You are here

COP26

Want to know what a just transition to a green economy looks like? Ask the workers

By Anna Markova - The Guardian, October 18, 2021

If you really want to know what a just transition looks like, don’t start with the official speeches of Cop26. Ideally, don’t even ask me. Ask those who need it most.

Ask a teenager in south Wales, where coal mining jobs have not been replaced by alternatives and unemployment levels are among the highest in the UK. Ask the oil rig worker who has been travelling to work by helicopter for 15 years but is having to pay £2,000 for yet another helicopter safety training course to be able to work on a wind turbine. Ask the Eurostar driver who does not know if the train she drives will still be running in two months’ time. Ask, if you can, one of the Uyghur people forced by Chinese authorities to work in a labour camp to make polysilicone for solar panels.

They can tell you about an unjust transition – the opposite of how we want to change our lifestyles and economies to meet net zero. Just transition mustn’t become a global policy-speak catchphrase, reduced to the intersection between environmental and social concerns, or vague promises of skills training. A real just transition makes sure people don’t lose out as their lives and livelihoods are transformed by climate action. Like the up to 600,000 workers in UK manufacturing and supply chains, whose future employment relies on government and industry investing to retool and decarbonise.

Here’s who is building a just transition: the Scottish fabrication yard worker, who is campaigning to make the foundations for offshore wind turbines being built in sight of their town. It’s the car engineer in Birmingham fighting to transition the factory to make electric vehicles. The Swedish steel mill worker making the world’s first batch of zero-carbon steel, soon to be used to make Volvo cars. The postie, perhaps the one who delivered your online shopping this morning, working with colleagues to manage the switch to an electric vehicle fleet for Royal Mail.

Or it’s the South African coalminer marching in the streets for a transition plan that gets her and her colleagues a clean power job in a public energy service. The teacher, perhaps in your child’s primary school, asking her class what they need from their education to face a future of climate chaos while the national curriculum lags far behind.

These people – all of them real union reps – might not be on the podium at Cop26 in Glasgow, but they are among the world’s real climate leaders.

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy Global Forum on the IPCC Report

Do trade unions have energy for change?

By Bert Schouwenburg - MorningStar, October 2021

AGAINST a backdrop of floods and heatwaves of unprecedented magnitude and frequency all over the world, the latest report from the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a stark warning that immediate action must be taken on emissions to prevent global warming exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, if a global catastrophe is to be averted.

Its sobering assessment will set the scene at the forthcoming Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow, scheduled to commence at the end of October after being postponed from last year because of the Covid pandemic, where representatives of the international trade union movement will be in attendance.

Many of those unions are affiliated to Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED), established in 2012 and based in New York City.

TUED describes itself as a global multi-sector initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of land and people and responds to attacks on workers’ rights and protections.

It promotes an equitable energy system that can only occur if there is a decisive shift in power towards workers, communities and the public.

In order to achieve that goal, TUED advocates resistance to the agenda of the fossil fuel corporations, reclaiming privatised energy for the public ownership and restructuring it to a renewable, sustainable model.

Six of the 88 organisations belonging to TUED are the British trade unions — Unite, GMB, Unison, PCS, NEU and UCU. While they have all participated in TUED’s activities at one time or another and there is a general consensus on the call for public ownership, there are differences between them on matters of future energy policy in Britain and elsewhere.

Broadly speaking, the political debate about how best to avoid climate disaster has centred on whether the dominant neoliberal order can be adapted to provide market-based solutions to the crisis or whether a system based on perpetual growth and capital accumulation is completely at odds with the need to curb emissions.

It goes without saying that political elites in the richer countries of the global north, including Britain, subscribe to the former in their belief that some kind of green capitalism is both possible and desirable.

In this they are supported by the energy companies, whose principal concern is their bottom line.

TUED, on the other hand, is promoting the concept of a Just Transition from an economy based on fossil fuel consumption to one that largely relies on renewable energy.

Technological advances make that transition a realistic proposition but in order for it to be “just” it must take into consideration the livelihoods of energy workers who would see their jobs disappear.

This presents an enormous challenge to the governments of the day but were there to be a strategically planned conversion to a publicly owned green economy, there would undoubtedly be a huge demand in everything from retrofitting home insulation to the manufacturing of wind turbines that could more than absorb work lost in the transition.

The theory of a Just Transition within the framework of an oft-quoted Green New Deal is certainly plausible, but for British trade unions there is, justifiably, little faith in a right-wing Conservative regime doing the right thing by their members, many of whom currently enjoy relatively stable and well-paid employment in parts of the energy sector that would disappear.

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).

Social Justice and Trade Union statements at the PreCOP in Milano

By Gina Cortes Valderrama - Women Gender Climate, September 30, 2021

Thank you, my name is Gina Cortes Valderrama and I speak on behalf of five diverse rights-based constituencies- Women and Gender, Trade unions, Indigenous Peoples, Youth, the Climate Action Network, and Demand Climate Justice. We are speaking collectively to demand ambition, justice, and people-powered solutions. Together, we represent over 3000 organizations in more than 160 countries.

Let’s start with reality:

  • In 2020, five years after Paris promised to uphold human rights in all climate actions, a record number of activists were murdered as they worked to protect the environment
    and land rights.
  • The recent UNFCCC NDC synthesis report warns emissions will be 16 percent above the 2010 level by 2030 - even after the latest mitigation pledges -, while science tells us we need to halve emissions until then.
  • In addition, according to the OECD figures, 2019 climate finance remained $20bn below the target for 2020. And it is virtually certain that the $100bn will not be met in 2021.
  • In all circumstances, the connection between climate impacts and inequality are abundantly clear. These inequities are further exacerbated when a few rich nations have yet refused a TRIPS waiver and ensured vaccine equity with adequate support...

