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How old will you be in 2050?”  “We don’t want your dirty oil Canada,” “The time to act is now” “Ten years from now will be too late” These are the questions, the phrases and the buzz all around the Bella Centre, the massive conference facility in Copenhagen where the nations of the world are gathered to put together a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale.     With Claude Généreux already in the thick of the lobby campaign as week one of COP 15 draws to a close, the other CUPE delegates arrive over the next couple of days to join the international labour effort.  Environmental groups, youth groups and labour are all working together to with incredible energy and determination.  CUPE Energy Committee Robert Coelho and I spent our first day at the UN conference today.  So much is on the line that we immediately got caught up in the urgency of the moment.  If a deal is not reached here and now, there isn’t enough time left for the planet.  Science tells us and everyone at the Bella Centre knows that if we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 30 per cent over the next decade, the destruction from rising sea levels, drought, and severe weather events will be impossible to reverse.  By 2050 the emission reduction target is 80 per cent below 1990 levels.

It is an amazing and complex process underway at the Bella Centre.  Because of the enormity of the undertaking the negotiations themselves are taking place at several different tables dealing with the various aspects of an accord.  As part of the International Trade Union Confederation delegation of 100 labour activists from all over the world, we are official observers to the negotiation process.  Labour activists from around the world have come together with one voice to push three key crucial points:   

  • The scientific community has advised that what is necessary is a 25 to 30 % reduction of 1990 levels to stop climate change.  We are demanding that 1990 must be the baseline measurement.  1990 is the Kyoto Accord baseline and since COP 15 picks up where Kyoto left off, to advocate anything else is simply obstructionist and aimed a trying to sell higher emissions to the world.  
  • The legal text of the ultimate deal must include requirements for a just transition to a green economy.  That means job creation for displaced workers and respect for democracy and human rights.  
  • There must be financial assistance for developing countries to both mitigate the effects of climate change and implement sustainable development. The Government of Canada is the one of the biggest threats to reaching a deal in Copenhagen. Canada’s obstructionist tactics won it for the fourth time, the Fossil of the Day Award by the Climate Action Network.

Toronto Mayor David Miller accepted the award on behalf of Canada emphasizing that the Harper government does not speak for Canadians. Canadians want to see action on climate change and he assured the international delegates that there is leadership in Canada on the issue. Miller will meet with mayors from around the world on strategies for transition to a green economy and job creation over the next few days.  Some might say it is an impossible job to try and move the Harper government off of its pro tar-sands stance.  We have our work cut out for us!  But over the next few days we will be working to get meetings with some of the government’s appointed advisors.  And, tomorrow December 12th, is the international day of action for climate change.  In Copenhagen, all activists will march together from the Danish parliament buildings to the Bella Centre.    More tomorrow…. Pam Beattie in Copenhagen