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A Vision for Scotland’s Railways

By staff - Unity Consulting, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, and Unite the Union, October 29, 2021

Scotland cannot meet its environmental obligations without a world-class rail service that shifts people and goods from cars and lorries onto trains.

This requires a service that is fully staffed, with affordable fares, stations that are accessible and trains that are clean, green and attractive.

What is needed is an ambition for Scotland’s railways that is expansive, that encourages people to make rail their first travel choice and increases freight capacity.

Our long-term vision for Scotland's railways:

  • It should be a publicly operated and governed system run as public service and not for private profit
  • A system that helps Scotland meet its wider environmental and public policy ambitions
  • A railway that is supported by public subsidy
  • Is fully staffed
  • That reinvests in rail infrastructure, to help grow the economy.
  • Takes ScotRail (and the Serco operated Caledonian Sleeper) back under public ownership permanently
  • A railway that is part of a wider integrated public transport system with through ticketing
  • Is part of an industrial strategy that recognises rail services are a vital part of Scotland’s economy helping create jobs and growth
  • Has a democratic regulatory and governance structure
  • Has a cross representation of Scottish society and rail interests at the heart of decision making
  • Has representation from all four trade unions on the board of the new operator
  • Has local political representatives on the board
  • Has passenger representatives on the board

Read the text (PDF).

It’s time to act now! Just Transition must become a reality today! IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union on COP26

By staff - IndustriaALL, October 2021

On the occasion of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place on 1-12 November 2021 in Glasgow, IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union - which collectively represent over 50 million workers in industry, energy and mining sectors globally - call on governments to finally act and make Just Transition a reality for everyone and for all generations!

For many years, the International Trade Union Movement has been vocal about the need to ensure a Just Transition that is on par with increased climate ambition. We cannot ignore the urgent need to step up our global efforts to reach climate neutrality as soon as possible. Climate change is affecting everyone, brought to our attention by recent extreme weather events around the globe, but it cannot be that the workforce and the poor will be the first to pay the price. The measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change will not affect everyone equally. Workers around the globe are at the centre of the transition and will be the actors to implement climate ambition through their daily work.

We campaigned for the inclusion of the Just Transition concept in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and for the development of ILO Guidelines on how to implement it on the ground. The ILO Guidelines stress the need for tripartite dialogue, including governments, employers and trade unions, in each of the nine policy areas defined in the just transition framework1. In 2018, during COP24, 56 parties adopted the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration, stressing “that Just Transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs are crucial to ensure an effective and inclusive transition to low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development.” The Silesia Declaration invited all relevant stakeholders to implement it. Despite significant progress, in many places Just Transition is too often only nice words on paper.

Declarations and statements of good intentions must now be followed by concrete action. Especially during the COVID-crisis and in the aftermath, jobs were lost, social dialogue was not respected, and workers were driven into precarious conditions. Therefore, IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union call on governments that it is high time to move on from the narrative on paper to implementing a Just Transition through measures and resources on the ground. To achieve this, Just Transition plans must be systematically included as part of the UNFCCC reporting process, in every country.

Read the text (PDF).

Are ‘Green’ Jobs Good Jobs? How lessons from the experience to-date can inform labour market transitions of the future

By Dr Anna Valero, et. al. - London School of Economics, October 2021

As governments worldwide are increasing their commitments to tackling climate change, efforts are growing to quantify and characterise the ‘green economy’, and to identify opportunities to be seized and challenges to be overcome in the transition to the net-zero economy of the future. The aim of this report and accompanying policy brief is to shed light on the quantity and quality of current green labour markets, to inform policy action and future research for the net-zero transition.

Main messages

  • Research on green jobs often uses a narrow definition of the green economy that does not cover all the jobs that will be important for driving forward the net-zero transition.
  • In contrast, the authors apply a broad approach to the UK and European economies.
  • They find that around 20% of jobs in the UK and 14 European economies can be considered directly and indirectly green, taking a broad, occupation-level definition of the ‘greenness’ of jobs.
  • They find some evidence that greener jobs tend to be ‘better’ jobs.
  • Workers in some types of green jobs, particularly those that are new occupations related to greening the economy, are likely to be educated to a higher level and be on permanent contracts, though there are differences in these relationships across countries, sectors and regions.
  • For the UK, the authors also find that greener jobs tend to pay higher wages, and are more resilient to automation.
  • Greener jobs tend to be occupied by older workers and men. Policymakers will need to ensure equitable access to green, future-fit jobs. Educational and training requirements of ‘green’ jobs will need to be met with new education and skills policies, including improved incentives for firms and individuals to train.

Read the text (link).

“Every job can be a climate job”: Employee guide to climate action by Project Drawdown

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, September 30, 2021

Climate Solutions at Work is a newly published guide by Drawdown Labs, focussed on the potential for all employees to take climate action through their workplace. The Guide acknowledges that “Inside most companies, only a handful of people with “sustainability” roles consider climate issues part of their workday. But in this most all-encompassing challenge in human history, every job must be a climate job.” 

