“In making these commitments to lower emissions, it is imperative to consider and mitigate the impact on workers and communities.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (01 Dec. 2020) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is calling on the federal government to strengthen its climate accountability legislation and proceed with ambitious climate action through a justice lens.
President Larry Brown wrote a letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, regarding Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act.
Why climate accountability legislation matters
Canada has never met one of its climate targets. That’s where climate accountability comes in. Climate accountability legislation is a way to hold governments — current and future ones — to their promises by making climate targets legally binding.
Earlier this year, a group of leading environmental organizations jointly developed a climate accountability framework for Canada.
NUPGE has developed a backgrounder for members on climate targets and climate accountability, and the proposed legislation. The backgrounder can be used for discussion and activism on the legislation.
Climate accountability legislation gets mixed reviews
In the letter to Minister Wilkinson, Brown welcomed the proposed legislation, introduced on November 19. It signals the Trudeau government’s commitment to action by putting the commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 into law, requiring 5-year interim emissions-reduction targets and consultation with an expert advisory board.
But Brown also echoed the concerns raised by environmental advocates and experts. This includes the lack of firm penalties if the government misses a target. Also, the bill does not require an emissions target until 2030, meaning there is no 2025 goal.
There is still time for the federal government to fill in these gaps and strengthen the legislation through the legislative review process. Environmental groups have put forward a set of high-level recommendations for improving Bill C-12.
But climate accountability doesn't exist in a vacuum
“In making these commitments to lower emissions,” continued Brown, “it is imperative to consider and mitigate the impact on workers and communities.” Brown goes on to outline NUPGE’s position on, and recommendations for, a Just Transition, which have been brought to the Minister in the past.
To build a path towards a just and sustainable future, those who are most impacted by the transition and the impacts of climate change must be at the table. This includes workers in resource and frontline sectors, as well as those communities most impacted by climate change itself: Indigenous communities, Black communities, communities of colour, women, and people with disabilities.
“It is crucial to foreground the voices of those disproportionately impacted,” wrote Brown. “In short, your government’s commitments to advancing equality must not be viewed or treated as separate from its environmental and climate policy.”
Building back better
In the letter, Brown reiterates the call for a Just Recovery.
“The convergence of the COVID-19 crisis, the economic crisis, and the climate crisis represents a potential turning point for Canada,” wrote Brown. “Amidst the devastation, there is an opportunity—and a responsibility—to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable future. We have no choice but to get out of these intersecting crises, but Canadians do have a choice about which path we take.”
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