The news from the UN climate talks in Poland, COP24, has generally been disheartening. The US, Russian, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked a statement that the conference 'welcomed' the IPCC's research into the impacts of exceeding 1.5C warming. The Polish hosts have chosen fossil fuel companies to sponsor the talks. They have been accused of silencing civil society voices and of arguing on the world stage for a just transition that they are not prepared to implement at home.
But discussions about Just Transition and the role of unions have never been more central. Philip Pearson reports from Katowice below, on behalf of the Greener Jobs Alliance - there is further information in their latest newsletter.
Led by the Polish Presidency, the United Nations adopted the Just Transition Declaration at the opening of this two-week climate change conference. It’s a remarkable turnaround for us, getting Just Transition demands into the mainstream debates here. But, the declaration is not legally binding on governments, though as Allison Tate of the ITUC told over 100 union delegates here in Poland, the ‘highly political’ statement will oblige governments to up their game and consult with unions on national climate strategies they are now bound to develop. ‘Our task is to hold governments to this commitment, today, tomorrow and every day that follows.’
Significantly, international bodies representing employers and local government have swung their weight behind the UN Just Transition Declaration.
A business guest speaker at the ITUC strategy day (8 December), Peter Glynn from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), said his organisation supported the declaration, the first time it had mentioned labour issues in its work on climate change. When pressed to explain that ‘labour market reforms’ were needed to help deliver massive new investment, he said that workplaces will only be able to adapt to low carbon technologies when the workforce is adequately equipped. This meant massive programmes creating jobs and new skills, with ‘effective planning involving employers, unions and national institutions.’
Delegates pointed out that the right to organise and collective bargaining were essential to a fair and Just Transition, and asked Glynn to take these messages back to the ICC.
The local governments’ statement on Just Transition is available here.