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Take the climate justice leap

Carolyn Egan

September 19, 2015

“No Jobs on a Dead Planet! Trade Union Climate Summit” was the name of the labour conference that took place in Paris recently 80 days prior to the United Nations Climate meeting COP 21. Union members from across the globe came together from the Philipines, Brazil, India, African nations, the United States, Canada and many more. There was an urgency to the discussions recognizing the natural disasters that have been devastating the lives of working people and the poor because of climate change.

“Unions have been disappointed to see that workers and their families have been left out of the draft climate agreements and have called on the Presidency to ensure just transition language is reinstated.” said the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. Wars, the refugee crisis, the ongoing attacks of corporations and governments through the austerity agenda are making the lives of ordinary people more and more desperate. The ruling classes in every country are ignoring the devastation of our climate in the name of increased profits.

The whole issue of climate jobs must be front and centre, as well as public ownership of our natural resources. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy has been raising these important points and developing educational presentations and actions involving rank and file members. These issues cannot be left to the leadership but must involved those whose lives are directly effected.

Leap manifesto

As this was happening in Paris, a press conference was taking place in Toronto presenting the Leap Manifesto, a call for a Canada based on caring for the earth and one another. A number of months earlier a two-day symposium was held here with representatives from indigenous groups, environmental organizations, unions and some local community groups to discuss their visions for a sustainable future and to dialogue about differences past and present.

It was a productive coming together of people many of whom had never worked together before. Out of it came the organizing for a climate justice march which brought out 10,000 in July. This was much broader than the original meeting and drew out a very diverse gathering.

The march was not meant to be a one off and work continued. The Leap Manifesto was a product of the ongoing dialogue, and incorporates a strong, anti-racist class perspective recognizing the inherent rights of indigenous peoples and takes a strong stand against the austerity agenda. The old divisions between “jobs and the environment” are disappearing. Trade unionists, community organizations and environmentalists with the active involvement and leadership of indigenous peoples are coming together in a strong united front to take on governments and corporations who are trying to drive us all down.

The manifesto states that research shows that it is feasible for Canada to get 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within two decades and demands that it start now and that communities should collectively control these new energy systems. It called for programs to build energy efficient homes, high-speed rail and affordable public transit in place of pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us. It also called for a national child care policy and other services that are desperately needed. It declared that “austerity is a fossilized way of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.” This is a call to action and town hall meetings will be taking place across the country to organize locally. “Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to leap.”

Visit leapmanifesto to sign on

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