On 1 June 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that the USA would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
This has global implications, and is against the interests of workers, their families and their children, and the communities that depend on them.
The USA's leadership, by slowing progress in addressing climate change, have put the entire future of humanity at risk.
Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will not bring back coal mining jobs.
Technological change has ensured it does not take as many workers to produce a tonne of coal in 2017 as it did in the 1950s. The economics of energy have shifted. It is already cheaper in many cases to produce electricity from wind, or solar. Most investors are not interested in sinking their money into a “sunset industry”, and would rather invest in renewable energy projects that have a more certain future.
The USA will no longer be committed to the Paris Agreement's expectations that governments create a Just Transition for affected workers in coal mining communities. This will weaken the ability of trade unions to negotiate good deals for affected workers when faced with the industrial transformations that are inevitable.
The USA is ceding leadership in tomorrow's technologies to countries that are actually prepared to invest in research and development, for example in the Asian region, and particularly China. China already owns key technologies in renewable energy.
On climate change, the science is clear, and irrefutable. The scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have probably understated the problem. Urgent action is required.
Reaching the Paris Agreement was the culmination of over 20 years of difficult negotiation. It is an imperfect document but still a major step forward. Many of the compromises that it contains were put there by the USA, with reluctant acceptance by other countries to keep the USA in the Agreement.
Already, other countries have indicated that they will sideline the Trump administration, and work with each other, and with US corporations and local politicians, to implement the agreement.
US President Trump has apparently not considered that other countries might impose a countervailing tariff on American goods for being unfairly subsidized by lower carbon costs. Trump has also not considered the size and importance of the green economy to the US, or the fact that across the US, corporations, as well as politicians at state and city level, have pledged to honour climate commitments.
At the Executive Committee meeting in Frankfurt in May 2016, IndustriALL Global Union adopted an ambitious policy document, committing the organization, and its affiliates, to work towards a Just Transition. IndustriALL Global Union is committed to leading the trade union struggle for a just and sustainable future. In practical terms, this means supporting the move away from fossil fuels through programmes that ensure jobs, skills and communities are maintained, and that workers are not forced to pay the price.
“IndustriALL Global Union and its affiliates will continue to demand sustainable industrial policies and Just Transition programmes from companies, local authorities and national governments”, said Valter Sanches, general secretary of IndustriALL.
“The broad coalition of interests who recognize that climate change threatens our existence on this planet will work together despite the decision of the US leadership.”
“There are no jobs on a dead planet.”