Discussing Climate Refugees at AMPA 2016

by Andrea Loken, OSSTF Limestone

Canadians are proud that our new government has welcomed Syrian refugees.

Many millions more refugees will be created by climate change. Some say hundreds of millions by 2050.

Climate change will bring mass migration because of extreme drought, sea level rise, and extreme weather events, like super-typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. As well, decreased water and food security is anticipated to create more war and conflict.

The most vulnerable in society are the ones who are affected the most by climate disaster. We are already seeing the disproportionate harm being done to people who are poor, people of colour, indigenous people, women and children. Africa has been experiencing climate racism for a long time.

At the same time, rich Nations like Canada continue to exploit dirty energy sources that cause the problem. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan recently invested 3.3 billion in the Tar Sands. This is an example of colonialism at its worst. The Beaver Lake Cree are having to sue Alberta and the Canadian Government for over 19,000 projects that are destroying their land and their way of life.

As we continue to invest in and burn fossil fuels, we create the climate disaster and people’s homes are destroyed. Even if we stop burning fossil fuels today, the amount of damage done amounts to a massive refugee problem – some say the biggest problem humanity will ever face.

To deal with climate refugees, the communities where people must move must be educated about the issues. Unions and Educators will have to be part of the solution.

ETFO has already recognized this need and has developed a workshop to assist its members in helping the families that will arrive in their communities and classrooms. OSSTF could certainly rise to this challenge and be part of this vital climate solution. Please pass the motion below at AMPA 2016 to form a workgroup to address our role in this important issue.

MAC 226-16

Cost Estimate: $10,000

BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA establish a work group that will investigate ways to support the education and community needs of refugees in Ontario.

The work group will be composed of the following: a) three bargaining unit presidents/leaders, with an interest in human rights, as selected by the Provincial Executive from applications; b) one Provincial CPAC member; c) one Provincial Executive member, assigned by the President; d) the Secretariat Liaisons assigned to CPAC.

The Work Group will report to Provincial Council, as appropriate, and submit an interim report with recommendations to AMPA 2017 and a final report with recommendations to AMPA 2018.

 

 

AMPA 2016 #ClimateAction Motions

MAC 227-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA direct the Provincial Executive and the OTF Governors to request the OTPP and OMERS Board of Directors to direct asset managers to stop any new investment in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 2 years, as determined by the ‘Carbon Underground 200’.

PEN 203-16 (This will be split into two motions – a policy motion and an action motion.)

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Policy 10.7 be amended by the addition of a new subsection that reads:

“It is the policy of OSSTF that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) should not invest in fossil fuel companies. Specifically, the OTPP and OMERS should stop any new investments in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds as determined by the ‘Carbon Underground 200’ and should promote divestment until it is achieved.”

BYL 245-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Bylaw 9.5.2 be amended by the insertion of a new subsection that reads:

“No part of the Internal Investment Fund shall be invested in fossil fuel companies. Specifically, the Internal Investment Fund should strive to divest from fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 2 years as determined by ‘The Carbon Underground 200’.”

MAC 224-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT OSSTF communicate to the Federal Government and the public that OSSTF opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, and state unequivocally that the Canadian Government should not be signatories to the TPP and/or should not ratify the TPP.

MAC 226-16

Cost Estimate: $10,000

BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA establish a work group that will investigate ways to support the education and community needs of refugees in Ontario.

The work group will be composed of the following: a) three bargaining unit presidents/leaders, with an interest in human rights, as selected by the Provincial Executive from applications; b) one Provincial CPAC member; c) one Provincial Executive member, assigned by the President; d) the Secretariat Liaisons assigned to CPAC.

The Work Group will report to Provincial Council, as appropriate, and submit an interim report with recommendations to AMPA 2017 and a final report with recommendations to AMPA 2018.

