From the TUC

Qatar blog #2: No Just Transition without labour rights

03 Dec 2012, by in Environment

Follow unions at the UNFCCC in Qatar

Both climate change and labour rights come together uniquely for the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) delegation in Qatar. Qatar has the highest per capita carbon emissions of any country, while numerous reports cite its systematic abuse of  international labour standards. For example, Qatar doesn’t publish figures for industrial deaths. But Embassy figures show that 191 Nepalese and 98 Indian workers died in Qatar in 2010, mostly in construction. So the ITUC reports  not only its lobbying work for a new climate agreement, but also its visits to labour camps accompanied by local organisers and trade unionists from Nepal and from international building workers’ union.

On Saturday 1 December, 40 union delegates join a march through Doha under the (forbidden) ITUC banner: “No world cup in Qatar without labour rights”.

Migrant workers in Qatar

From the UN climate conference, Benjamin Denis of the ETUC reports on the ITUC’s continuing efforts at public events and meetings with governments to include the principles of a Just Transition in UN agreements. Just transition principles include union voice, investment in the green economy and respect for ILO labour rights standards. They apply equally to the KP as to the all-nation deal the UN is struggling to pull together. Just Transition was debated at a Forum on Response measures, which is supposed to continue its work for the next year, including in Bonn next Spring. The ITUC wants the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to play a central role in monitoring .

Benjamin also reports on the brinkmanship the UN is facing in simply renewing the Kyoto Protocol (KP), which expires on 31 December. The KP covers about 15% of global emissions, with the 27 EU nations making up the core group. The big debate is about countries entering the second round of the Kyoto protocol being allowed to carry over emissions credits from the first phase. Some countries, including the EU’s Poland as well as Ukraine and Russia, have large surpluses of credits, generated because their carbon output collapsed along with their industres after the fall of communism. Critics call these surpluses hot air, or perhaps freeloading.

Meanwhile, from the conference floor, Anabella Rosemberg reports that the ITUC has taken forward its demands in face to face meetings with government delegations from the US, Australia, Nepal and the UK, as well as with the UN’s Executive Secretary and the President of the conference.

The so-called Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP for short) is the UN body which should concentrate all debates around the future of the climate negotiations. The discussions on the ADP are in very early stages. The two tracks of the discussion are roughly:

  • the workplan for 2013 and the way to organize it.
  • the contents of the next agreement.

Many developed countries saw these debates as a diversion from the need to reach agreement on the KP, as well as an attempt from the developed world to only prioritise the post-2020 commitments, rather than those that absolutely must be agreed and in force by 2020. In a year’s time the UN will re-assemble in Warsaw, Poland.