As the saying goes - habits are hard to break. Seriously, change is stressful and the climate emergency demands change at all levels - widespread, multi-sectoral change. Another word for this change is transition, or even transformation.
Bringing all of our resources and will together, we can handle change - and maybe even build a better place to be here in Ontario. The second blog in this series explores these thoughts using the themes from the Provincial KTCC Backgrounder website: Green Energy Transformation, Labour Rights/Income Security and Better Education.
Climate: Green Energy Transformation
In Ontario, when the current government took power, we lost a lot of momentum in blossoming green energy and clean technology fields. For example, 750 renewable electricity contracts were scrapped, impacting many initiatives and people, including First Nations, community energy cooperatives and conservation authorities. It also cost at least $230 million. At the same time, we see plans unfolding to increase the use of fossil fuel energy sources to generate electricity by 600% over 2017 levels by 2040. See more points on the backgrounder website at: Green Energy Transformation.
These are backwards moves for the climate, biodiversity and strong communities! Instead, we need ways to embrace the transition, thrive in a changing economy and weather the challenges as we shift to a new way of living and working.
In fact, an essential piece in the climate justice puzzle is a just transition that leaves no one behind. This includes fossil fuel workers and resource-dependent communities as well as all others impacted by the shift away from an extractive, high-carbon economy. In Ontario, we could move toward good, green jobs for workers as the province approaches clean energy self-sufficiency, saving the billions currently spent on fossil fuel imports.
Key to the transition are strong worker protections and income security.
Strong Communities: Labour Rights and Income Security
We've seen during COVID, how our social system strains under emergency scenarios. However, over the past few years, government action has failed to protect workers, especially the most vulnerable. There was, for example, a refusal to increase paid sick days and the scrapping of a minimum wage hike.
There has also been a failure to respond to the need for stronger social infrastructure. To name two examples - Ontario Disability programs are wholly inadequate and the withdrawal of the Basic Income Project revoked a very promising means of ensuring healthier Ontarians. See more at Labour Rights.
Ensuring that we have strong social safeguards in place will help create communities that can better withstand the impacts of climate change. At the same time, removing the barriers for people to participate in the transition to a more sustainable society will help us build a better world together.
Achieving this transition also requires a re-valuing of low-carbon, care and circular economy work so that good, green jobs exist in sectors like health, education, childcare and social services.
Strong Communities: Better Education
Workers rights and protections are key for labourers in education and care-giving fields, who are often women or racialized workers. Yet, education and care-workers have faced cutbacks and increased class size over the past few years. See Better Education for more. This is a climate justice issue!
Valuing care work and a care-based economy helps address the root causes of climate change, including a focus on extraction and consumption, and makes the transformation to a greener, more sustainable world possible. It also encompasses generational justice as youth today need and deserve the support and knowledge to function in and construct a very different society amid ongoing crises.
Maintaining public and social infrastructure, funding educational programs and strengthening the rights of education and child care workers is essential for strong communities. Investing in education is investing in a better world!
Learn more and Take Action:
- See the plans by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario: https://www.buildingbetterschools.ca
- Read about a Just Transition: Labour Education Centre – Just Transition
- Find a current action for workers here: https://www.justice4workers.org
-Read more about how Ontario Loves Gas but that’s Bad for our Climate and Communities
And to end on a win! The Nation Rise wind farm in North Stormont, Ont. was targeted for dismantling. In May 2020, a court overturned the province’s decision and allowed construction of the project to take place.
Music in the videos used with permission by aiti-maa "Holy Eyes," "Thunderstorms, and "We are Lost."
Blog #1 in the series - Funds for Good