From the TUC

Warsaw Climate Talks: No more cop outs

19 Nov 2013, by Guest in Environment

COP 19 logoWe can’t afford to waste another year stalling on the framework for a climate agreement.  You’d think that the conclusions of the latest IPCC report coupled with Typhoon Haiyan would be a wake-up call to the world’s governments. But not it seems for Poland, Japan and Australia. When the host country uses the Presidency of the COP to promote ”the coal industry’s most important event of the year’’ then you know you are in trouble. When you add this to Japan’s announcement to increase carbon emissions and Australia’s backtracking on all fronts it has not been the best of starts. Of course they are not the only ones and others will soon be in line for the Climate Action Network ‘fossil of the day’ award.

Here’s a summary of some of the work UCU has done as part of the International Trade Union Confederation delegation.

Meetings with Ministers – The ITUC is lobbying hard to get governments to commit to a just, ambitious and legally binding agreement. At European level we held a meeting on Monday with the Scottish Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse. Scotland has a far more coherent policy than some other parts of the UK so it was good to hear about their commitments and recognition of the trade union role. Our planned meeting with Greg Barker, his UK counterpart, was cancelled.

More fruitful has been our engagement at side events both inside and outside the conference.

Demonstration and 1 million jobs roundtable – On Saturday the train arrived with activists from all over Europe. Trade union delegates marched with them and thousands of others to a rally held outside the national stadium. I spoke at the roundtable held the next day to discuss union strategies and the work being done by the 1 million climate jobs campaign.

Education side event  – The discussion on education for sustainable development (ESD). Speakers from UNESCO and UNEP reported on work being done as part of the UN decade for ESD. UCU raised our concerns about the lack of progress being made despite the decade ending next year. A new Global Action Programme on ESD will be developed in 2015 with ‘’educators’’ as one of the 5 priority areas. As a union representing educators UCU will be looking to influence this programme and press for a strategy that can deliver the ambition.

Young Workers side event – Over 100 delegates attended this trade union meeting exploring ways in which unions and youth can link up to press for decent jobs. Nick Sanderson from UKYCC spoke and the Greener Jobs Alliance and the Green Skills Partnership were identified in the debate as practical examples of how this was being delivered in the UK.

Lobbying for Just Transition – Underpinning our work at the COP is the need to get the commitment to a Just Transition honoured in any new agreement. By this we mean the adoption of 5 key principles:

  1. Consultation between Government and key stakeholders, including representatives from business, trade unions, local government and regional bodies and voluntary organisations.
  2. Green and decent jobs through domestic investments in (new) low-carbon technologies, in R&D and innovation, and technology transfer. For the ETUC, all jobs that contribute to environmentally sustainable development are green. This spans all sectors and industries covering all workers.
  3. Green skills: Government-led, active education/training and skills strategies for a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy.
  4. Respect for labour rights and human rights: democratic decision-making and respect for human and labour rights are essential in order to ensure the fair representation of workers’ and communities’ interests at the national level.
  5. Strong and efficient social protection systems.

An EU proposal to wind up the response measures forum will close down our opportunities to raise these principles so the rest of the week will see a concerted campaign to keep the forum in place. We can’t expect workers and trades unions to sign up for a rapid transition to a low carbon economy if the experience of Poland and elsewhere is repeated. Over 300,000 coal mining jobs lost and the dole queue the only alternative put in place. We spoke with Polish trades unionists about the industrial policies needed to ensure this isn’t repeated in this and other sectors.

As it says on the UCU banner we have had on display ‘For a future that doesn’t cost the earth. Against austerity – for climate justice’

GUEST POST: Graham Petersen is Environment Coordinator at the UCU and a founder member of the Greener Jobs Alliance

2 Responses to Warsaw Climate Talks: No more cop outs

  1. Petra Peters Erb
    Nov 21st 2013, 8:20 am

    May I add an idea? With my background as an economist, I would like to see well designed incentives to support private initiative towards the principles such as more green jobs and more green skills leading to more green behavior and effective actions. Tax reductions, targeted subsidies, carbon footprint trading or awards (that companies can use for marketing) may be steps in the right direction and I have experienced some of them being implemented. It may be difficult though to design them well along the cliffs of lobbying and make them efficient and effective.

  2. Tim Cooper
    Nov 23rd 2013, 9:15 am

    But are more subsidies to private business the only ‘solution’ we can imagine. If capitalists markets must be constantly bribed (after cutting through the smog of pro-carbon lobbyists, whose job is precisely to prevent solutions emerging), why not go straight to the root of the problem and abolish capitalism. In any case, aren’t private capitalist interests already deeply embedded in these problems in carbon trading, insurance and the like. What good has any of that done? Doesn’t this avoid the real question? If to survive we must replace capitalism and the market wholesale with planned production and distribution of goods, the transformation of our energy infrastructure, reduction of work, etc, can we make that choice? I.e., are we allowed to choose to survive? So far all the COP (non-)agreements or national policy in the world has only ever said “No!” to this question.