Involving workers to tackle climate change

April 20, 2017

Earth Day is an international call to action to protect the environment. With 2017 being celebrated as the150th anniversary of Canadian confederation, it is an opportunity to ask ourselves: What can we learn from what’s been done to our planet over the last 150 years? How can we tackle our environmental challenges to ensure a clean growth future for the next 150 years?

Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing humanity today. Already, we are seeing immense pressure on the food supplies and livelihoods of workers around the world as a result of climate change.

Climate change threatens everyone, but it’s important to recognize that certain regions and communities are disproportionately affected by the consequences here and now. Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, and working-class Canadians are often the hardest hit by environmental disaster and the least able to transition when employment is lost due to industrial changes.

Workers live with the realities of climate change. They understand what’s at stake. Involving affected communities is essential if we want to reverse the threat of climate change, strengthen our economy and create secure, meaningful, full-time jobs. Unions are playing a leading role bringing workers together around these goals, through organizations like the Green Economy Network, Climate Action Network Canada, Blue Green Alliance, and more.

Unions, together with allies on this issue, are urging policymakers to act on our urgent climate change needs while promoting inclusive economic renewal.

This starts with establishing and meeting targets and timelines for green job creation through investments in clean energy, public transit, and building retrofits. As green jobs are created, government must work with communities, unions and business to develop streamlined transition plans for affected workers and ensure workers can access innovative social support, skills training, and apprenticeship programs.

At every step of the process we must meaningfully engage affected workers and communities. Not doing so risks division and alienation from the process, which puts our climate work in jeopardy. To succeed, workers’ input must be central to our vision of a better future for our environment and our economy. 

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