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“The Cancun conference made a few steps in the right direction, but now the real work begins,” says Claude Généreux, CUPE’s national secretary-treasurer.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is happy to see that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) did not result in failure. “For some time, many thought that the whole multilateral process would collapse; that would have been a disaster for the planet. Now, the Cancun conference did take some steps in the right direction, especially on the questions of funding for green initiatives in the South, and re-forestation. Now, the international process seems to be back on track, and part of the good faith necessary is back. But much more needs to be done.”

CUPE says much work needs to be done in advance of the next UNFCCC meeting. Governments, unions and civil society need to start working today so that next year, in South Africa, a comprehensive, binding agreement can be adopted.

At the same time, CUPE recognizes that a global agreement is just part of the answer. The real work needs to happen domestically. Canadian GHG emissions are now 24 per cent higher than in 1990, while the stated goal was to have them reduced by 6 per cent. Only two provinces have effectively reduced their emissions from 1990, PEI and Québec and by a mere 1 per cent.

“We need an international agreement; but it is not enough by itself. We will need very vigorous actions and important investments from our own government. CUPE will campaign actively so that the federal government respects its signature, and do even more, much more.”

CUPE also says it is happy that the Cancun agreement mentions the need for “just transition and decent work”. This is spelled out in what is called the “shared vision for long-term co-operative action” section of the agreement. The international labour delegation at Cancun lobbied hard and won to have this language adopted in Cancun.

“To tackle climate change, we will need to move toward a new green economy. That will mean alternative and green energy production. That will mean serious changes in our communities and to their infrastructure. That will mean to rethink our transportation system. That will mean reforms on how we produce and how we consume. But we have to make sure workers don’t pay the price of these transformations, and that green, decent jobs are created. That is what we mean by “just transition”, and it’s a priority for CUPE as it is with our other labour allies,” says Généreux.