From the TUC

#COP21: Giving meaning to the four strands of climate justice

10 Dec 2015, by Guest in Environment

None of the four strands of climate justice – research, education, training and public awareness – have made the headlines at COP21, yet the conference “fringe” has been full of such debates. Whatever the final UN Agreement looks like, there will need to be an operational strategy that shifts general references to ‘research, education, training and public awareness’ to something meaningful for each member state.

This process would be helped if there was coherence across the different agencies in the United Nations. The fact that this doesn’t exist is not only a view held by trades unions. On Tuesday, the ITUC delegation was addressed by Guy Ryder, the Head of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). He highlighted his concerns about the way silo approaches make it difficult to ensure consistency in international agreements and treaties. UNESCO, UNEP, ILO and others all have obligations that address how education contributes to sustainable development. The Climate Change agreement we end up with has to recognise and reinforce these. The last few days at the COP have featured all 4 strands.

Research – The Global Carbon Project ran an excellent event in the conference centre on Tuesday. Researchers from the Tyndall Centre in the Universities of Manchester and East Anglia provided a detailed overview .of the prospects for staying within a 2 degree temperature rise. The research is depressing but utterly compelling. Kevin Anderson, UCU member, and Professor of Energy and Climate Change emphasised how far away we are likely to be from the UN stated ambition of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees centigrade consistent with equity. The Education International World Congress of 2015 called for independent publicly funded research as one of the cornerstones of climate policy. Kevin responded to a UCU intervention at the meeting by stating that researchers need to produce evidence that is objective and presented in a way that contributes to public awareness. He also expressed the view that research councils in the UK need to support work that doesn’t fit the “current economic paradigm”

Education – On Friday the UCU helped to organise the Education International workshop entitled the ‘Power of Education’. This featured innovative ways in which education unions and students in the sector were embedding sustainable development in the curriculum.

Training – On Saturday UCU was invited to speak at the Korean Climate Action meeting. The Koreans wanted to explore the potential for creating climate jobs. UCU’s involvement in the 1 million climate jobs campaign was explained. The importance of training and re-training workers threatened with job loss was highlighted as a practical example of just transition. It was pointed out that the ‘unjust transition’ of coal miners in the UK was an example of how not to do it. Our work in the Greener Jobs Alliance was used as another practical example of putting training at the centre of campaign work.

Public awareness – On Monday night Trade Unions for Energy Democracy organised a meeting with Naomi Klein and Jeremy Corbyn. UCU is affiliated to TUED and the event was an illustration of how unions can and need to influence opinion on this issue. 700 people filled the hall with over 500 unable to get in. They heard inspirational speeches with a focus on public mobilisation.

As I write this the trade union bloc has staged a sit-in with other civil society groups. This is to protest at the lack of progress on key areas of the text. By the weekend we will know the final outcome of the agreement and my final Paris blog will offer an assessment of it, and where we go from here.