From the TUC

Climate conference holds its breath

11 Dec 2008, by in Environment

Everyone here at the UN Climate Change conference in Poznan is speaking about two key issues now – the EU’s climate package, and the incoming Obama administration – and their impact on securing a new climate change treaty in 2009.

It’s crucial that the EU reaches an agreement on its energy and climate change package in talks going on now in Brussels. Agreeing a minimum cut of 20% in Europe’s CO2 by 2020 will send a crucial signal to developed countries for the UN talks in the year ahead.

Secondly, effectively the negotiations here are on hold until 2009 when Obama’s team joins the table.

On the EU, the French ambassador has flown back to Brussels no doubt because talks there have reached a stalemate. Will the EU signal to the rest of the world that its contribution to financing the Bali Action Plan is an urgent priority, especially for developing countries now facing the severest impacts of climate change?

The ITUC working group’s membership has peaked at around 100 delegates during the 2 weeks of these talks. Today we were pleased to hold a review meeting with ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder, here in the conference centre. As a first response to the various points made, he signaled the crucial importance of membership involvement in the coming year, as the negotiations come to a head in 2009. Climate change interconnects with many core union issues, from green industrial development as an answer to the recession, through world trade to labour rights. We have to insist that governments are willing to take employment and labour issues into these climate talks. Finally, he remarked that capacity building for all out affiliates is crucial, especially in the developing countries, where trade unions from the North have a role to play in supporting trade union growth and training.

What the ITUC group here is saying is, if it hasn’t by now become a priority, then it should be. These are immensely difficult issues that trade unions from national level to the global union bodies will doubtless want at the top of their agendas next year.

Elsewhere, the buzz in the convention hallways is about what role the United States will play going forward to Copenhagen, next year, where the goal is to reach a final agreement to replace Kyoto. So blogs Lauren Asplen, assistant to the president for IUE-CWA, who is among union delegates taking part in this 12-day United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Poznan:

“Barack Obama’s election, there is much hope that our nation will not only become engaged in the climate change debate, but take the lead. If so, we have much work to do. Our U.S. trade delegation met with Harlan Watson, the top U.S. negotiator, who stated that just transition has never been a topic of discussion. When it was suggested by the delegation that it was the responsibility of U.S. negotiators to raise the issue and demand that it is included as official policy in the U.N. framework, he looked momentarily dumfounded.”

So what we’ll get out of this conference is a mandate for negotiations for 2009. Now we have to exert all our influence at national level to sustain government support for the ITUC agenda.