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Blah, Blah, Blah, Yay: Another Epic Fail for the COP, but Seeds of Growth for our Movements

By John Foran - Sierra Club, December 1, 2021

As COP 26 began, Greta Thunberg summed up the whole thing quite succinctly using just one word, three times:  Blah blah blah.

And as it ended two weeks later, she tweeted:

The #COP26 is over. Here’s a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah. But the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever [emphasis added].

And indeed, COP 26 was an epic fail, even by the dismal standards of the 25 COPs that preceded it, but at the same time, the global climate justice movement made some much needed forward progress.

COP26: Jobs plans with just transition essential to implementation of Glasgow Agreement

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, Novemver 15, 2021

COP27 must keep 1.5C in reach through raised ambition, and agreed Loss and Damage Mechanisms must be central to any outcome.

“For workers and their communities, the social dialogue vital for just transition plans, with jobs at their centre, must begin now. Nothing less than national jobs plans and company jobs plans can be accepted.

“Commitments on deforestation, methane, increasing finance for adaptation, recognising the need for more support for vulnerable countries and the agreed rules on carbon markets are all welcome but don’t go far enough.

“Science tells us that the absolute priority must be rapid, deep, and sustained emissions reductions in this decade – specifically, a 45% cut by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. Now it is time to see all governments and all companies get serious about transition plans – with just transition measures in all industries – if we are to have a fighting chance of staying within the 1.5 target,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary, ITUC.

Making COP26 Count: How investing in public transport this decade can protect our jobs, our climate, our future

By staff - International Transport Workers Federation and C40 Cities Leadership Group, November 10, 2021

Transport is currently responsible for a quarter of CO2 emissions. To combat this, a global shift to public transport, walking and cycling is needed, reducing car use alongside a transition to zero-emission vehicles. The proportion of public transport journeys in the world’s cities must double in this decade to bring global emissions down, in line with keeping the temperature rise to 1.5°C. Without this action, it will simply not be possible for countries to deliver on the global goal to at least halve emissions within this decade.

Climate protection cannot work without a modal shift. Local transport must become a good alternative to cars … above all, people must be taken along.

Robert Seifert, young vehicle maintenance worker, Berlin Doubling public transport usage as part of a green recovery would, by 2030, create tens of millions of jobs in cities around the world (4.6 million new jobs in the nearly 100 C40 cities alone), cut urban transport emissions by more than half, and reduce air pollution from transport by up to 45%2. It would protect lower-income and service-sector workers and connect city residents to work, education and community.

Read the text (PDF).

Union Struggles Against Climate Change

COP26: We Only Want the Earth

By IWW Ireland - IWW UK, November 7, 2021

World leaders gathering in Glasgow for COP26 are more concerned with the theatrics of playing to the media than the climate catastrophe.

The vocal pledges and emotive speeches hold little weight against the refusal to hold large corporations to account. Despite a planet which is slowly eating itself alive, world leaders repeatedly hold back when it comes to holding their profit driven capitalist projects to account. Instead, they are opting for wishful thinking as exemplified by the Trevi fountain stunt.

As members of the Industrial Workers of the World gather to protest in support of our earth, we do so knowingly that what is actually called for is the immediate end of capitalism and that of the power structures which keep it intact. Nothing short of the complete destruction of global capitalism, here and now, will prevent us from free-falling into an irreversible environmental catastrophe for the world and all its inhabitants.

Due to the unjust structures in our world, it is those at the lower ends of capitalist hierarchies that are most affected by climate distress. Those in lower-profit countries, people of colour, women, the trans community, those who are disabled and the working class have an increased chance of experiencing the negative impact of climate change.

Simultaneously, it is those least affected who cause the most damage to our planet. During the first lockdown, when everyone stopped, carbon emissions only decreased by 3%. 71% of global emissions are produced by 100 companies including Amazon and the US Military.

For ourselves, as revolutionary syndicalists, it is our belief that the working class ultimately has the power and strength to end this nightmare for all. From the outset as a revolutionary union, our principles and vision refuses to compromise.

