From the TUC

Warsaw diary #1: No jobs on a dead planet

14 Nov 2013, by in Environment

COP 19 logoToday, the ITUC has an opportunity to question the conference President, Marcin Korolec, in a plenary about his ambitions for this conference and in  the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. It delivered a destructive force beyond human experience. That much at least was clear as Yeb Sano, head of the Philippines’ delegation, moved many to tears in his opening address to the UN climate conference here in Warsaw. He underscored that the world had entered a new era “where even the most ambitious emission reductions by developed nations will not be enough.” Its impact has destroyed the jobs and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Filipino workers and their families.

Hapless sense of timing, then, from the Australian government: this week repealing its carbon price, cutting $435 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, closing the Australian Climate Change Commission. Canada’s PM supported these moves. They look remarkably like the UK Coalition’s decision in 2010 to close our Sustainable Development Commission; and it is now considering cuts to “green taxes”.

Many members of civil society have started fasting in solidarity with Yeb Sano, who yesterday demanded movement at the UN climate negotiations. Momentum is also building for a mechanism to deal with the loss and damage caused by climate change to be established within the UN system.

But the force of this tragedy is the kind of extreme weather event that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has foreseen as being increasingly likely. The question moves on from, Is this due to climate change, to What to do about it?

The ITUC aims to put these points to the President today:

  • As you look at the government delegations assembled before you, what is your assessment of the current level of their ambition?
  • What will you do to raise the level of ambition to equal the challenges we face?
  • And finally, would you agree that there can be no jobs, indeed any meaningful economy, on a dead and devastated planet?

Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of the global alliance of industrial unions (IndustriALL) said today that:

“powerful voices are waging a campaign of disinformation and job blackmail to delay action. This has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with trillions of dollars in fossil fuel reserves whose value may be affected by any action plan.”

Many of the corporate and governmental climate deniers who now pretend concern for jobs had also attacked workers’ rights and their unions for decades. “While billionaires prepare safe havens for themselves, workers pay the price of climate change, as will, disproportionately, the world’s poorest populations.”

According to Raina, “Governments must act now, in the interests of their citizens, and generations to come. We want a fair, ambitious, and binding deal on greenhouse gas emissions. We want sustainable industrial policies that create decent jobs in sustainable energy, and efficient, greener production. We want equitable and reliable access to food, water, and energy for all people. And we need a Just Transition to get to that future from here.”

A transformation is coming, he said.

“The choice we have is whether it will be a violent scramble for resources such as water, energy, and fertile land, with  desperate last-minute survival measures that completely dismiss human rights and social protection. Or, an orderly and Just Transition that respects and protects present-day workers while creating new decent work in sustainable industries. The casino economy has no answers to these questions. We must plan a hopeful future for all workers, including those in industries that may be impacted by efforts to limit greenhouse gases. It is simple social justice”.

“Yes, we have a responsibility to worry about jobs and the economy, but there are no jobs on a dead planet.”