Unifor's delegation to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (“COP21”) has arrived in Paris for this historic world gathering. I am in Paris with a group of senior staff and Ken Smith, President of Local 707A, who is arriving today.
Opening day on Monday features an afternoon speech from PM Justin Trudeau who will be here to signal that "Canada is back" as a positive player on the global scene. That was the message we heard last night when Unifor's delegation with CLC President Hassan Yussuff and friends from the Canadian United Steelworkers were guests of the Canadian government at the Canadian Cultural Centre near France's National Assembly. The event was hosted by Canada's new Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and the room was full of environmentalists, First Nations leaders, trade unionists, municipal and provincial politicians, including four Premiers and several environment ministers.
By far the most memorable start to COP 21 was in the streets of Paris on Sunday when tens of thousands of Parisians formed a giant human chain extending from Place Republique. The human chain was organized after the civil society march planned for Sunday was cancelled by police over security concerns. Before the chain formed, thousands of shoes were placed on the square to symbolize the absence of the marchers.
Many delegates, including Unifor, found their way to the still closed Bataclan night club, the scene of the worst violence during the terror attacks. Across from the Bataclan are thousands of flowers, poems, and photos of the young victims who were murdered at the club. It was a very moving site for us all.
There are 44 Canadian trade unionists at the COP. Unifor and the CLC are part of the Canadian "Climate Action Network" and yesterday afternoon several of our group attended the CAN strategy session for updates on the state of the negotiations.
The COP 21 is a massive event with hundreds of moving parts including negotiations on aspects of the climate agreement, bilateral meetings and side events organized by countries, civil society groups and unions. I will be speaking at a special event tomorrow hosted by the CLC where we expect a number of Canadian politicians and many community and environmental groups to attend.
As we learn more about the negotiations here, we are learning more about the key decisions we will need to bring the planet back from the brink of irreparable damage. Will Canada and the world agree to a binding process to keep warming under 2 degrees Celsius? Will just transition for workers be included in the final COP 21 declaration? Will the developed world create a fund to assist the developing world move to green economies and adapt to climate changes that can't be stopped? We hope to get answers to these questions today and tomorrow. Stay tuned.