Divestment: A necessary and powerful tool

By Adam Davidson-Harden

There are two basic foundations of a rationale supporting fossil fuel divestment, as applicable in any context, and in ours, with respect to OSSTF and the OTPP.  The first of these is based in the political exigency of divestment as a tactic designed for workers to contribute to a growing global movement that attacks the credibility of the fossil fuel sector directly through the decision to collectively withdraw investments in the world’s top 200 fossil fuel companies (one can consider Canadian tar sands and pipeline companies in addition to this).  Opponents of divestment argue that this tactic is ineffective, in that its intent is not to financially harm companies.  In a ‘counter-brief’ critical of the initial ECA proposal to divest in 2015, the author voices several criticisms of fossil fuel divestment as a tactic, however, a main theme of these is that political action to press for better laws and regulations around greenhouse gas emissions should be a stronger priority, and that unions should be focusing their efforts on this type of action instead of divestment.

Our response to this type of criticism is to assert that these two tactics are not exclusive.  All unions – indeed all Canadians – ought to be pressing our provincial and federal governments for significant regulatory change when it comes to demanding serious action on climate change.  Considering the previous Conservative government’s record of gutting environmental legislation and actively blocking progress on climate change at the international level, there is a lot of work to do to bring federal environmental regulatory regimes and climate policy back into a shape where they can be effective and substantial, in addressing climate change or a host of other interrelated ecological concerns.  The most glaring of these regulatory gaps is the lack of a federal approach to coordinating a carbon tax.  While we have a viable experiment with a carbon tax in British Columbia, we lack a concerted federal approach.  Indeed, we have a new Liberal federal government that has as yet failed to show significant momentum on climate, despite its positive showing at the recent UNFCCC talks in Paris.  Will the federal government overhaul the National Energy Board review system to take climate impacts into proper account?  Will the federal government continue to approve new tar sands pipelines that contribute to a situation that NASA and retired Columbia University professor James Hansen has described as ‘game over for the climate’?  These are all important political battles that need to be waged, from a regulatory standpoint.

However, such political efforts should not be considered as mutually exclusive with the politics of fossil fuel divestment as a tactic.   In tandem with a substantial and demanding policy stance when it comes to pushing for action on climate from our provincial and federal governments, we believe that backing action on fossil fuel divestment shows strong evidence that teachers are prepared to ‘put our money where our mouths are’ when it comes to climate.  In backing fossil fuel divestment, we add powerfully to a collective message from a growing number of university endowment funds, pensions, and other institutional investors who agree that this tactic is both necessary and powerful to send a clear message that fossil fuel companies are a major part of the current problem of confronting climate change through national and international policy.
Perhaps our backing of fossil fuel divestment could be done in tandem with the demand that Ontario implement legislation that could exclude public sector pensions from liability concerns in the case of fiduciary duty when it comes to divesting from fossil fuel companies.  However, an alternative point of view to this particular conundrum would be to point to the research on the possibility of ‘stranded assets‘ in fossil fuels. Not only are fossil fuel companies a detriment to our planet’s ecology and the future of human civilization, but from a narrow standpoint in terms of pensions returns, these assets can be considered a ‘risk’.  We would argue that the more pressing risk posed by fossil fuel companies, however, is in their refusal to veer away from fossil fuel exploration and extraction, knowing that humanity’s carbon budget is slim (see the resource from climate organization 350.org on ‘doing the math’ for more on this).
In summary, we urge our fellow members and federation leaders, as well as pensions specialists who are concerned with substantive action on climate change, to consider that fossil fuel divestment is a necessary and complementary strategy to combine with a strong policy stance and forms of political action to press for regulatory reform to address climate change.  Humanity faces a moral crisis in the case of climate, a reality reflected in the Leap Manifesto, to which OSSTF is a signatory.  Divestment has proved an effective tactic in building momentum and drawing attention to morally outrageous situations and injustice, from apartheid in South Africa to the Boycotts/Divestment/Sanctions movement drawing attention to Israel’s actions in the Palestinian occupied territories.  In the case of climate, we need all of the political action we can collectively muster to wage an effective struggle for change that not only focuses on government, but on the fossil fuel industry directly.  Let us as unions take all steps that we can to contribute to momentum for strong action on climate change.  As a final thought, we would encourage OSSTF to think about committing itself to support of broader direct action campaigns to support climate action, such as those currently in development as a part of the ‘Break Free From Fossil Fuels‘ campaign.  We must not settle for one set of tactics when it comes to pressing for substantive action on the climate.  More than ever, innovative and comprehensive efforts are necessary, from all of us.

