From the TUC

#COP21: Put just transition back into UN climate treaty

05 Dec 2015, by in Environment

This morning at the Paris climate change conference the UN has released a further draft text, which as we had feared places references to Just Transition of the workforce and the ILO principle of decent work in the relegation zone.

It seems clear from extensive lobbying of EU28 governments that the EU’s ambiguity is a key problem, in not speaking up for the inclusion of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) principle of “decent work” in this agreement. Working for a just transition and the delivery of decent work in the green industrial transformations that lie ahead in power supply, vehicle manufacture and heavy industry provides a bridge between the UN’s ILO convention and the climate change treaty on the table here in Paris.

Of course, several fundamental issues remain to be resolved, on which the ITUC has strong policy in support of a binding agreement:

  • Global warming:  “to hold the increase in the global average temperature [below 1.5 degrees C] [or] [well below 2 degrees c} above preindustrial levels. The ITUC argues for the lower, safer target.
  • Finance: the target is $100 billion per year and upwards for developing countries , which is now approaching $70m billion, but still incomplete.
  • A mandatory five yearly review of government actions against the global warming target: still not agreed.

But we find that Just Transition has been moved from its rightful place in Article 2 to the Preamble, a kind of “vision statement”:

  • Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities.

We find that this language has also been flagged up in a Reflections schedule at the end of the draft agreement, which contains a long list of phrases that may now be dropped, unless revived through positive, affirmative action by governments.

Our calls therefore are to the EU to breathe life back into its support for ensuring a just transition and decent work in the shift to a low carbon economy. Bearing in mind the EU’s target of a 40% minimum cut in carbon emissions on the part of its 750 million citizens by 2030, it’s not a radical demand to ask that the interests of the EU’s workforce be up front and centre in the implantation of this policy, in line with the political mandate in the EU Council Conclusions of 18 September 2015. The ETUC will be making further direct representations to the EU on this issue.

And the ITUC has also written to the COP Presidents Manuel Pulgar Vidal and Laurent Fabius:

“The trade union movement would like to share with you its deep concerns about the course of the negotiation here in Paris, in particular with respect to the fate of Article 2, paragraph 2 of the ADP text, on Purpose.

The current negotiating text, with all its shortcomings, contains in that section critical language aimed at ensuring that while pursuing a shared long term goal of maintaining temperatures well below 2°C,

Parties will ensure that human rights are respected, women are guaranteed full participation in decisions, workers have a Just Transition secured with decent job opportunities to maintain their families and communities, and more broadly, citizens are fully part of climate action.

Trade unions are shocked to learn that informal documents coming out of the spinoff groups show that this language has been removed from the operational part of the text and inserted in the preamble section, therefore taking out from the UNFCCC any responsibility in following up with those commitments.

We would therefore like to make clear that this is not acceptable for us, and we would like to call on you to deploy all possible efforts to secure article 2, paragraph 2 in the treaty text. Erasing these references sends a very bad signal on Governments’ intentions on climate. Climate action must be undertaken with people, not against them.”