Earth Day 2020

April 22, 2020

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Like most things, Earth Day will look very different this year, as events move online as people around the world avoid gathering in groups in an effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this unprecedented health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, nature has the power to give solace, soothe collective anxieties and provide hope. As spring emerges across the country, we are reminded of the incredible stresses placed on our planet, as well as it’s incredible capacity for recovery, but only if given a chance.

The world is in the grip of an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Today, governments are largely focused on public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, and on providing much needed relief for Canadians facing unprecedented economic hardship as a result of the pandemic, while also working to address challenges in supply chains to ensure that our access to critical medical and protective equipment, healthy food and other necessary goods remain intact.

Despite reports of diminished travel and industrial activity resulting in dramatic improvements in air and water quality, the climate emergency has not gone away. If anything, it serves as a stark reminder of the human cause of the climate crisis.

We still have only 10 years for the world to dramatically reduce emissions in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The need for a just transition to a low-carbon economy, one that puts people and good jobs at the centre of climate action remains.

Today, protecting Canadians from the health and economic crisis created by the pandemic is an urgent priority. As public health measures begin to work, and the curve of the pandemic begins to flatten, Canadians and our governments will turn their attention to rebuilding our economy. It will be important to build measures to meet our Paris Agreement commitments into our economic recovery plans. We don’t have time to lose.

This month’s federal government announcement of $1.7 billion to clean up orphan oil and gas wells in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia was a promising sign. This investment will help maintain thousands of jobs, including many in Alberta, where most orphan wells are located. This is welcome news in a province suffering from deep job losses as global oil prices have plummeted in recent months. Orphan wells are those that have been abandoned by developers who can’t be located, have gone bankrupt or don’t have the financial means to properly decommission them.

This 50th Earth Day anniversary, Canada’s unions re-state our commitment to ambitious climate action, and a just transition to green and decent jobs for all. As we weather the COVID-19 pandemic, let us remember to take care of our loved ones and communities, find time to appreciate the beauty of nature, thank a front line worker, and please stay home and wash your hands.

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