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International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Good jobs and a Just Transition into wind technology

By staff - IndustriALL, June 16, 2022

On 7 June, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), LO Norway and IndustriALL held a second workshop on wind technology as part of the Just Transition and the energy sector initiative. The initiative provides a platform for unions around the world to exchange information on energy transition technologies and the jobs, skills, markets, investments, and emissions related to them.

Workers want good jobs and just transition in the energy sector. This workshop looked at offshore and onshore wind technology, which employers and government see as a potential pathway for oil and gas companies to diversify their assets and bring down emissions. The information is not always easy to get but unions want to see how many jobs there are, when they will come, what kind of jobs they will be, what kinds of skills workers will need for these jobs, and the transition that workers will be faced with.

To get a better view of what the future holds, participants looked at the value chains of oil and gas, and onshore and offshore wind, breaking both value chains down to production, processing, distribution, and end-use (upstream, midstream, downstream).

Labour movement agendas in conflict over decarbonisation pathways

By Les Levidow - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 7, 2022

The Just Transition concept has sought to avoid socially unjust means and consequences of a low-carbon transition. Alternatives could provide the basis for a common agenda of the labour movement. Yet trade unions have had divergent perspectives on decarbonisation pathways, especially as regards the potential role of technological solutions. 

Such conflict has focused on Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS). This is favourably called ‘carbon abatement’ or pejoratively called a ‘technofix’. As one reason for US trade-unions supporting CCS and thus the fossil fuel industry, often they have achieved relatively greater job security and wages there; such gains may seem jeopardised by substituting renewable energy.

UK CCS agendas focus on the prospect to decarbonise natural gas into hydrogen. This agenda unites the UK ‘energy unions’ with their members’ employers, as a cross-class alliance for a CCS fix. From a critical perspective, this seeks to accumulate capital by perpetuating natural gas, while undermining or delaying its renewable competitors.

Trade-union divergences have arisen in many ways. For a Just Transition, ITUC has advocated phasing out ‘unabated coal’, implying that coal with CCS could continue indefinitely. In the name of climate justice, the TUC has advocated CCS as a means to continue fossil fuels within a ‘balanced energy’ policy. By contrast, according to the PCS, CCS ‘is not yet a proven technology at scale’, and we don’t have the luxury to wait; it counterposes a strategy of energy democracy.

Such political divergences within the labour movement have arisen around Just Transition proposals at TUC conferences, likewise around agendas for a Green New Deal. In 2019 these were promoted within the US Democratic Party and UK Labour Party. Both underwent internal conflicts over decarbonisation pathways, expressing conflicts within the labour movement. 

Good Jobs and a Just Transition into Hydrogen

By staff - IndustriALL Global Union, May 12, 2022

On 5 May, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), LO Norway and IndustriALL held a first workshop on hydrogen technology as part of the Just Transition and the Energy Sector initiative. The initiative provides a platform for unions around the world to exchange information on energy transition technologies and the jobs, skills, markets, investments, and emissions related to them.

There is no single industry that could replace the oil and gas industry, in terms of jobs and in terms of income. We must consider multiple different technologies when thinking about where jobs are going to transition to,”

said Kenneth Sandmo, Head of business and Industry Policy in the Norwegian Trade Union Confederation (LO Norway).

Putting it into perspective, Sandmo explained that Norway’s oil and gas industry employs more than 200,000 workers directly and indirectly. As the hydrogen sector is projected to create approximately 35,000 jobs in Norway, hydrogen technology shouldn’t be the only focus for trade unions.

Hydrogen technology is key for the long-term decarbonisation of energy intensive industries and sectors such as heavy transport. To get a better view of where jobs are and where they could be, the workshop looked at the value chains of oil and gas and hydrogen. Breaking both value chains down to production, processing, distribution, and end use (upstream, midstream, downstream) provided a clearer view of where the jobs are, and where there is a future for workers to transition in the hydrogen value chain.

Plastic pollution treaty: agreement must include all workers in plastics life cycle

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, March 3, 2022

The ITUC has welcomed the latest step to agree a global treaty to tackle the crisis of plastic pollution, but has demanded immediate action to ensure a just transition for working people.

Nearly 200 countries agreed on a resolution that establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) with the ambition of completing a draft, global, legally-binding agreement by the end of 2024.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said:

“It’s good that the final resolution acknowledges the key role of informal workers, and workers’ cooperatives, in collecting, sorting and recycling plastics in many places.

“But, the final treaty must recognise the importance of all workers in the life cycle of plastics, from fossil fuel fracking to production to waste.

“It must include comprehensive ’just transition’ plans to deal with the future impacts of the treaty on these workers in a fair way. But quite frankly, the world can’t wait. We need just transition plans now in every company and every country for every working person affected.

“We will engage fully with the INC to make sure all working people in the plastics supply chain are heard and their interests taken into account.”

