From the TUC

Warsaw diary #3: UN’s first draft is No Deal without Just Transition

20 Nov 2013, by in Environment

COP 19 logoUnions here in Warsaw believe that the UN’s outline climate change treaty, published today, is neither “politically smart, nor responsible.”  The so-called common threads linking the main objectives of the treaty to cut emissions, provide finance and  support adaptation provide “no space for bringing Decent Work, Just Transition, social justice, or the need to transform economies into the next agreement,” the ITUC says.

We are not alone. Like-Minded Developing Countries (representing 3.5 billion people) are speaking out too. The big concern on the part of China, India, the Philippines, Venezuela and many others is the lack of any real action in the lead up to the 2020 period, and the danger that the new global treaty will blur the different responsibilities of developed and developing nations when it takes effect then.

These concerns follow hard on Japan, Australia and Canada backing out of their previous commitments. And feebler action to address climate change now means a greater burden in the post-2020 regime.

For the ITUC:

“The only way we can move towards a low carbon, climate resilient society is by transforming the world of work, the way we produce energy, goods and services. All our jobs will have to transform into sustainable ones, by investing now in the jobs of the future and building a just transition for all workers, with decent work at the heart of them. A 2015 deal without Just Transition is simply not an option for trade unions.”

“We’re dealing with a double crisis of unemployment and climate change, ” was the view of Nick Sanderson from the UK Youth Climate Coalition. Speaking to over 100 delegates at the ITUC’s roundtable on youth and the climate crisis, he said answers to both lie in green jobs, like home insulation, but they’ve got to offer decent wages and a decent contract, and not new fossil fuel subsidies for shale gas fracking. “We face being the first generation that’s worse off than our parents.” Fewer jobs, more expensive homes, rising energy and food prices were adding to the burdens.

The ETUC has been in close discussions with Polish trade union confederations here on how to squeeze belief that jobs can be created out of the climate crisis when so many have gone through restructuring  and austerity.  The ETUC and OPZZ are stressing the importance of a European energy and climate policy that puts Just Transition into action.

It’s obvious from our discussions with Polish trade unions here in Warsaw that European workers have largely paid the bill for the crisis. Massive restructuring programs – which go back 20 years in Poland – have led European unemployment towards historical levels. It’s 13% in Poland now, and 27 million currently unemployed in the EU. Wages, working conditions and social protection systems have been under attack. The EU has lost sight of its social dimension. “It should be brought back in as a cross cutting principle for all EU policies, including those designed to deal with energy and tackle climate change”, said Bernadette Ségol ETUC General Secretary.

The EU appears to want to close down workstreams on economic responses in developing countries, like investment in economic diversification or best practice industrial policies, which has sent us into a new round of lobbying delegations here. It’s a kind of groundhog day.

Graham Petersen, Universities and Colleges Union, said at the roundtable that study programmes should reflect the jobs in a low carbon economy – there’s a growing mismatch between education courses and jobs available. And Judith Kirton-Darling for the ETUC argued that’s why decent work and just transition need to be integrated into the UN framework because of the scale of the changes to jobs and skills that we are demanding.