From the TUC

Durban diary 5: ITUC on top of the world

02 Dec 2011, by in Environment

UN Climate Change Conference, DurbanDorji Khatri of the Nepalese Union of trekking, travels, rafting and airlines, Unitrav speaks at the ITUC meeting today about his ascent of Mount Everest on 26 May 2011, when he planted the ITUC flag on the mountain top. Ten years ago the peak was covered in ice and now more and more rock is being exposed. Water is running down the mountain, filling the lakes below, building a threat of floods and landslides. UNITRAV thought Lord Lawson and the UK’s climate sceptics might want to contemplate this truth about global warming.

Back on the UN negotiating floor, Christina Figueras, the UN’s executive secretary began the week calling for a clear mandate on financing the UN’s green climate fund, but now the position is more nuanced where the UN is now likely to be mandated to “explore” innovative sources of funding. Ambitious calls for a financial transaction tax (FTT) give way to pressure from governments like the US. And again, there are still too many options on the table for the duration of the second period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP2), ranging from 5, 8 or 10 years. The end date matters as it should be the target date to start a truly global deal that embraces all nations.

The French delegation reps here tells us that they are willing to support a second KP as part of a transition agreement that also involves a clear roadmap and deadline for the common global agreement within a few years. They support the FTT, and the operation of a just transition framework. But France said there would be no new public money available for the Green Climate Fund – apart from innovative sources, such as the Financial Transaction Tax. Of course, the ITUC supports innovative sources, but this apparent block on further support from existing public funds has brought austerity measures into the heart of talks on global climate financing here.

Union delegates also report that Governments are now saying they need much more information on the economic and social impact of “response measures”, that is to say, climate change policies. US and EU government representatives seemed to be almost quoting from the ITUC’s position paper on skills, training and education. It’s what we have been saying from some time now on the need for a just transition strategy focused on jobs, skills and dialogue.

We hear too that the collapse of the Kyoto Protocol could kill off the only major source of funds to developing nations, the clean development mechanism (CDM). Venezuela on behalf of developing nations, said it would “raise hell” in the plenary if the UN didn’t explicitly acknowledge that the clean development mechanism is effectively “dead” without the KP2. This fund has attracted $billions a year of investment from developed nations offsetting their domestic emissions. The ITUC is now working on persuading the UN to adopt labour and human rights considerations in approving schemes, with cases of projects like biofuels displaced traditional agriculture, and also wants far more projects in Africa. These two demands are likely to emerge as a key union priority in the coming year.

The Australian union reps presented their case for the FTT to their government, but Australia doesn’t support this measure. We encouraged the Australian government to support a role for ILO in monitoring the just transition process, and we put to them our concerns about the UN opting to meet in Qatar next December.