03/02/2016 19:28 EST | Updated 03/03/2017 00:12 EST

Canadian Labour Congress proposes plan to create 1 million 'climate jobs'

The Canadian Labour Congress is calling on the federal government to invest about $81 billion over five years in green infrastructure — which it believes will result in over one million "climate jobs" while reducing Canada's annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The One Million Climate Jobs plan, released on the eve of the March 3 first ministers meeting in Vancouver, states that jobs will be created and greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 25 to 35 per cent if $80.9 billion is invested in renewable energy projects, building retrofits to improve energy efficiencies and public transit improvements.

"We know we're going to have to be less dependent on fossil fuels as we go forward, if we want to meet our climate change goals," said Hassan Yussuf, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, one of several labour and environmental groups that make up the Green Economy Network.

"As we are doing that, we need to recognize workers and communities are going to be affected. I'm saying as a president who represents 3.5 million workers across the country, I'm here to advocate we can support community and workers at the same time as we create new jobs."

Yussuff presented his plan on March 2 at a news conference in Vancouver with environmentalist David Suzuki providing his support.

Their announcement comes at the same time as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's premiers are meeting in Vancouver to discuss sustainable development and green infrastructure.

"It's critical in the context of the conversation that is happening with the Prime Minister and others is that labour be part of this debate and discussion," Yussuff told host Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.

"Governments, industry and labour need to work together. Fundamentally we face some tremendous challenge in meeting our obligations, and if we do some of the right things we think are necessary for our country, we can get there."

The Green Economy Network's plan includes investing five per cent of the federal budget in public renewable energy developments (such as wind, solar and geothermal power), building retrofits to improve energy efficiencies, and public transit — especially high speed rail

Yussuf said high speed rail is something that Canada hasn't had the political leadership to take on, but said there are opportunities for high speed rail between Vancouver and Seattle, Vancouver and cities in Alberta, as well as areas in Montreal and Toronto.

"We have the most inefficient way of people moving about and I think if we get people out of their cars and build more efficient public transit in this country, we are going to improve the economy tremendously."

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: 1,000,000 climate jobs plan