Meetings with Provincial Governments
Several Provincial Premiers are here in Copenhagen and CUPE took up the rare opportunity to lobby three provinces in one day. We met with Premier Jean Charest from Quebec, Premier Greg Selinger from Manitoba and Premier Darrell Dexter from Nova Scotia to outline labour’s priorities for the climate change talks. All three meetings were very productive. We were clear: the Canadian labour movement wants to see ambitious science based emissions reduction targets and commitment to the Kyoto targets that are legally binding. Moving forward we know it is necessary to see agreement for financing for developing countries and commitments for just transition of the workforce. All three Premiers were in agreement with our position, and Premiers Charest and Selinger committed to work with CUPE in the long term on transition to a green economy. The federal government may not want to take action on climate change, but other levels of government are taking concrete action and we will work with them to protect both jobs and our environment.
Kyoto alive or dead?
For part of the day, Matthew took the job of following the talks on extending the Kyoto Protocol … sort of. He got as far as the front door of the plenary room before being turned away, forcing him to watch proceedings via TV inside the Bella Centre. There was a clear divide – what is coming to characterize so much of what’s happening here: developing countries and prosperous countries. The G77 (developing countries) plus China was not happy with the technical aspects of a proposal to extend the Kyoto Protocol, meaning, most likely, that they want developed countries to commit to deep reductions, especially on the short term. And, they want commitments for financing for developing countries, especially in the long-term. Not surprisingly, the wealthy nations are more interested in the opposite: long-term cuts and short term funding. But there was tremendous solidarity among the nations from G77 and China. The Chinese negotiator said, “We resolutely oppose scrapping the Kyoto Protocol”. Canada was silent during all of this. The negotiator from Tuvalu presented a vivid metaphor that might have been directed Canada’s way when he said, “I have a feeling of dread. We are on a sinking ship. Everyone agrees but one member of the crew disagrees whether we should launch the life boats, so not enough is happening.” The session ended dramatically when Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard announced her resignation as COP 15 President.
However, she will be turning over the chair’s position to Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen as, with the arrival of so many heads of state, world leaders are now poised to take over and see if a deal can be struck. The world is watching.
Copenhagen is a zoo?
CUPE Environment Committee members Rob Coelho and Carolyn Unsworth took a break from the crisis in Copenhagen to accept an invitation from the staff at the Copenhagen Zoo to get a briefing on their environmental initiatives. CUPE represents Zoo Workers across Canada and the opportunity to see what other Zoo workers have been up to could not be passed up. In 2000, the Copenhagen Zoo hired an environmental officer. Goals were set and the changes happened faster than expected. A five year plan to reduce water by 15 per cent was adopted, and after an education initiative was implemented water consumption was reduced by 17 per cent in six months by attacking the obvious initiatives like turning off taps. By activating the front line workers with education and a promise of 10 per cent of all savings going into social events, ideas began to reduce energy consumption, water consumption and heating costs. The Zoo uses only “green” electricity produced by wind and hydro power and has bought carbon offsets to compensate for the rest of their carbon footprint; grey water from the animal pools is used to water the grounds and gardens and from a frontline worker’s suggestion, they are looking into developing a large scale biofuel plant to use their animal waste for more than just fertilizer. This was a great opportunity to see concrete and effective workplace environmental initiatives put in place by our international sisters and brothers from Denmark. This will support the work of CUPE members at home.
Connecting with Danish Trade Unionists
Later today, we took in a session at Klimaforum 09 that centered on Danish Trade Unionist’s’ solutions to climate change. Four speakers from four different Danish unions representing public sector unions, building trades, IT workers, and metal workers made presentations on trade unionists taking responsibility for the world we live. The public sector representative talked about conservation initiatives that have been developed in various workplaces with workers being part of the solution. The significant rate of renewable sources of electricity in Denmark was also discussed. Speakers from the floor talked about increasing the rate of public transportation use in Denmark and how to increase pressure on government to implement real climate change solutions and push the economy in a more sustainable direction.
Matthew Firth and Pam Beattie in Copenhagen