Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype

COP28: positive but timid steps toward a fair and inclusive future for workers

13 December, 2023On the final day of the Conference of the Parties (COP), the message resonating from the halls of the EXPO 2020 in Dubai is one of urgent action mixed with cautious optimism. The final agreement, while acknowledging the significant gaps in climate ambition and finance, has drawn both praise and criticism from various stakeholders, including trade unions. 

The Global Stocktake (GST) has, for the first time, recognized the need for a Just Transition away from fossil fuels. This significant inclusion aligns with the long-standing demands of trade unions worldwide. However, the presence of loopholes in the text has raised concerns about the commitment of the parties to effectively implement these measures. The GST acknowledges the substantial ambition gap in meeting the 1.5-degree goal but stops short of providing a concrete roadmap to bridge this gap.

In terms of climate finance, while the establishment of the loss and damage fund marks progress, the final agreement fails to mobilize the level of finance required by developing countries, particularly for adaptation measures. This gap remains an area of concern.

An important advancement in the COP negotiations is the incorporation of "recognition of labour rights" in the Just Transition Work Programme (JTWP) and "social protection" under adaptation measures. This inclusion is a significant step forward for workers’ rights globally. However, the absence of explicit mention of workers and their trade unions in the GST document has raises concerns about the suppression of workers’ voices in the climate dialogue.

Diana Junquera Curiel at COP28 civil society demonstration 10 December 2023

"At COP28, IndustriALL's delegation actively engaged in crucial discussions, from renewable energy’s future to Just Transition in sectors like automotive and energy. Our involvement in Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) particularly highlighted our commitment to the global south. We've ensured that workers’ voices in energy, mining, and manufacturing are heard, advocating for transitions that respect their rights and needs. 

I’m proud of the trade unions' role at COP28. Our dedication has solidified our position as an influential advocate for workers. While not perfect, our achievements are a testament to our hard work, coordination, and ongoing collaboration with civil society, marking a significant step in our continuous fight for workers’ rights and a Just Transition,”

says Diana Junquera Curiel, IndustriALL director for Just Transition and energy.

Despite the challenges, the essential role of workers in transitioning to a sustainable future is clear. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), along with global union federations and affiliated trade unions, unanimously stressed the importance of worker participation in creating and implementing climate solutions. Their involvement is critical, from constructing renewable energy infrastructure such as solar panels and wind farms to offering vital services after climate-related disasters. Workers' contributions are integral to achieving a sustainable future.

While the COP negotiations have made some shy strides towards acknowledging and integrating labour rights and social protection in the climate agenda, a lot of work remains. The global trade union's call for a Just Transition is a reminder that a sustainable future is not just about reducing emissions but also about ensuring that the transition is fair and inclusive for all workers worldwide.

DJ Pohl and Dan Sherrell, speaking at COP28 closing plenery on behalf of the global trade union movement

"Billions of people across the world are workers. The ITUC officially represents 200 million of us, in both the formal and informal economies, in 165 countries. We stand with every worker in calling for a Just Transition to a climate-safe future that is aligned with our 1.5 C goal”

said Dan Sherrell from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in the closing plenary of the COP28 speaking on behalf of the trade union group.