Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype

Climate change requires Just Transition

24 November, 2015IndustriALL Global Union supports a strong worldwide agreement in the COP21 talks in Paris in order to manage climate change. But we need to take care of our workers. That means industrial transformation and just transition into a low-carbon society.

On 30 November, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or the very much shorter COP21 will be opened in Paris, France. IndustriALL will be there.

At the moment it seems likely that in spite of possible complications, a global regime to limit greenhouse gases as well as mechanisms for adaptation and remediation measures, will be agreed on by the almost 200 states present in Paris. The Paris Regime or Accord, whatever it may be called, will have a significant impact on IndustriALL’s industrial sectors.

IndustriALL affiliated unions in 140 countries represent millions of workers in coal and uranium mining, oil and gas production, electricity generation and distribution, and in a number of energy intensive industries such as steel, aluminium, cement, glass, pulp and paper. Our members build wind mills, solar power panels and cars using traditional, hybrid and electric power engines.

Indeed, IndustriALL is the Climate Change Global Union.

We want to ensure a planet for future generations. But we also want to make sure that our workers will be taken care of, and that they are treated fairly.

That is what we call Just Transition.

In September, we participated in the Trade Union Climate Summit in Paris, hosted by the ITUC. The summit endorsed three top demands for the Paris agreement, calling on governments to:                                              

  • put back the language of just transition that has been stripped from the draft agreement
  • raise ambition before 2020 and invest in the potential of jobs and climate action and commit to a binding review of effort
  • support the most vulnerable with the promised financial commitments

Industrial transformation to us means Just Transition. Earlier in November, the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) formally adopted the criteria for realizing the Just Transition principles. The ILO defined essential steps countries should take to transform their economies for a low-carbon future, creating new jobs and supporting workers and communities in high-carbon sectors as industries are transformed.

The ILO document talks about active labour market policies, skills development, health and safety, and social protection.

One of the most worried group of workers have been our coal miners. A recent conference of our coal mining unions from Australia to South Africa and Poland did not miss the irony that industrialization of the global economy has been on the back of coal mining, and now coal miners are threatened by the very consequences of industrial development.

But our coal mining unions adopted a set of demands to support ILO’s Just Transition criteria:

  • design and implement specific Just Transition programs in line with sustainable industrial policies and social protection
  • investment in clean coal technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
  • mining companies must stop using the global coal crisis to undermine union rights

Managing climate change has to be fair. If the transition is handled properly, many existing jobs can be greened while millions of new jobs are created over a period of time.

We want a future that is attractive for today’s workers and optimistic for future workers. After Paris, we will start doing what is necessary to achieve it.

Jyrki Raina
General Secretary