COP25 MadridCharles Fleury | National Secretary-Treasurer

Last September, millions of citizens around the world took part in climate strikes to demand stronger and immediate actions to save our planet. The science is clear: the world governments’ commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions made in Paris in 2015 are not sufficient to limit global warming and avoid a climate catastrophe in the not too-distant future.

It’s with this urgency in mind, that unions from every continent went to COP25 in Madrid in December. I had the privilege to lead the CUPE delegation composed of Brother Derek Benson, co-chair of CUPE National Environment Committee and Vice-President of CUPE 941 in Alberta, and staff. Along with other union and civil society representatives, we pressured politicians to adopt more ambitious national targets by 2020 in order to meet the objective of net-zero emissions by 2050. We acknowledged that countries can use carbon markets to achieve their reduction targets, but emphasised that loopholes that allow credit double-dipping must be patched.

We also told governments that they must ensure a just transition to a greener economy. Workers must have the support and training they need to adapt and succeed. We also called on the countries to make sure that the creation of good green jobs through more public services and infrastructure is central in their national plans to fight climate change. We also asked governments to deliver on their promises to finance low carbon development in developing countries to the tune of 100 billion dollars annually by 2020. We stressed that significant international financing is also needed to compensate for the loss and damage of developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.

Our determination was high, and the energy reached its peak during the Climate March when hundreds of thousands of participants took the street and shouted Action Now! In the conference room, political leaders hardly heard them. Not much progress was made at COP25, and a just transition specific to workers and human rights concerns were largely dismissed. The fight for our future is certainly not over, and CUPE will continue to do its part in our union, in Canada and around the world.

CUPE is committed to reducing our carbon footprint, and to supporting our locals who are bargaining climate language into collective agreements and putting in place green stewards in our workplaces. CUPE National dedicates important resources each year to fight the climate emergency and to support the fight for environmental justice.

At the federal level, we will work with the NDP to force the Trudeau government to present a real climate change plan. A plan including actions that truly support the green-house gas emissions reduction target, protects human rights of all Canadians and ensures a just transition for all workers, their families and communities as its cornerstone. A first positive step in that direction would be for Canada to sign on to the UN Climate Action for Jobs Initiative launched last September like many countries have already done.