From the TUC

Bonn diary 3: Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative

10 Jun 2009, by in Environment

More than 4,000 representatives of governments, business, unions and environmental organizations are meeting here in Bonn for the global talks on climate change. The sessions are focused on the outline of a new climate agreement to take to the larger UN climate change conference this December in Copenhagen.

30 international trade union representatives are taking part under the umbrella of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). We are here to continue to press for this conference’s proposals to include the concept of a “Just Transition” to a greener economy, and to plan for a series of union events in Copenhagen.

We’re putting our unions’ weight behind a shared vision for long-term cooperative action. The ITUC has emphasized the need for the UN climate change agreement to address employment and jobs, the inclusion of trade unions and other stakeholders in the decision-making process, and a sensitivity to the needs of the poorest and least-developed nations. The ITUC calls for commitments to a Just Transition for “sustainable, low-carbon economies, as the key to guarantee a socially sustainable outcome.”

In our twin track approach to building support for the Just Transition principles we have had extensive contacts with NGOs, governments and the UN.

We met leaders of the Climate Action Network (CAN), which represents 460 NGOs globally. Their approach to the new agreement is to challenge the dominant theme that it’s all about burden sharing as opposed to opportunities. CAN wants to change the whole story line to with positive messages bringing people on board. But for that, there must also be strong commitments to tackle CO2 emissions and spread adaptation funds widely across developing countries. CAN has “really appreciated the ITUC’s role” in supporting the new deal, and was happy to explore ways to take our Just Transition messages on board. We’re going to be lobbying together on specific amendments. They’re also working on building civil society support for major demonstrations in capital cities leading to Copenhagen.

We’ve also been meeting governments here – Denmark, Belgium, US, Peru, Columbia, Argentina, Bolivia, Japan in the last 24 hours. We had an audience yesterday with the UN chair leading negotiations on Long-term Cooperative Action. He was briefed on our lobby strategy, and on perceived weaknesses in the draft text, on capacity building, the role of pubic investment, the crucial importance of social dialogue. But, how durable was the Just Transition clause, we asked – Would it make it through to the final negotiating texts? We left with reasons to be optimistic but vigilant. This, in the end, is a convention on climate change, that must remain our focus.

Today, meeting representatives of the EU negotiating team, Anne Panneels for the ETUC emphasised the importance of the just transition clause:

“This is particularly crucial now that we are facing at the same time on the one hand the economic and financial crisis, and on the other hand the climate crisis. Now is not only the good time but a unique opportunity to design new industrial policies that could contribute at the same time to facing both challenges, inside and outside Europe.”

Again, we got an initial response wrapped in warm words, so we leave knowing that more work lies ahead with EU governments to spring them into life!

As Bob Baugh of the AFL-CIO blogged earlier this week on AFL-CIOnow, quoting one of the union delegation here:

“The message governments here need to hear is that there is a transition coming and we have a choice before us. One is a good one that is just and fair and results in opportunities and assistance for workers and communities. The other is a bad one, and they need to understand that there will be consequences.”

As Bing Crosby would have crooned: Don’t mess with Mister In Between.