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International Trade Union Confederation (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.”

The Green Jobs Advantage: How Climate Friendly Investments are Better Job Creators

By Joel Jager, et. al. - World Resources Institute, International Trade Union Confederation, and The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, October 2021

As part of their COVID-19 recovery efforts, many governments continue to fund unsustainable infrastructure, even though this ignores the urgency of addressing climate change and will not secure longterm stability for workers.

Our analysis of studies from around the world finds that green investments generally create more jobs per US$1 million than unsustainable investments. We compare 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.

Green investments can create quality jobs, but this is not guaranteed. In developing countries, green jobs can provide avenues out of poverty, but too many are informal and temporary, limiting 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.

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.

Read the text (PDF).

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.

Facing Fossil Fuels’ Future: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers in Canada’s Energy and Labour Transitions

By Teika Newton and Jamie Kirkpatrick - Climate Action Network and BlueGreen Canada, September 2021

Canada has a climate plan but it does not lay out a plan for the future of oil and gas extraction that aligns with the goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C, leaving workers and communities with an uncertain future. The Canada Energy Regulator warns that the future of oil sands extraction, which makes up 62 percent of Canada’s oil output, is uncertain due to the projected drop in the future oil demand as the global pace of decarbonization increases.

Meanwhile, a study backed by the UN Environment Programme further states that global oil and gas output would have to decline by over one third by 2030 and over one half by 2040 to achieve the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C. In early 2021, the International Energy Agency, one of the world’s foremost authorities on global energy forecasting, published a landmark report, Net Zero by 2050, in which the agency declared that oil and gas output should be constrained to existing operations in order to meet the 1.5°C temperature goals articulated in the Paris Agreement. Constraining Canadian oil and gas output to existing fields approximates a similar rate of phaseout to that proposed by the UNEP-backed report.

he Canadian oil and gas industry, including upstream activities, pipelines, and services, provides approximately 405,000 jobs - 167,000 direct jobs and 238,000 jobs across supply chains. In response to oil price crises, industry’s solution to protect profits has historically been to slash jobs while maintaining output. As a result the number of jobs per barrel of output has already fallen by 20% since 2000.

While oil and gas jobs have significantly better compensation and training provisions than most sectors in the economy, these jobs are also somewhat more precarious and have higher health and safety risks. Union density is higher but is also falling at a more rapid rate than in oth-er industries.8 Finally, automation is projected to threaten between 33%-53% of Canadian oil and gas jobs by 2040.

Read the text (PDF).

Trade unions welcome UN HLPF Ministerial Declaration, but demand action

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, July 19, 2021

Trade unions have welcomed the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration by the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) as it recognises decent work, social protection and climate resilient investments with just transitions as key pillars for recovery. But this must now be translated into government action.

This year’s HLPF focused on ways to ensure a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19 in line with the SDGs. This included a review of progress on SDG 8.

The Ministerial Declaration reaffirms governments’ commitment to the SDGs as the “global blueprint” to respond to the pandemic and build “a better future for all”.

Trade unions welcomed:

  • references to the decent work agenda;
  • a commitment to protection of labour rights and occupational health and safety for all;
  • a pledge to eradicate forced and child labour;
  • the creation of “conditions for decent work for all, including for those in the informal economy”;
  • the promotion of sustainable business practices;
  • the call for investments in the care economy;
  • the recognition of women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work;
  • and the need to close the gender gap in the labour market.

Even though the Declaration misses the opportunity to explicitly refer to universal social protection, it is vocal on the need for all countries to extend social protection coverage, including social protection floors.

Governments’ failure to live up to Paris Agreement promises puts planet stability at risk

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, April 21, 2021

In total, 136 governments were due to submit enhanced National Determined Contributions (NDCs), but only 79 have done so. The ITUC has been publishing scorecards on each plan here.

Of the 79 NDCs submitted, the ITUC analysis found that

  • 20 NDCs (25%) have ambitious climate plans;
  • 10 NDCs (8%) have Just Transition plans; and
  • 16 NDCs (13%) use social dialogue.

The ten worst countries for climate ambition and Just Transition are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia and South Korea.

Two of the biggest countries, the USA and China, could announce their latest plans this week.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “Six years since the Paris Agreement was signed and the day before Earth Day, this isn’t good enough. The richest countries of the world should be taking the lead, not dragging behind.