Read the entire text (PDF).

CalPERS Finally Divests More Coal

By Sandy Emerson - Unison, September 24, 2021

CalPERS has finally divested from three more thermal coal companies, as required by law. Following the passage of SB 185 (2015) CalPERS divested from all but three (out of 17) selected thermal coal mining companies: Exxaro, Adaro, and Banpu.  In an email to Fossil Free California, CalPERS’ Managing Investment Director Anne Simpson said that CalPERS no longer owns those companies: “As per the earlier board discussion, the three companies were retained for further engagement, which did not make progress hence the sale.”

The divestment from the remaining three thermal coal companies from the 2017 list shows the power of stakeholder pressure. CalPERS re-started engagements with Exxaro, Adaro, and Banpu in October, 2020, after Fossil Free California published its hard-hitting report “CalPERS Continues to Invest in Coal”. At the March 15, 2021 Investment Committee Meeting, Anne Simpson stated that the companies’ responses were being reviewed and that a decision would be announced toward the end of 2021.

We celebrate the fact that FFCA’s letter-writing campaign generated 626 individual letters to CalPERS, after we sent a series of detailed letters to CalPERS executive and investment staff and published the report. This long-awaited divestment success is thanks to the persistence and commitment of pension members, beneficiaries, and concerned Californians who sent letters, made public comments, and generally kept the pressure on for CalPERS to complete its mandated divestment.

We Make Tomorrow: Briefing for Workers and Trade Unions To Mobilise for COP26

By Workers Action: Cop26 Coalition Trade Union Caucus - We Make Tomorrow, Septmber 20, 2021

Introduction Briefing for Workers and Trade Unions

  1. View this briefing as a Google Slides presentation here or on our website here.

Introduction

This November, world leaders will meet in Glasgow at the global climate talks - COP26 - to discuss our future. 

The COP26 Coalition is a civil society coalition of trade unions, NGOs, community organisations mobilising a week of global action for climate justice

Our Plans

5 November - Supporting Global youth strikes

6 November - Global Day of Action

7-10 November - People’s Summit”

The Global Day of Action

  1. More information about the 5 Nov and Peoples Summit will be available soon

On the 6 November, we are organising decentralised mass mobilisations across the world, bringing together movements to build power for system change – from indigenous struggles to trade unions, and from racial justice groups to youth strikers.

Call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

By staff - The Bullet, September 15, 2021

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is spurring international cooperation to end new development of fossil fuels, phase out existing production within the agreed climate limit of 1.5°C and develop plans to support workers, communities and countries dependent on fossil fuels to create secure and healthy livelihoods. Cities such as Vancouver and Barcelona have already endorsed the Treaty with more considering motions to endorse. Hundreds of organizations representing thousands more individuals join the call for world leaders to stop fossil fuel expansion.

Over two thousand academics across disciplines and from 81 countries have delivered a letter demanding a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to manage a global phase out of coal, oil and gas to governments gathering at the next UN General Assembly (September 14-30, 2021).

In the open letter, the academics recognize that the burning of coal, oil and gas is the greatest contributor to climate change – responsible for almost 80% of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution. Furthermore, they note that, “air pollution caused by fossil fuels was responsible for almost 1 in 5 deaths worldwide in 2018.”

Despite this, national governments, including the COP26 hosts themselves, plan to expand fossil fuel production at levels that would result in around 120 percent more emissions than what is in keeping with the Paris Agreement target of 1.5ºC of warming.

For more information on the Initiative, please visit the website, explore the Campaign Hub and view the introduction video.

Renewable Energy companies seen as barriers to a successful public energy transition

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, September 8, 2021

Recent issues of New Labor Forum include articles promoting the concept of energy democracy, and bringing an international perspective. In “Sustaining the Unsustainable: Why Renewable Energy Companies Are Not Climate Warriors” (New Labor Forum, August), author Sean Sweeney argues that renewable energy companies “are party to a “race to the bottom” capitalist dynamic that exploits workers – citing the example of alleged forced Uyghur labour in China-based solar companies, and the offshoring of manufacturing for the Scottish wind industry. He also argues that “large wind and solar interests’ “me first” behavior is propping up a policy architecture that is sucking in large amounts of public money to make their private operations profitable. They are sustaining a model of energy transition that has already shown itself to be incapable of meeting climate targets. In so doing, these companies have not just gone over to the political dark side, they helped design it.”

The theme of the Spring New Labor Forum was A Public Energy Response to the Climate Emergency , and includes these three articles: “Beyond Coal: Why South Africa Should Reform and Rebuild Its Public Utility”; “Ireland’s Energy System: The Historical Case for Hope in Climate Action”; and Mexico’s Wall of Resistance: Why AMLO’s Fight for Energy Sovereignty Needs Our Support .

The author of Sustaining the Unsustainable is Sean Sweeney, who is Director of the International Program on Labor, Climate & Environment at the School of Labor and Urban Studies, City University of New York, and is also the coordinator of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED). In August, TUED convened a Global Forum, “COP26: What Do Unions Want?” – with participation from 69 unions, including the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC), the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), the UK’s Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), and Public Services International (PSI). Presentations are summarized in TUED Bulletin 111, (Aug. 18), and are available on YouTube here .

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.