Our letter to OSSTF Presidents/Executive

Dear District/Bargaining Unit Presidents / Members of the Provincial Executive,

It has been an eventful year for climate action worldwide and we are very excited to be a part of such a vital movement. Last year we submitted motions to AMPA related to the divestment of fossil fuels from pensions and our own internal investments. Out of that came a push to address climate change in a more meaningful way by our Union. We are grateful for the work of the Environmental Advisory Work Group (EAWG) who took on the task assigned by the MAC431-15 Work Group. There are many progressive and multi-faceted climate action motions that are coming to AMPA through its work – we hope they are supported!

The ECA believes that the Labour Movement is critical to the Climate Movement. This year we have seen an explosion in awareness among union leaders. We are becoming aware of the intersection of labour rights with indigenous rights, women’s rights, minority rights and others.  All of our struggles are indeed related and we will all be stronger working together. So many of the climate solutions are also solutions to equality, racism and reconciliation with First Nations. (Watch Tim DeChristopher explain in this inspiring speech.) Just look at the LEAP Manifesto – which OSSTF has signed – for an idea of the fundamental values behind a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Again, at this year’s AMPA, we have submitted motions through District 27 CPAC and District 27 Executive to divest from fossil fuels. The divestment movement is an important one in the climate fight because it attacks the morality of the fossil fuel industry – an industry which, if it continues, translates into disastrous consequences for human life support systems.

The Educators’ Climate Alliance feels that educators need to have an honest discussion about fossil fuel investments. It seems counterproductive to rely on investments for future financial returns that ensure the devastation of the future for our children.

At AMPA, we hope that you consider our motions which are listed below. We hope that they generate discussion and interest. Our politicians at every level (union, municipal, provincial, federal) need to know that we are behind them to take bold action. We think these motions complement the EAWG motions, which do not address divestment specifically.

In the coming days, we will post the motions with rationale on our Educators Climate Alliance blog which you can follow if you’d like to receive all our posts. Consider liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter: @EdClimate.

Check out some of our blog posts:

Will divestment put my pension at risk?

Why divestment if, arguably, it won’t hurt fossil fuel companies?

Keep it in the ground: why this is a matter of basic ethics

The Climate Change Opportunity [for Unions] 

Unions, Trade Deals, Climate and Democracy

CCPA makes the economic case for divestment

With respect and hope,

Educators’ Climate Alliance (Adam Davidson-Harden – District 27, William MacCallum – District 15, Justin Boyd – District 15, Anik Hahn – District 26, Kevin Bowers – District 27, Simon Baron – District 27, Andrea Loken – District 27, David Mathers – District 27, Joan Jardin – District 27)

MAC 227-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA direct the Provincial Executive and the OTF Governors to request the OTPP and OMERS Board of Directors to direct asset managers to stop any new investment in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 2 years, as determined by the ‘Carbon Underground 200’.

PEN 203-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Policy 10.7 be amended by the addition of a new subsection that reads:

“It is the policy of OSSTF that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) should not invest in fossil fuel companies. Specifically, the OTPP and OMERS should stop any new investments in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds as determined by the ‘Carbon Underground 200’ and should promote divestment until it is achieved.”

BYL 245-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Bylaw 9.5.2 be amended by the insertion of a new subsection that reads:

“No part of the Internal Investment Fund shall be invested in fossil fuel companies. Specifically, the Internal Investment Fund should strive to divest from fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 2 years as determined by ‘The Carbon Underground 200’.”

MAC 224-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT OSSTF communicate to the Federal Government and the public that OSSTF opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, and state unequivocally that the Canadian Government should not be signatories to the TPP and/or should not ratify the TPP.

MAC 226-16

Cost Estimate: $10,000

BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA establish a work group that will investigate ways to support the education and community needs of refugees in Ontario.

The work group will be composed of the following: a) three bargaining unit presidents/leaders, with an interest in human rights, as selected by the Provincial Executive from applications; b) one Provincial CPAC member; c) one Provincial Executive member, assigned by the President; d) the Secretariat Liaisons assigned to CPAC.

The Work Group will report to Provincial Council, as appropriate, and submit an interim report with recommendations to AMPA 2017 and a final report with recommendations to AMPA 2018.