“Only one in four countries have ambitious climate plans, and nearly nine out of ten countries are denying working people and communities a say in their own future by not using social dialogue.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to all of us and we need NDCs from all governments now, with strong Just Transition plans and social dialogue at their centre. For workers this means climate-friendly jobs that transition from fading employment sectors to new, growing industries. Working people deserve nothing less.”

  • The countries that show the most ambitious climate plans: Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Kenya, Moldova, Rwanda and Suriname.
  • The countries with credible Just Transition plans: Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, European Union (EU), Germany, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Suriname.
  • The countries using social dialogue: Argentina, Costa Rica, Denmark, EU, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Poland, Spain and the UK.

The EU is taking an important step with its recovery package that includes a Just Transition Fund to direct $21 billion to fossil fuel and carbon-intensive regions most impacted by the energy transition.

Kenya explicitly refers to Just Transition in its NDCs submission, and the government is consulting workers’ unions about its plans.

Costa Rica’s NDC submission includes a Just Transition plan and a commitment to tripart social dialogue between the government, working people and employers.

“These countries show what is possible. Mentioning the words ‘Just Transition’ is not enough. Credible plans need to involve dialogue with unions and stakeholders. Our unions are ready to sit down and work together in Just Transition plans.

“Just Transition is the bridge to a fossil-free economy. If we are going to transition every industry, and we must, in line with achieving net-zero emissions, then we need to make that transition just. That requires unions to be at the table to develop an agreed plan that gives workers a secure future.

“There is no excuse for not delivering NDCs that meet our three criteria: ambitious climate plans, Just Transition plans and social dialogue. We will continue to expose governments that are not pulling their weight and push them to do better in this race against time,” added Sharan Burrow.

Is Labor Green? A Cross-National Panel Analysis of Unionization and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

By Camila Huerta Alvarez, Julius McGee, and Richard York - Nature and Culture, March 1, 2019

In this article, we assess whether unionization of national workforces influences growth in national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita. Political-economic theories in environmental sociology propose that labor unions have the potential to affect environmental conditions. Yet, few studies have quantitatively assessed the influence of unionization on environmental outcomes using cross-national data. We estimate multilevel regression models using data on OECD member nations from 1970 to 2014. Results from our analysis indicate that unionization, measured as the percentage of workers who are union members, is negatively associated with CO2 emissions per capita, even when controlling for labor conditions. This finding suggests that unionization may promote environmental protection at the national level

Read the text (PDF).

New Social Contract: Five workers’ demands for recovery and resilience

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, January 25, 2021

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, outlined the demands during the World Economic Forum, with an ITUC session on the subject taking place at the World Social Forum on the 26 January and a detailed blog on the issues: “The choices made by world leaders and by business in 2021 will either heed the call of workers and civil society to reform the economic model and help create a just and sustainable future or maintain business as usual and see a model of corporate greed entrench inequality, exclusion and despair perpetuating instability for our communities and our planet.”

The five demands are:

  1. Creation of climate-friendly jobs with Just Transition. Job-creating industrial transformation to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, along with jobs in health, education and other quality public services.
  2. Rights for all workers, regardless of their employment arrangements, to fulfill the promise of the ILO Centenary Declarationwith its labour protection floor including rights, maximum working hours, living minimum wages and health and safety at work.
  3. Universal social protection, with the establishment of a Social Protection Fund for the least wealthy countries.
  4. Equality. Ending all discrimination, such as by race or gender, to ensure that all people can share in prosperity and that the appalling concentration of wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the many is undone.
  5. Inclusion. To combat the growing power of monopolies and oligarchs, ensure that developing countries can actually develop their economies and guarantee tax systems that provide the income vital for governments to meet the needs of people and the planet. An inclusive approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount, both in terms of economic support as well as universal access to testing, treatment and vaccines.

“Along with the tragic loss of so many lives from the pandemic, almost 500 million jobs have been lost and two billion people are struggling in informal work, including in new internet mediated businesses. People need a New Social Contract that delivers recovery and resilience based on the security that these five critical demands guarantee,” said Sharan Burrow.

Unions and Youth together: A Just Transition for climate ambition

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