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Facing up to the climate change

16 September, 2015Climate change threatens everything the labour movement stands for: fairness; social justice; decent work. Ahead of the upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Commission on Climate Change (COP21), global trade union leaders met in Paris to solidify their demands.

On 15 – 16 September, global trade union leaders met with French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who will preside over COP21. They also discussed their demands at the Trade Union Climate Summit, organized by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Three essential demands were identified:

  • raise ambition and realise job potential of climate action;
  • deliver on climate finance and support the most vulnerable;
  • commit to securing a Just Transition for workers and their communities.

Brian Kohler, IndustriALL Global Union director of sustainability, said:

A global industrial transformation is coming and it will come whether a deal is reached at COP21, or whether we fail once again to take effective action. The casino economy has no answers to these questions. We must lead – no-one else will do so – in planning a hopeful future for all workers, including those in industries that may be impacted by efforts to limit greenhouse gases. It is simple social justice.

Just Transition is simple. Workers, their families, their communities and their unions should be kept whole in terms of incomes, social benefits, and opportunities. The entire cost of changes to protect the environment should not be borne by working people and the world’s most vulnerable; but in the absence of a Just Transition program, that is exactly who will pay the price.

In the industrial transformation ahead, the public policy question who pays for, and who benefits from, a transition to sustainability. And the social outcomes will depend on the social and industrial policies adopted.

The science is unequivocal. The need for action is clear, and urgent.

Kohler continues:

We can’t bargain with the laws of physics and we are out of time. Climate change threatens everything the labour movement stands for: fairness; social justice; decent work. Any agreement coming out of COP21 will not be the final word but only the start of a journey.

However a climate deal that supports sustainable industrial policies and comprehensive Just Transition programmes could become one of the greatest opportunities the labour movement has ever had.

A pessimistic future is not a just future.

There must be a future that sounds good; a future that is attractive to today’s workers as well as optimistic for future workers, and we will do what is necessary to achieve it

concludes Kohler.