According to the Drawdown website, “This employee-focused guide has two main objectives: 1. To democratize climate action, so that all employees can contribute – preferably through creating or joining collaborative group efforts; and 2. To use a “new drawdown-aligned business framework” to help companies look beyond their existing “net-zero” goals – (which Greta Thunberg famously told us on September 28, often are just “blah blah blah” ) . The Guide offers a detailed action plan for individuals in the workplace.

 Drawdown Labs is an initiative of Project Drawdown , founded in 2014 as a nonprofit organization that seeks to help the world reach “drawdown”—the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. Their flagship publication, the Drawdown Review was first published in 2017 and offers an holistic, long-term approach to climate actions. They also offer learning materials – for example, Climate Solutions 101 , a online video series produced with such partner organizations as the National Council for Science and the Environment in the U.S. (now the Global Council for Science and the Environment ).

Shuler: Good Union Jobs Are Key to a Clean Energy Future

By Liz Shuler - AFL-CIO, September 17, 2021

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks virtually at the Long Island Offshore Wind Supply Chain Conference:

Thank you so much for that wonderful introduction, Congressman [Tom] Suozzi. Thank you for your strong voice for working families in your district but for all working families, and for chairing the House labor caucus.

Good morning to all of you! Even though I’m Zooming in, I’m so happy to be joining you today—sounds like you have a great crowd in person and online. Hello to my labor friends—John Durso, Roger Clayman. I heard Chris Erickson is there and everyone from all walks of life who care about our climate.

I got fired up hearing your intro Congressman. I’m inspired because I see the future: that win-win-win is right there for us to grab it, and a modern, resilient and inclusive labor movement is what will help us meet the challenges of the climate crisis.

New York, I don’t need to tell you that working people are seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change. Ida recently flooded the New York transit systems and parts of Long Island saw record rainfall. 

It’s happening all across the country. Wildfires. Heat waves. Climate change is already here, happening in every community and every ZIP code. From your local news reports to the recent IPCC report, you’re hearing the alarm: we have to transition to a clean energy future. The question is how? 

The answer: with good, union jobs. It’s why we are building a labor movement that will meet the moment.

Just look at how our movement, government, industry leaders and environmental groups have worked together to bring offshore wind to the Atlantic Coast. Our progress working together shows that the way to respond and adapt to the climate crisis is through a high-road strategy with good, union jobs. 

That’s the only way we can meet the urgency in front of us. 

Viewpoint: Climate Justice Must Be a Top Priority for Labor

By Peter Knowlton and John Braxton - Labor Notes, September 21, 2021

Today’s existential crisis for humanity is the immediate need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. All of us have to. Everywhere. For workers and for our communities there is no more pressing matter than this.

We need to begin a discussion among co-workers, creating demands and acting on them at the workplace and bargaining table. We need to show up at local union meetings, central labor councils, and town halls supporting demands that move us toward a fossil fuel-free future.

At the same time, we need to protect the incomes and benefits of workers affected by the transition off of fossil fuels and to make sure they have real training opportunities. And we need to restore and elevate those communities that have been sacrificed for fossil fuel extraction, production, and distribution. We should promote candidates for elected office who support legislation which puts those aspirations into practice, such as the Green New Deal.

If the labor movement does not take the lead in pushing for a fair and just transition, one of these futures awaits us: (1) the world will either fail to make the transition to renewable energy and scorch us all, or (2) the working class will once again be forced to make all of the sacrifices in the transition.

The time is long past ripe for U.S. unions and our leaders to step up and use our collective power in our workplaces, in our communities, and in the streets to deal with these crises. That means we need to break out of the false choice between good union jobs and a livable environment.

There are no jobs on a dead planet. Social, economic, and environmental justice movements can provide some pressure to mitigate the crises, but how can we succeed if the labor movement and the environmental movement continue to allow the fossil fuel industry to pit us against each other? Rather than defending industries that need to be transformed, labor needs to insist that the transition to a renewable energy economy include income protection, investment in new jobs in communities that now depend on fossil fuels, retraining for those new jobs, and funds to give older workers a bridge to retirement.

Like any change of technology or work practice in a shop, if the workers affected don’t receive sufficient guarantees of income, benefits, and protections their support for it, regardless of the urgency, will suffer.

We tried to transition to green jobs, but the bosses are closing our car factory down

By Frank Duffy - The Guardian, September 20, 2021

More than 500 workers, myself included, at the GKN Automotive factory in Birmingham have voted for strike action to save both our plant and British manufacturing. It’s the last thing we ever wanted to do, but we feel we have been left with no choice.

Currently, we manufacture and assemble components for drivelines, the all-important section underneath your car for transferring power from the engine and transmission to the wheels. In 2019, 90% of GKN’s components went into traditional combustion engines, but that may halve by 2025, with electric vehicles (EVs) taking 15% of components, and hybrids about 40%. The move to electric will only continue, as UK factories unveil their new vehicle plans before purely internal combustion engines are banned in 2030.

In order to future-proof our jobs and the British automotive industry, we need to transition to producing components for EVs, including new propulsion systems and e-drives. GKN has developed a new e-drive with UK government funding at its Oxfordshire research facility, but sadly we won’t see this innovation creating new green jobs for British workers. Melrose, the owners of GKN, have decided to close our plant in 2022 and move jobs overseas.