“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

“Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organise as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”

COP26 is a piece of theatre. As members mobilise on the streets of Glasgow, in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and across the world, we do so without hesitation at the importance of the challenges that lay ahead of our earth. There must be no ceasefire in the class war as our mission remains as important as it was back in 1905. Only organising industrially, within the workplace, within our communities, our streets and home can begin to form the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

You can play your part by joining the IWW today where you work or live and encourage others to do likewise.

From the words of James Connolly, founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, we echo today, “Our demands are most moderate, We only want the earth!

Just Transition and the Energy Crisis

By Ada Colau, et, al. - C40 Cities, November 4, 2021

This joint statement puts forward a united front of mayors, unions and businesses, calling for government leadership on two crises urban residents and workers are facing in this current moment: the climate crisis and spiralling energy prices.

The next months could bring a long, cold, unjust and expensive winter to millions of people globally, suffering from unprecedented levels of energy poverty. 

Energy poverty is a key challenge facing people living in cities in all regions, and one which risks exacerbating poverty and inequality by limiting access of the most vulnerable to lighting, cooling and refrigeration, clean cooking and heating. Cities often experience energy poverty due to issues such as size of populations, unstable and informal labour with low wages coupled with higher urban costs of living, varied types of building stock, lack of formal connection to viable energy networks and/or informal settlements being disconnected from basic service provision. This has been starkly worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic which has worsened inequalities and created insecurity for many people.

Being affected by energy poverty can have severe implications for vulnerable, low-income and marginalised groups on service access, health, wellbeing, social inclusion, economic opportunity and quality of life. Families should not need to choose between food and paying their energy bills. 

Getting to Net Zero in UK Public Services: The Road to Decarbonisation

By Dr. Vera Weghmann, et. al. - Unison, November 2021

Public services as a whole (excluding transport) represent about 8% of the UK’s direct greenhouse gas emissions. The NHS alone represents about 4% of the UK’s emissions. When procurement, construction, and social housing are taken into account, public services’ impacts are much greater.

Different sectors within the overall framework of public services have declared their decarbonisation plans. Some are ahead of the national targets. The NHS has declared that it will reach net zero by 2040, with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2028 to 2032. More than one-third of local authorities (single- and upper-tier) committed themselves to decarbonise their local area by or before 2030.

The government aims to reduce direct emissions from public sector buildings by 75% against a 2017 baseline by the end of the Sixth Carbon Budget.

This report identified 21 different measures that should be taken across buildings, transport, electricity generation, waste, procurement and land use along with costed measures for each of nine different public services.

In our analysis, the UK’s public services need a capital investment injection of over £140 billion to 2035 to meet their Net Zero obligations. This will set the public sector on track to meet their climate targets and contribute to the UK’s overall carbon reduction aims. The analysis also identified measures that required annual operational expenditures of £1 billion to hit net zero targets. UNISON fully advocates that quality public services are best delivered by public ownership of public services and utilities rather than privatisation, outsourcing or PFI contracting of public services.

As well as improving the quality of life for service users, workers and the wider community, a number of the measures will also result in significant savings to public services’ budgets, through lower energy bills, cheaper to run fleets, and procurement savings. UNISON fully advocates that quality public services are best delivered by public ownership of public services and utilities rather than privatisation, outsourcing or PFI contracting of public services.

Read the text (PDF).

The Road to Ruin? - Electric vehicles and workers’ rights abuses at DR Congo’s industrial cobalt mines

By staff - Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) and the Centre d’Aide Juridico-Judiciaire (CAJJ), November 2021

Cobalt is everywhere. It is a silvery-blue mineral used in the rechargeable batteries that power our mobile phones, laptops and tablets, and in larger quantities, the electric vehicles that will soon dominate our roads. It is a strategic mineral in the plan to decarbonise and move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. Accelerating this switch is one of the priorities to tackle the climate crisis and industry experts forecast that electric vehicle sales will skyrocket in the next 10 years. This will require a dramatic increase in cobalt production.

The booming demand for cobalt has a dark side, however. The Democratic Republic of Congo, one of Africa’s poorest nations, holds the lion’s share of the world’s cobalt reserves. In 2020, 70% of the world’s cobalt was extracted from within its borders with tens of thousands of workers labouring in large-scale industrial mines to dig up the ore. Multinational mining companies that own many of Congo’s mines, eager to demonstrate their “green” and “responsible” credentials, say they produce “clean” and “sustainable” cobalt, free from human rights abuses, and that their operations contribute to good jobs and economic opportunities.

