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COP28: People’s plenary demands climate justice and urgent action

11 December, 2023Consensus was clear — urgent action is imperative, and the global community must prioritize addressing climate issues with a steadfast commitment to justice and inclusivity of all those affected. Amidst the powerful speeches, calls resonated for the recognition of Indigenous rights, an immediate ceasefire in Palestine, and for the well-being of future generations.

Messages advocating climate action with a foundation in human rights were conveyed by feminist groups, child protection advocates, indigenous communities worldwide, youth representatives, and trade unions from all over the world. 

On the 11th day of COP28 in Dubai, the People's plenary, gathering civil society representatives to articulate their expectations for COP28, had a powerful message:

"there is no climate justice without human rights." 

Despite the ongoing efforts, an urgent question resonated: Why continue attending COP when progress seems minimal? The resounding answer was that governments and corporations are falling short of their responsibilities. Activists in the plenary insisted that their presence at COP serves as a forceful push to compel governments to act decisively.

"We come to COP to fight, as we fight year-round. We suffer devastation already. How do you expect us to build our future when our rights are being deprived?" voiced a young boy from Sudan, capturing the feeling of urgency.

Bert de Wel, ITUC climate policy officer (People's plenary COP28)  

Representing workers and unions, Bert De Wel from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) emphasized that trade unions are fully embracing the climate challenge. While advocating for urgent climate policies, he underscored the condition that workers will not support measures leading to misery and poverty for them. Bert outlined the essence of a just transition — a concept intertwined with solidarity, justice, decent jobs, and lives for everyone worldwide. He underscored the need for justice in various areas, including an immediate ceasefire in Palestine, justice for women who are among the most impacted by climate change, and the protection of indigenous rights.

 Discussing the critical role of labour rights in climate justice, Bert pointed out the ongoing strike by Tesla workers in Sweden. The employer is refusing to engage in negotiations for a collective agreement, showing the importance of fair labour practices in the transition to a sustainable future.

Joy Hernandez, ITUC Asia Pacific (People's plenary COP28)

Joy Hernandez, from the ITUC in the Asia-Pacific region, shed light on the vulnerability of countries in the region due to climate change. For workers, climate disasters translate to job and livelihood losses, a matter of survival. Hernandez stressed the struggle of climate migrants who, displaced by natural disasters, move to cities where job guarantees are lacking. Without social protection policies, workers are left behind.

Highlighting the marginalization of workers in climate policies, Hernandez argued that a transition without workers' involvement exacerbates inequalities and reinforces neoliberal policies. She stressed the necessity of labour rights in achieving a just transition, cautioning against climate policies becoming a battleground for attacks on workers' rights.

As the People's plenary concluded, the collective call for climate justice echoed, demanding actionable commitments and inclusivity in policy-making to safeguard the rights and livelihoods of all. Participants pledged to continue their fight for a sustainable future, at COP28 and beyond.