CAW President tells Environment Minister to Show Leadership, Get Climate Deal Done in Copenhagen

December 3, 2009, 12:01 PM EST


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 CAW President Ken Lewenza is calling on the federal government to enter UN climate talks in Copenhagen on December 7 with a clear mandate to reach a new international climate deal, that includes aggressive emission reduction targets and language that protects workers negatively impacted by job loss.

"Canada must now show leadership, both at home and internationally, to ensure the international community can collectively make the successful transformation toward sustainability," Lewenza said in a December 3 letter to federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice. 

The Canadian government has received a wave of international criticism in recent weeks, including from UN Secretary Ban-ki Moon, on its poor performance in dealing with climate change.

Lewenza said that the Canadian experience during the recent period of global economic and environmental transformation has so far been dismal, with over half a million jobs lost and growing insecurity, instability and precariousness in the labour market.

"Our federal government has made few meaningful inroads in developing clean energy technologies and implementation strategies," Lewenza said.

"The global economic crisis has provided [the federal] government the opportunity to advance an agenda that both tackles our environmental crisis and rebuilds our economy on the basis of sustainability. But this opportunity clearly has not been seized, and to the detriment of all Canadians." 

Lewenza has joined with other trade union leaders in Canada and around the world in calling for a strong global climate deal to be reached during the Copenhagen talks that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. 

"This new deal must put the world on a clear path toward sustainability that will ensure the survival of all peoples."

A full copy of the letter is attached below.

December 3, 2009

The Honourable Jim Prentice      Via Fax: 819-953-0279
Minster of the Environment
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor
Gatineau, QC   K1A 0H3

Dear Minister Prentice,

On behalf of the over 225,000 CAW members across Canada I am writing to encourage you, and your team of negotiators, to ensure a new global climate agreement is reached during the UNFCCC/COP15 talks in Copenhagen this year.

Canada's approach heading in to these negotiations has so far been disappointing, despite the fact that a new climate deal appears increasingly within reach. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's insistence that achieving a legally binding climate deal in Copenhagen is an unrealistic goal is entirely counterproductive and signifies a lack of ambition on Canada's part to tackle this vitally important issue.

Never before has there been a more urgent need for the international community to come together and negotiate a legally-binding and aggressive deal to sustainably adapt to the harmful and devastating effects of global climate change. Not only must this deal follow the science-based targets for emission reductions (25-40% emission reductions by 2020 and at least 80% reductions by 2050 at 1990 levels) set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) it must be fair, just and equitable.

As a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, this new deal must put the world on a clear path toward sustainability that will ensure the survival of all peoples. It must also work to ensure the preservation of all societies, especially those most vulnerable. Additionally, as one of its core tenets, the deal must establish aggressive language that maintains the integrity of jobs for all working people faced with displacement caused by climate change.

Unfortunately, during this most recent period of global economic and environmental transformation the experience in Canada has so far been dismal. Over half of a million Canadians have lost their jobs in the past year alone and few are able to find decent, stable work. At the same time Canada's carbon footprint has continued to grow. Prior to the recent global economic recession emission levels were situated at an embarrassing 22% above 1990 levels - well above our country's Kyoto emission reduction commitments of 6% below 1990 levels.

Our federal government has made few meaningful inroads in developing clean energy technologies and implementation strategies. They have watched as our once world-leading manufacturing sector has been whittled away without fully utilizing existing capacity to invest in new green manufacturing opportunities, including new green car production. And they have not heeded the call for a substantial injection of funds to boost public infrastructure, including transit, at a level that will have a substantial and positive impact on working people.

The global economic crisis has provided your government the opportunity to advance an agenda that both tackles our environmental crisis and rebuilds our economy on the basis of sustainability. But this opportunity clearly has not been seized, and to the detriment of all Canadians. 

Canada must now show leadership, both at home and internationally, to ensure the international community can collectively make the successful transformation toward sustainability. As we approach the final round of UN climate talks, in accordance with the negotiating timeline laid out in Bali in 2007, a strong and ambitious climate agreement in Copenhagen will be a vital and necessary start. 

Additionally, as you head into negotiations over the coming weeks, I urge you to ensure any new climate deal maintains the call for "just transition for the workforce which creates decent work and quality jobs" as it currently appears in the draft negotiating text under paragraph 9 of the Shared Vision Non Paper (#43).

I also encourage you to add a definition of "stakeholders" or "civil society", following the agreed definitions from Agenda 21, as a means to recognize trade unions as relevant stakeholders in these international negotiations.

In respect to both of these demands, our union stands in solidarity with other trade unions in Canada and around the world.

The debate on the existence of climate change is over. We are seeing first hand the severe environmental consequences of a business-as-usual approach to unsustainable levels of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. From melting ice caps in the Arctic, to increasing severe weather patterns around the world, to the steadily declining land mass and eventual extinction of small island states, our fragile ecosystems will not wait for world leaders to make the necessary effort to effectively combat this global crisis.

Canada has been at the forefront of many important global initiatives in the past, including our brave stance on the Landmine Ban Treaty and the Montreal Protocol on reversing ozone depletion in 1987. Now is the time to reflect on those victories and chart a new course that re-examines Canada's current role in multilateral and diplomatic efforts.

Canada must commit to play a leadership role in the international climate negotiations through the UNFCCC. And our negotiators must be given a clear mandate to reach a meaningful climate deal in Copenhagen.

I anticipate your support of these proposals during the upcoming round of climate negotiations at COP15 and in working with the CAW and other trade unions in Canada to address this crucial issue of climate change and transition support measures for workers.

I look forward to your reply and am happy to discuss this matter with you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Ken Lewenza
President, CAW

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cc: David McGuinty, Liberal Party Environment and Energy Critic
 Linda Duncan, NDP Environment Critic
 Bernard Bigras, Bloc Quebecois Environment Critic
 Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
 Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labour Congress President
 CAW National Executive Board
 Assistants to the President

 

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