From the TUC

Lima Diary 2: Groundhog day for ‘just transition’ at #COP20

06 Dec 2014, by in Environment

COP20 LimaThe #1 objective of the ITUC delegation here in Lima is to ensure the UN honours its commitment to a Just Transition in the negotiating text now in draft form. The UN first made this decision five years ago this month in Cancun. Back then, the 16th annual UN climate conference (COP 16) adopted the following statement after much union lobbying, to a “Just Transition which will create decent work, good quality jobs in the transition towards a low emission and climate-resilient society.”

We’re now in Lima for #COP20. Although I only arrived today, it feels like #Groundhog day. Today, the ITUC met the EU President Pulgar-Vidal to press the same case, with a new brief setting out the same text explaining on why its crucial to send the same strong message to working people in the proposed Paris agreement, to be concluded in a year’s time.

Just Transition is just as relevant to the new form of agreement the UN is working on as the old, top down, legally binding model.

The UN’s aim now is to gather from every nation a schedule of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These 190 pledges, some binding like the EU’s, many voluntary such as the US-China bilateral agreement, must be measurable and deliverable at national level from 2020. This is where “Just transition” can bite through national level consultations to support change but in a fair and just way.

In Lima, we believe that the governments should support the reintroduction of this commitment, and the right place for it is the element that deals with limiting the increase in average global temperatures to below 2C°. Anything higher and we cross an existential threshold into dangerous climate change. Industry and energy supply are at the heart of this transition, sectors that must fully decarbonise by 2080, according to UNEP, and where trade unions globally have millions of members, with much to gain and not a little to worry about in the low carbon shift.

For the record, the text unions are proposing is (section C):

“Governments recognize the need to accompany their climate policies and actions with the promotion of decent work opportunities arising from a low-emission society as well as with a strategy aimed at ensuring a Just Transition for workers, contributing to protecting them in times of hardship, strengthening social dialogue between governments, employers and unions at all levels, securing their rights, greening existing sectors, and growing new sectors to ensure prosperity and sustainable development.”

ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol has also pressed the same point today with EU Energy & Climate Change Commissioner Arias Canete who leads the EU negotiations. She pointedly reminds him that the European labour movement supports the EU’s 2030 climate package, which includes a huge 40% cut in CO2 from power and industry by 2030. This is no small move by the ETUC, given the industrial change it implies especially for coal dependent states such as Poland, where trade unions face huge job losses in heavy industry and mining unless reinvestments take place.

JT can help deliver Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

For trade unions, JT involves a number of essential elements: investment in low carbon energy and technologies; promoting high quality employment, skilled employment; social dialogue between government, employers and trade unions to facilitate and worker’s participation; greening of skills; worker’s rights; and social protection. We think that supporting climate policies with a strong social agenda at national level is essential to ensure a just transition for the workforce but also to help sustain a high level of public support for climate policies.

The INDC system brings together elements of a bottom-up system—in which countries put forward their contributions in the context of their national priorities, circumstances and capabilities—with a top-down system, in which countries collectively aim to reduce global emissions enough to limit average global temperature rise to 2 degrees C, thus averting the worst impacts of climate change. As a result, INDCs can create a constructive feedback loop between national and international decision-making on climate change.

In their national INDCs, countries will propose the steps they will take to reduce emissions. They might also address other issues, such as how they will adapt to climate change impacts, and what support they need from—or will provide to—other countries to address climate change.

As the ETUC argues, we are confident that it is impossible to drastically change the economy without impacting on the world of work. We believe that the level of greenhouse gas emission reduction that is needed to fight climate change could contribute to create jobs in emerging sectors. But, we also know that, for some sectors and some regions, the benefits of a greener and low-carbon economy will be more difficult to secure. For workers who will experience professional transitions, and for working people and their communities who could be negatively impacted, the ETUC believes that consultation and change by consent is essential.

The ITUC remains committed to a high level, legally binding UN agreement. Whatever formula negotiators come up with, the hard work of delivering the treaty will be done at regional and national levels, and in the workplace.