We realised that if we want to see a green future for the UK car industry and save our skilled jobs, we couldn’t leave it to our bosses and had to take matters into our own hands. We put together a 90-page alternative plan detailing how we could reorganise production to save money and make these new components.

Ours is the first transition plan for an automotive plant proposed by union stewards in the UK, and an echo of the 1976 Lucas Plan, when shop stewards at Lucas Aerospace, also in Birmingham, proposed converting their plant to socially useful products.

Now, as then, our alternative plan proposed saving jobs in Birmingham while transitioning the plant into an asset to support the wider UK industry. That’s a win for the workforce, the industry and the environment. If that isn’t what’s meant by the phrase “just transition”, I don’t know what is.

How the US labor movement is getting to grips with the climate crisis

By Michael Sainato - The Guardian, September 20, 2021

In the beginning of this summer, the US state of Connecticut passed legislation to guarantee prevailing wage and benefits are provided to workers on clean energy projects.

The law was a product of labor unions and environmental groups working together to educate workers about the climate crisis and develop solutions, with a focus on creating good-paying, unionized jobs and opportunities to combat economic inequities.

Through organizing led in part by the Climate Jobs National Resource Center and the Workers Institute at Cornell University, this strategy has been adopted in other states around the US, such as New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Illinois and Texas. For the labor movement and environmentalists it seems a win-win: tackle the ever more urgent climate crisis while at the same time address inequality by strengthening America’s labor movement.

Aziz Dehkan, executive director of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, a coalition of local labor unions and environmental groups, explained the legislation in the state was built on efforts to ensure that a large solar project in East Windsor employed local, union workers rather than out of state or low-wage workers. The project also provided opportunities for individuals to enter apprenticeship programs and access jobs created through renewable energy projects.

“It came naturally to us that for every renewables project, we can’t keep going after individual projects,” said Dehkan. “If we don’t do it this way, we’re not going to be able to meet the standards in Connecticut to get close to zero carbon emissions by at least 2030.”

The coalition is also working on carbon-free schools and public transit equity campaigns.

Ontario Teachers Pension Plan sets target to reduce 45% carbon emission intensity in their portfolio by 2025

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, September 20, 2021

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is spurring international cooperation to end new development of

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board announced on September 16 “industry-leading targets to reduce portfolio carbon emissions intensity by 45% by 2025 and two-thirds (67%) by 2030, compared to its 2019 baseline. These emission reduction targets cover all the Fund’s real assets, private natural resources, equity and corporate credit holdings across public and private markets, including external managers.” The press release continues: “By significantly growing our portfolio of green investments and working collaboratively with our portfolio companies to transform their businesses, we can make a positive impact by encouraging an inclusive transition that benefits our people, communities and portfolio companies.” Reaction by pension advocacy group Shift Action acknowledges that this is “the strongest climate commitment we’ve seen yet from a Canadian pension plan”, but called for OTPP to explain how it will eliminate its fossil fuel investments. The ShiftAction Backgrounder which accompanies the press release challenges the OTPP’s own estimate that approximately 3% of their assets ($6.6billion) are held in oil and gas assets, and compiles a list of company names and the extent of OTPP investments, including recent investments in 2020 and 2021.

If all of this sounds familiar, it may be because the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan released a Net Zero Emissions Commitment  in January 2021, which was criticized as greenwashing in Breaking down Ontario Teachers’ 2050 net-zero emissions promise (The National Observer , Feb. 4). The article stated: “…If OTPP is serious about adopting a globally significant climate-safe investment strategy, it needs a plan to exclude all new oil, gas and coal investments; a timeline for phasing out existing fossil fuel holdings; a commitment to decarbonize its portfolio by 2030; ambitious new targets for increasing investments in profitable climate solutions; and a requirement for owned companies to refrain from lobbying activities that undermine ambitious climate policy, set corporate timelines for reducing emissions, and link executive compensation to measurable climate goals.” It seems OTPP is moving in the right direction, but ever so slowly – similar to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), as explained in An Insecure Future: Canada’s biggest public pensions are still banking on fossil fuels  released by the Corporate Mapping Project in mid-August .

Illinois Now Boasts the ‘Most Equitable’ Climate Law in America. So What Will That Mean?

By Brett Chase and Dan Gearino - Inside Climate News, September 17, 2021

Illinois is now the first Midwestern state to set climate-fighting targets for phasing out coal and natural gas in favor of cleaner energy sources like wind and solar power.

The bill that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law on Wednesday sets a goal for Illinois to move to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

The new law promises thousands of new jobs in clean energy, with an emphasis on hiring people of color. It sets priorities for closing sources of pollution in so-called environmental justice communities. And it gives almost $700 million over five years to subsidize three Northern Illinois nuclear power plants owned by Exelon. 

The law was pushed through by a coalition of environmental, community and religious activists who held more than 100 community meetings over the last three years with thousands of people around the state. That process was in sharp contrast to what happened five years ago, when utility companies dominated the writing of the state’s last major energy law. 

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