Cancun Diary #2: Back on the roller coaster
If all we were to get out of this UN process was an agreement on “robust functioning markets” and “cost-effective” solutions to climate change, then we would indeed have been wasting our time. Today, the ITUC delegation looks down in dismay at the UN’s latest draft text, extolling the virtues of the market. Cutting out counterbalancing references to a socially just transition to a low carbon future. As if the Stern report never existed, describing climate change as the biggest market failure in history!
But Bob Baugh’s blog reminds us of the “roller coaster ride of highs and lows” in these talks. COP 15 in Copenhagen showed the practical difficulty of negotiating with 180 countries in a fishbowl. Our goal at Cancun is to secure Just Transition language as a decision and to ensure that it is embedded in the implementation sections as well. “Our goals are simple: a voice, a cleaner planet and good jobs.”
So, as we scurry about, fixing anxious meetings with Government delegations, we learn that the chair’s new text isn’t particularly liked, for what it leaves out. We are told that slimming the text down a bit will, however, focus minds on the contentious text that is left in. Later on, the earlier paragraphs that are not contentious, like Just Transition, the right to a voice, “can be reinstated”. Do we have confidence in this process? No. But then, if union negotiations were that easy, members wouldn’t pay their dues.
The scale of the climate change investment challenge hits home hard here. A report from OHSE, the Bangladesh TU support unit, says climate change “is already severely challenging its ability to achieve the high rates of growth needed to sustain reductions in poverty.” Reading the UK Government’s Growth statement, it feels as if Government change may have the same effect. Congratulating itself on the “first ever national Infrastructure Plan set to unlock some 200 billion of public and private investment”. But a few paragraphs later providing just one billion to capitalise a Green Investment Bank.
The Stern review called for new investment on the scale of 1% of GDP a year, every year, to tackle climate change: that equates to at least 15 billion annually in the UK alone. Developing countries collectively need a minimum of 100 billion a year of new climate finance by 2020, as Outreach, a great new daily bulletin available here, reports.
Solidarity works, nonetheless: the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is initiating health sector green workplace projects, drawing inspiration from a ‘greener workplace’ project the TUC pioneered at Great Ormond Street hospital.