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CUPE was among approximately one hundred COP16 delegates from progressive movements who came together to discuss mobilizing for action on climate change Saturday in Cancun. The summit was put together by the Cornell Global Labor Institute and featured prominent panelists from Canada, Argentina and the United States.

Claude Généreux spoke at the event. He provided delegates with a clear example of a co-operation by describing some of the work CUPE does on water issues with the Council of Canadians. Généreux also talked about the workers’ readiness to help build a more sustainable, climate-stable society.

Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians spoke to the group, imploring delegates from the different movements to: “See each others’ struggles as just as important as our own, so that we can fuse social justice, labour and environmental issues to reject our current destructive system and reinstate the importance of the commons.”

Bill McKibbon, the founder of the 350.org movement, outlined the urgency of moving ahead with deep cuts in greenhouse gases. He said the summer of 2010 – with its devastating floods in Pakistan, severe heat waves in Russia and record-breaking temperatures in many parts of the world – was just a taste of what a warmer planet will be like. McKibbon, a long-time environmental activist, said labour’s history of solidarity – of working together for the common good – is a principle that must guide all progressive groups to mobilize for action on climate change.

Roger Toussaint from the Transport Workers Union called on labour to rise to the occasion and have the vision needed to take on climate change with full force.

The summit ran for close to three hours. As official COP16 negotiations plod along here during the first week, there is a clear sense from civil society groups that unity and solidarity is urgently needed to exert pressure on all national governments to create a new society founded on sustainability, justice and equity. The full CUPE delegation took part in this unique event and all came away hopeful that a new way of living and working is possible.