From the TUC

Bonn diary 2: Building a union-NGO coalition for Copenhagen

09 Jun 2009, by in Environment

I went to the ITUC’s official Side Event on Just Transition here at the UN climate talks in Bonn yesterday. The broad platform had government representatives (Argentina and France) and NGOs, plus Anna Pinto from Gender and Climate Change; Angela Anderson from CAN International; and Poormina Chikarmane from the Wastepickers Union of India. The aim was to explain the ideas behind just transition from many different perspectives.

Anabella Rosemberg for the ITUC spelled out our priorities – to support ambitious climate action; raise awareness among trade unions and their members of the implications of climate change and climate change policies; create a real dialogue between key stakeholders (government, unions, employers, NGOs); create opportunities out of climate change, with green jobs and skills; and support workplace actions – greening the workplace.

CAN sees the new negotiating text as a really exciting development, reflecting the new era in American politics around the climate change opportunities agenda for investment in the green economy. CAN represents 460 organisations worldwide – their support here for this crucial concept is key.

The French Government rep highlighted their consultations with civil society on the environment through La Grenelle, named after the Paris district where this event takes place and environmental priorities are set. So dialogue and policy development go together in France. The Argentine government rep didn’t show – but they helped secure our text, so we’ll let them off.

Poornima said the ITUC had taken a brave step – putting workers interests in a larger framework of sustainable development. But waste-pickers in India are in a sector losing jobs, driven out by new technology – waste incineration plant, where the waste was once collected, sorted and sold. Now, investors claim CO2 credits for their new plant, which employ few and displace many, and no longer recycle waste but burn it.

For Anna Pinto, the question of womens’ work has always been a tricky one, so much of it supports the formal economy, but is not within it. Development issues and the role of women do not take account of this fact. When we talk about the role of unions, we should recognise there are limits to that role in the wider informal economy.

In the debate it’s recognsied that the shift to a low carbon economy can go either way – displace many, bring change without benefits to many. Or through concerted efforts by trade unions, working people and communities, working with their governments and employers, create the conditions for a just transformation, bringing quality employment and hopefully benefits to the wider informal sectors. Not ‘worker transition’ where working people carry the burden of change, but a just transition with managed change, investment in positive new industries and skills for the future.

Big day today. We’re meeting the UN chair to develop our ideas, and see how our proposal stands within these corridors of power.