Copenhagen Diary 8: From Africa to COP15
Back at work today in the Copenhagen conference centre. Thousands queuing outside for passes the in freezing weather. The UN has now imposed strict limits on numbers at the conference, which will tighten daily. By Friday there will be just 90 passes for the many thousands of us non-government delegates to attend the final closing heads of state plenary. This news has gone down really badly. In better news, the US delegation has shown a constructive willingness to work with our language on paragraph 12 of the Shared Vision text: Decent Work and Just Transition.
At our ITUC morning briefing, Cecilia Alexander and Kingsley Ofei-Nkansah used the national delegation slot to raise everyone’s awareness of the challenges of climate change in Africa.
Cecilia, General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Public Services Union, said that her first opportunity to engage in climate change talks was with the ITUC delegation at the UN conference in Barcelona, last month:
“There is little awareness of climate change in Zimbabwe, and our neighbours, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi. Agriculture is our key industry, and it is suffering many impacts – unreliable climate patterns, floods, droughts, agricultural output, and hunger. The burden of years of CO2 pollution from the North is carried by Zimbabwe and other developing nations.
Since Barcelona, we have organized to play our part, we have sold the idea of Just Transition to our unions and government, we are constantly in touch with them. They now support the idea of Just Transition and decent jobs. Nine nations participated this December in an international African conference and we encouraged them to promote the ideas to their governments.
Unions have the right to participate in decision-making related to climate change. So we must advance the importance of solidarity, within unions and nationally. And we call for support in this challenge, because we are financially crippled by inflation. We need to ensure justice and fairness. We will meet with our Environment Minister again when we get back to Zimbabwe.”
Kingsley, General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union of Ghana, told of the situation in his country:
“Our industries are very much about agriculture, over 60% of the workforce. Ghana is a net food importer across a wide range of foods. It’s a bad story, compounded by variability and climate changes. There is some awareness in Ghana especially among youth, the NGOs, which is very encouraging. They collaborate with some of our unions. So there is quite a lot of work on climate change. There is a national committee on climate change, which unions are yet to be represented on.
Trade union awareness of climate change has not been that strong. We recently held a West African unions conference linking trade and development and climate change. We have done some work nationally on biofuels, with Action Aid. We are campaigning against biofuels and related land-grabbing.
Reforestation projects supported by the World Bank are another problem, because workers in these reforestation projects have yet to get collective bargaining rights and therefore decent work. Meanwhile, GAWU is setting up a centre for alternative agriculture development. COP15 and beyond will take on the Just Transition agenda and Decent Work.”
Meanwhile, we wait for progress as Ministers now seek in private to “seal the deal”, or some may say, steal the deal. Money on the table is important here. New, big scale financial support that actually reaches civil society in developing nations, as our union delegates heard today, is clearly vital to just transition – and this deal.