On Earth Day 2019, it is more important than ever that CUPE Ontario join with other unions, communities, businesses and governments to support strong efforts to address the devastating effects of human-caused climate change.

This year, the people of Ontario are facing a climate change crisis on two fronts. The details of the first crisis are contained in the recent government of Canada report entitled: Canada’s Changing Climate Report 2019(CCCR).  The report clearly shows that, particularly in the north, Canada’s climate is warming at double the rate of the rest of the world.Along with these temperature increases, the CCCR says Canada is experiencing increases in precipitation (particularly in winter), “extreme fire weather” and water supply shortages in summer, and a heightened risk of coastal flooding.

Despite these alarming facts, the second crisis is being created by the blatant attempts by the Ford Conservatives to ignore the issue of climate change and actively fight any attempts to address the issue. In a shameful example of wasting taxpayer’s money, the PC government of Ontario has joined with other conservative governments in a court action that attempts to stop federal efforts to take action on climate change. Since the none of these conservative governments have an effective alternative to combat the growing crisis, the court action is nothing more than a political maneuver that is designed to encourage climate change denial among their supporters, and to absolve corporations from their moral responsibility to reduce carbon emissions. Under this plan, once again it is the most vulnerable in our society who will pay the price for inaction, while corporations and the wealthy are rewarded for ignoring a crisis that puts workers at risk.

CUPE Ontario is sounding the alarm on climate change because 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 Ontario strongly supports CUPE National for calling 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. Instead, the current strategy by the Ford Conservatives does not even acknowledge any of these concerns.

On this Earth Day, CUPE Ontario is telling our political leadership that we must address the issue of climate change, and instead if ignoring carbon reduction plans that would strengthen our economy, communities should be supported in developing alternative economic strategies. Most importantly, workers and communities must have input into these decisions about their future.