On Earth Day 2019, we reflect on the role of the public sector in a transition to a low carbon economy.

Public sector workers are directly affected by the increase in severe weather events. Municipal workers, emergency response workers, and energy workers must respond to these events, as well as maintain and repair critical infrastructure. Health care workers must deal with the growing health impacts of climate change.

Public sector workers also have a key role in a building a low carbon economy. Clean energy workers are essential for a transition to a low carbon future. We must also recognize that education and care workers are, and will continue to be, central to an equitable and prosperous economy.

CUPE members and locals are responding to the climate crisis in a variety of ways. Some locals are finding ways to include green language within their collective agreements, some are establishing environment committees in their workplace, and others are working with employers to make workplaces cleaner and greener.

CUPE National has called on governments and industry to cut greenhouse gases and limit planetary warming to no more than 1.5⁰C. CUPE has long been committed to the principle of a just transition, which means that the costs of transitioning to a more sustainable economy are shared by everyone. Workers who are the most affected should be supported in their transition with training, compensation, job opportunities and other supports. Communities should be supported in developing alternative economic strategies. Workers and communities must have input into these decisions about their future.

Part of the solution in a just transition is the Green Economy Network’s (GEN) “One Million Climate Jobs” Campaign. CUPE National is a member of GEN, a coalition of labour unions, environmental groups, and social justice organizations. CUPE has been a key partner in GEN’s climate jobs campaign, which shows how the public sector can create good jobs that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by investing in public transit, renewable energy, and energy efficiency retrofits.