This report, based on extensive research over two years, paints a very different picture. It shows dire conditions for many Congolese workers in the industrial mines, often characterised by widespread exploitation and labour rights abuses. Many workers do not earn a “living wage” – the minimum remuneration to afford a decent standard of living – have little or no health provision, and far too often are subjected to excessive working hours, unsafe working conditions, degrading treatment, discrimination and racism.

In recent years attention has mainly focused on Congo’s artisanal mining sector, partly because of the risks of child labour it creates, whereas the conditions for workers in the large-scale industrial mines have gone largely unnoticed. This report examines workers’ rights at Congo’s industrial mines where the large majority of cobalt is coming from, producing some 80% of the cobalt exported from the country (in contrast to the 20% produced in artisanal mines).

The findings presented in this report are based on detailed research over 28 months by UK-based corporate watchdog Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) and the Centre d’Aide Juridico- Judiciaire (CAJJ), a Congolese legal aid centre specialised in labour rights. The research team carried out extensive field research in and around Kolwezi, a mining town where many of Congo’s cobalt and copper mines are located. It is informed by 130 interviews of workers and former workers at five mining companies, as well as interviews with subcontractors, union representatives, lawyers, Congolese local authorities, medical staff and industry experts.

Read the text (PDF).

Climate Jobs: Building a Workforce for the Climate Emergency

By Suzanne Jeffery, editor, et. al - Campaign Against Climate Change, November 2021

This report was written by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group (CACCTU). It builds on and develops the earlier work produced by CACCTU, One Million Climate Jobs (2014). The editorial group and contributors to this report are trade unionists, environmental activists and campaigners and academics who have collaborated to update and expand the previous work. Most importantly, this updated report is a response to the urgency of the climate crisis and the type and scale of the transition needed to match it.

This report shows how we can cut UK emissions of greenhouse gases to help prevent catastrophic climate change. We explain how this transformation could create millions of climate jobs in the coming years and that the public sector must take a leading role. Climate jobs are those which directly contribute to reducing emissions. This investment will give us better public transport, warmer homes, clean air in our cities and community renewal in parts of the country which have long been neglected. Most importantly, it will give us a chance for the future, avoiding the existential threat of climate breakdown.

Read the text (Link).

The Green Horizon We See Beyond the Big Blue: How Seafarers Will Lead the Just Transition Needed for a Sustainable Shipping Future

By staff - International Transport Workers Federation Seafarer's Section, October 29, 2021

Bush and forest fires, floods, heatwaves, extreme storms and rising sea levels – the life-threatening events which herald dangerous climate change are already taking place around us with increasing frequency. Scientists are clear that humans’ impact on the Earth’s climate is reaching a tipping point beyond which a safe climate is in doubt.

At the heart of the problem is our reliance on greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels to power industries like shipping, a reliance with a long history. On a global level, international cargo shipping is responsible for about three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. From the early 1800s, coal was used to fire steam boilers for paddle steamers, which was switched to oil variants when technology improved. Fast forward to today and billions of litres of fossil fuels are used every year to power over 50,000 vessels that keep the world’s supply chain moving.

A Panamax container ship, an averaged sized cargo vessel, consumes about 63,000 gallons (286,403 litres) of marine fuel per day travelling at between 20 and 25 knots.

The global shipping industry must break its dependency on fossil fuels. The rapid expansion of international shipping over the past 50 years has been enabled by the reliance on cheap heavy fuel oil, known as bunker fuel. Key players in the industry have lobbied against restrictions on its use, despite it being one of the most polluting of all fossil fuels.

While it is true that international shipping has low carbon intensity – that is emissions per unit of moved cargo – the total emissions of the industry is very high due to the sheer volume of global maritime shipping. Until now, the focus on carbon intensity as opposed to total carbon emissions has led to false confidence about the carbon footprint of the industry compared to other sectors.

Now that more people are understanding the impact shipping is having on our climate, our industry’s reputation is being damaged. Seafarers want to be able to tell their friends and family that they’re part of a sector taking real and equitable action to curb dangerous climate change. It’s time to act.

Read the text (PDF).

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