#COP21: EU must back Just Transition in Paris treaty, not drop it
As trade unionist from across the world gather together at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris, we are all too aware of the various attempts being made to downplay the rights of workers in any prospective agreement.
It is clear from the outset that many of the major players in these negotiations are ambivalent towards the principles of Just Transition, Decent Work and Human Rights protection. Although they find various excuses for this, one cannot help but suspect that the presence of these three subjects in Paragraph two of the draft text is an irritant for national governments who are locked into the neo-liberal solution for all things.
Just Transition is something that on a European level we have been working hard to secure because we know it is key to providing a future for displaced workers. Thanks to the efforts of trade unions and confederations like EPSU, the EU is committed to supporting the principle of Just Transition, but this commitment needs to be delivered in a meaningful way otherwise it is just words on paper.
Any climate change agreement (and it is absolutely essential we get one which keeps global temp increase to below 2.c) will necessitate the removal of carbon polluting energy generation. Already in the UK we can be certain that Coal for example, will not be part of the energy mix beyond 2023 and workers in these sectors should not simply be thrown onto the scrap heap. Just Transition would ensure a future for these workers in key areas like energy conservation/efficiency and renewables but it needs planning, otherwise it will not work. It would seem that planning is not something the UK or other governments are particularly keen on.
For trade unionists from the UK an even more concerning narrative is developing. The lack of effort from European negotiators to retain the Just Transition principles in the main agreement, should send out an alarm about its overall commitments to workers rights in general. This is likely to play out in the upcoming negotiations and referendum on whether the UK remains part of the EU or not. We can be sure that the present Cameron government certainly would not miss any opportunity to downgrade workers protections enshrined in key social directives. What price therefore on the EU being willing to offer this up as part of the plan to keep the UK within its realm. Unless the EU can demonstrate some real meaningful commitment to Just Transition we should be deeply concerned about what lies ahead. We await developments with interest and concern.