From the TUC

Durban diary 6: What will UK Ministers bring to the table?

05 Dec 2011, by in Environment

UN Climate Change Conference, DurbanAs Ministers begin to arrive for the second, high level segment of these talks, what will the UK’s Environment Secretary Chris Huhne bring in his bag?

What a weekend! Over there, UK Ministers and advisers have reaped an NGOs whirlwind, accusing the PM of leading the “most environmentally destructive government to hold power in this country since the modern environmental movement was born.” Over here in Durban, on Saturday, 20,000 people marched for Climate Justice and Green Jobs, led by the South African labour movement.

On Sunday 500 delegates attended a 1 Million Climate Jobs conference, where Graham Petersen from the UCU (UK) lead a workshop and the TUC addressed the plenary. The ITUC delegation met the South African President to rehearse our three main demands: that we leave here with a legally binding future deal. There must be clarity and commitment on the $100bn Green Climate Fund, supported by the Financial Transaction Tax. And the International Labour Organisation (ILO) should oversee the UN’s just transition and green jobs.

So UK Ministers will arrive to a new UN text which, among many other things, sustains the strategic role of green economies in driving solutions to climate change. Today, too, a new science report shows global emissions from burning fossil fuels rose by 5.9% last year. That’s a 49% rise since the 1990 baseline year for calculating emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Some governments (we have met about 15 so far) are suggesting a 2020 start date for a new binding agreement. It just doesn’t sit with the science. We have made the case for urgent & binding action to France, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Bolivia, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Costa Rica, Norway, the EU, the US …

It’s frustrating that the UK green lobby has bracketed the Chancellor’s support for energy-intensive industries (which the TUC welcomes) with other solid causes for concern: cutting support for solar energy, the cancelled carbon capture project, and the fundamental policy shift implicit in the Chancellor’s comment that “with endless social and environmental goals … businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer”. We trust that the UK’s current policy will become clearer when we meet the UK delegation later today. Because this process desperately needs Ministers to bring a single minded focus on the facts of climate change and the imperatives of actions only governments can take on our behalf. We’re also in discussion with the EU delegation later this evening.

Today we looked back on the wonderful, tuneful march on Saturday, with a huge ITUC balloon floating hazardously beneath Christmas decorations. Miners, waste pickers, farmers, youth and environmental groups, indigenous peoples from Africa and South America, and trade unionists from scores of countries, joined one the largest such events in recent years. Negotiations have hardly moved an inch on the big issues at stake here. Saturday’s demonstration, the hard work of this union delegation, and the UN publishing text which, yes, has taken into account labour and human rights issues mean that there is still all to play for.