initiatives like Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces and work of the Climate Action Network Canada, unions are collaborating with allies to pressure political leaders to take much needed action.

Provinces should be part of the solution, not enlisting the courts to block progress

Canada remains near the top of the list of global polluters on a per capita basis. The push to mine more of the oil sands will clearly increase our collective carbon footprint. There have been modest investments and initiatives, but after decades of inaction, we are seeing a group of conservative provinical governments taking the issues to the courts abd trying to undermine any move forward. While bold action is what every credible scientist knows is needed, a very effective program of disinformation and confusion has meant there are substantive numbers of people that believe climate change is not real.

Governments need to act based on facts and a comprehensive plan must be implemented that will create targets and timelines for a transition to clean energy and green jobs. Canada should be at the forefront of these emerging technologies and economies, not laggards in a world that is moving beyond fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, the federal government has not been successful in creating a broad consensus among provinces on the need to work together. 

Environmental organizations are not the threat, not addressing climate change is 

Alberta Premier-elect Kenny used his victory speech to signal an unprecedented attack on environmental organizations in Canada, namely the David Suzuki Foundation and LeadNow, among others. This is a clear attempt to scapegoat the environmental movement as the cause of the economic hardship faced by Alberta's workers due to low oil prices. These attack are irresponsible and no government should be using the power of the state to silence critics and to marginalize legal and legitimate organizations that represent the views of many citizens who want to see action.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) stands with these organizations and all activists who are working to create a positve future for our children and a sustainable environment for all life on earth. We must not be silent in the face of these unconscionable statements by political leaders.

Pipeline conflicts reflect a false choice

The current debate on pipelines highlights the conflict between those who embrace industries highly-dependent on fossil fuels, and those who would protect the environment. What is missing are the needed major investments in a clean future that creates jobs, as well as, ensuring a clean environment. The choice between a clean environment and jobs is a false choice that exists only because we have no serious plan to move forward. The reality is that we need to both protect our environment and provide people with jobs and a sustainable economy. Both can be accomplished.

Move to a low-carbon economy must include a just transition

NUPGE has long held the view that 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, that will create sustainable jobs to 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 a 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.

“This Earth Day, we must move forward on clear proposals, even as we stand in solidarity with those who are being attacked for demanding action to address the grave threats posed by climate change. I believe we must move beyond hopeful words to targeted action, our future depends on it,” Brown said.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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