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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).

Egypt can't deliver a just transition at COP27 while workers' rights are on the line

By Anna Markova - Trades Union Caucus, June 10, 2022

As Egypt prepares to take over the COP27 presidency and countries gather for the Bonn Climate Conference, trade unions are calling for Egypt to end its repression of workers, trade unions and activists.

How is a just transition or safe climate future to be agreed in Sharm El-Sheikh in November while the Egyptian government imprisons thousands of trade unionists, journalists and civil society organisers? 

The TUC is calling on the UK government and specifically the outgoing COP26 President Alok Sharma to use his influence to seek assurances for the freedom and safety of Egyptian trade unionists and human rights activists prior to COP27. This should involve immediate action to secure the release of British-Egyptian writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, currently on hunger strike

Egypt has regularly ranked in the lowest categories of the ITUC’s Global Rights Index when it comes to trade union rights and freedoms. In the ITUC’s 2021 Global Rights Index Egypt was listed in the worst ten countries for workers.

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.

Climate change: IPCC report confirms that just transition and green jobs are central to success

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, May 4, 2022

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “This report lays out a stark reality: global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025, and we have to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 to give us a chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“That’s a lot, but the report says that solar and wind energy have the potential to deliver over one-third of this target.

“It’s unavoidable: the world needs rapid, deep and immediate investments in jobs to build this infrastructure and deliver the cuts to emissions we need.

“At the same time, the report is clear that we have to leave the oil and gas in the ground to survive. We need fossil fuel infrastructure and subsidies to be repurposed.

“This requires just transition: a plan to convert these jobs in fossil fuels to jobs in clean energy. Every country, every industry, every company, and every investor must have a plan developed, in partnership with working people and their communities, and must implement it rapidly.

Our report with the World Resources Institute and the New Climate Economy showed that this shift makes economic and social sense too. Investing in solar power creates 1.5 times as many jobs as investing the same amount of money in fossil fuels.

“The IPPC has sounded a call to action for jobs in renewables. Investors, companies and governments need to make this a reality now. We know that for every ten jobs in renewable energy, there are another five to ten in manufacturing supply chains and, if these are good jobs with just wages, 30 to 35 jobs in the broader community.”

The IPPC report makes clear the transformational potential of just transition, saying it can “build social trust, and deepen and widen support for transformative changes”. It goes on to say: “This is already taking place in many countries and regions, as national just transition commissions or task forces, and related national policies, have been established in several countries. A multitude of actors, networks, and movements are engaged.”

Sharan Burrow added: “We need unions at the table everywhere to build these plans and to guarantee income support for secure pensions, reskilling and re-deployment.”

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

CUT: SPECIAL COP 26

By staff - Central Única dos Trabalhadores, December 2021

The Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) was present at COP 26, which took place in November, in Glasgow, Scotland. In this bulletin we expose our performance and select analyses and content considered relevant by our Central to follow the discussion from the perspective of the working class.

Due to the urgency of a global action to contain the advance of the climate crisis and face its impacts the COPs become key spaces of discussion but we follow them critically due to the limitations of presenting real solutions.
The pre-COP 26 statements of the Trade Union Confederation of Workers of the Americas (CSA) and the Belem Charter Group point out what the key discussions were this year as well as the main criticisms. We also share the trade union agenda for COP 26 of the International Trade Union Confederation - ITUC.

Read the entire statement (PDF).

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”.

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