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Healthy planet, healthy economy says Ryerson panel

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By Raneem Al-Ozzi

A plan to create one million green jobs in the next five years can help transition Canada toward a greener economy, said Chris Roberts, social and economic policy director for the Canadian Labour Congress, in a panel discussion at Ryerson Friday.

The panel discussed connections and possible resolutions between what it called the ongoing economic and labour crisis and environmental crisis facing the planet.

Canada needs to have environmental stability and sustainability in its climatic system if it’s to have a functioning and civilized economy in the future, said Roberts.

The one million green jobs initiative has the potential to provide both—making investments that will help reduce the negative impact on climate, and generating decent jobs in greater quantities, he said.

The initiative involves a nation-wide energy reduction and redirection program that will increase the energy efficiency of Canada’s buildings as well as the reduction of carbon-based energy and electricity production. It also includes investment in reusable and sustainable energy production, the expansion and improvement of public transit and imposing a national price on carbon to reduce its public and private usage.

“The key idea here is that if environmental policies cause workers to be displaced, then it’s only fair that those workers don’t suffer in the process,” said Roberts.

The panel also included Terri Monture of the Canadian Media Guild, Colette Murphy of the Atkinson Foundation, Ryerson sociology prof Cheryl Teelucksingh and Rosemarie Powell of the Toronto Community Benefits Network. It was held as part of Ryerson’s Social Justice Week.

Panelists said there is no trade-off between having a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

Monture said humanity’s ceaseless search for profit and exploitation of natural resources harms the environment. “How will we have jobs on a dead planet?” she asked.

At the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015, the Canadian government formally committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Roberts said that at its current rate of progress, Canada will emit 750 megatons of greenhouse gas by 2030 compared to 2014’s 732 megatons.

“Students should be trained in their schools right now so that they can have an easier transition into a green economy,” said Teelucksingh.

She acknowledged that those who suffer the most under the current economy are racialized workers and minority groups. Creating an inclusive green economy is at the forefront of their mission, she said.

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