From the TUC

Durban diary 4: UN returns to just transition

01 Dec 2011, by in Environment

UN Climate Change Conference, DurbanIt’s impossible not to comment on the UK government’s latest mishandling of the green economy, on a day when the UN resumes work on the Cancun agreement that includes principles of just transition and green jobs agreed last year.

But to begin with UN business here at the COP17 Climate Change Conference in Durban: Today’s session on a new form of  agreement is based on a text from the Cancun conference (pdf) that recognises the need to address the negative impacts of climate change policies through the prism of ‘ a just transition of the workforce, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs.’ JT strategies should inform national development strategies for both poduction and service related jobs, ‘promoting economic growth and sustainable development’.

However, some union delegates here, not least the South African union federation COSATU, are expressing concern at the ‘observer status’ of the ITUC, expecting their rightful place at the table with governments in negotiating a new climate treaty. The same sense of seeking greater influence applies across the piece – a union presence on the board of the promised Green Climate Fund, for example, and on the body overseeing the UN’s multi-billion dollar mechanism for clean development (the CDM).

Only 2% of the 3,500 CDM projects agreed to date have benefitted Africa. COSATU is working on an industrial policy that transitions South Africa to a low carbon (for which read low-coal) economy, for which huge new investment flows will be needed into green jobs. An emerging African union strategy is being talked about here, akin to the European trade unions’  joint industrial policies for a greener Europe, presented here yesterday, and their commitments to a renewed Kyoto Protocol.

Yet RENGO, the Japanese trade union federation, is opposing a second Kyoto Protocol. Nationally, huge domestic energy savings of up to 15% are being made out of necessity following the 11 March earthquake. With further plans to cut domestic energy consumption underway. That’s on top of its long term development of low carbon technologies in a wide range of products, well ahead of other developed nations. RENGO sees global warming countermeasures as a ‘common global task’. All major emitters should step up to the plate.

Meanwhile, in the UK, words seem to be speaking louder than actions. It seems that two minutes into an interview on Treasury spending, Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, said:

‘For example we announced a few weeks back that the carbon capture & Storage programme has been delayed because the original project couldn’t be delivered and so we are committed to providing the money for that but it is most likely that the majority of that money will be needed in the next parliament and so we can release the funds in this parliament for this sort of programme’

– a reference to the new capital projects announced this week. We wait with interest to see if this the real end of of the UK’s CCS ambitions, or just yet another confusing signal to energy investors.