It is expected that the INC will present a legally binding treaty that will address:

  • the full lifecycle of plastics;
  • the design of products and materials;
  • the need for international collaboration to facilitate access to technology and scientific and technical cooperation.

The UN Environment Programme says that global plastic production has risen to around 400 million tonnes per year, with only an estimated 9% recycled.

The remainder is dumped in landfills or into the environment, including around 11 million metric tonnes put into the ocean each year. This figure is expected to double by 2030.

Climate change: IPCC report calls for justice and social protection now

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, March 2, 2022

The report makes it clear that some thresholds to take action have been passed, leading to irreversible losses and damage, and that this decade is the only window of opportunity to act and that waiting for technological fixes to be invented to “catch up” is not a solution.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the report as an “atlas of human suffering”. He added: “The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.”

Rapid and just transitions

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “We understand the urgency and support this report’s endorsement that governments must include justice and social protection as a part of their climate adaption measures.

“Climate-resilient development is enabled when governments, civil society and the private sector prioritise equity and justice. Working people must be central to the plans for rapid and just transitions. The ITUC’s global day of action to Climate- and Employment-Proof Our Work, #CEPOW, on 22 June, takes these demands to the workplace.

“We agree with the report’s recommendation that social protection programmes must include a climate adaption focus, and they must be supported by basic services and infrastructure.

“The report is clear that the worst impacts of climate change are already hitting some of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable communities. A just response is to provide social protection to these people, financed by a global social protection fund as part of a new social contract.

“Most importantly, this has to happen now with just transition plans in every country and every company. The impacts are already devastating for both people and the planet.

“Adaption and mitigation actions must also be implemented immediately. These are vital investments in resilience and the capacity to anticipate and respond to future shocks.”

Workers Can’t Wait: Just Transition Now – Building Global Labour Power For Climate Justice

Phased down and out at COP26

By Stephen Smellie - Unison, November 15, 2021

As proceedings ended at COP26 late on Saturday night, the Glasgow Climate Pact joined a long list of previous agreements, arrived at by world leaders, that have failed to ensure global temperatures stop rising.

The sum of all the commitments given before and during the two-week jamboree is that the Earth is heading for a 2.4 degree increase rather than being held back to 1.5 degrees. This, according to the prime minister of Barbados, will be a death sentence for many small island communities.

COP president Alok Sharma claims that the 1.5 target is still alive; but as many people have said, it is on life support and slipping away.

The hopes for COP26 were high. The stakes were even higher. The science is clear – if we do not cut the emission of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane by significant amounts by 2030 we will not meet the target of being net zero by 2050 and the planet will overshoot 1.5 by some way.

As an official observer at COP26 with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), I was privileged to spend the second week in the COP26 blue zone, working with a team of trade unionists from across the globe.

The ITUC’s aims were to lobby the government representatives to ensure that the historic commitment in the Paris Agreement to “ensure Just Transitions that promote sustainable development and eradication of poverty, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs” was retained in the final Glasgow agreement. That was achieved.

However, the lobbying of the ITUC, along with other NGOs and many Global South countries, to secure the $100 billion for mitigation and adaptation in the developing countries by 2020, a mechanism for paying for loss and damage for the impact of climate change that is already happening, and a clear intention to reduce emissions, was not successful.

It is true that the Glasgow Climate Pact recognises, for the first time, the need to address the use of fossil fuels, but it does not set any targets, relying on countries to improve on their existing plans to reduce the burning of climate changing fossil fuels. However, in the final hours, even the limited commitment to “phase-out the use of unabated coal” was watered down by an amendment from China and India to change “phase out” to “phase down”.

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.

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. 

Green investment brings greater job creation, but job quality not guaranteed

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, October 26, 2021

The Green Jobs Advantage: How Climate-friendly Investments Are Better Job Creators  was co-published by the International Trade Union Confederation, the World Resources Institute and the New Climate Economy, and released in mid-October. The paper reviews a dozen studies from 2009 to 2020 and compares the job creation projections in Brazil, China, Indonesia, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, the United States and globally. The analysis of these studies compares near-term job effects from clean energy versus fossil fuels, public transportation versus roads, electric vehicles versus internal combustion engine vehicles, and nature-based solutions versus fossil fuels – with the conclusion that greener investments create more jobs, dollar for dollar. The report also addresses the issue of job quality, and notes that in developing countries, many jobs are informal and temporary, with limited access to work security, safety, or social protections. In developed countries, “new green jobs may have wages and benefits that aren’t as high as those in traditional sectors where, in many cases, workers have been able to fight for job quality through decades of collective action.” One conclusion: “ Government investment should come with conditions that ensure fair wages and benefits, work security, safe working conditions, opportunities for training and advancement, the right to organize, and accessibility to all.”

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