From the TUC

Just Transition Forum: A place at the table

20 Jul 2009, by in Environment

To the USA, for the Labour Leaders Climate Forum in upstate New York.

We debate the three initiatives that are set to transform the US into a low carbon economy and deliver new rights and opportunities for US labour – the stimlus package, the Clean Energy Act and the Employee Free Choice Act. The organisers, Cornell Global Labour Institute, update delegates on the latest science of climate change and its accelerating pace. Speakers from the ITUC set out their stall for the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen – including the bid for a Just Transition clause in the forthcoming climate change agreement, and call on global affiliates to the ITUC to work with their government to endorse this principle.

As we are meeting, news comes through that the UK Government has announced its intention to set up a Just Transition Forum, bringing together for the first time representatives from Government, employers, unions and civil society  to discuss the social and economic implications of a low carbon future. Both a table, and a place at the table itself.

Bob Baugh of the AFLCIO comments that US unions are now in dialogue with the State Department to win support for the principle of a Just Transition in the forthcoming Copenhagen agreement.

“We’re asked what it means, and what our vision is for the future. Workers and their families must have a democratic voice in their workplace and their communities on the major investments to come in clean energy jobs – retaining and creating decent jobs. It’s about modernising industry, developing and deploying new low carbon technology. Education and training workers is crucial – whether it’s for the new green skills in old jobs, or new jobs with brand new skills. And there has to be assistance for families and workers adversely affected.”

These next few months leading to Copenhagen in December are a vital time for unions. We have to keep the Just Transition language in the draft agreement, and demonstrate by example our positive contribution to a low carbon future. We have a unique voice of experience in areas such as skills and training, and the union learning agenda. We know abut greening the workplace. And we have a clear perspective on role for Government.

As Brendan Barber said last week: “By leading the way and not simply leaving the shape of the UK’s greener future to the whims of the market, ministers have shown how they intend to help firms and the UK workforce move into the new low carbon era. The establishment of a just transition forum involving ministers, unions and employers will be crucial in ensuring that no community in the UK suffers as a result.”