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International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Report on TUED Strategy Meeting at COP23

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, November 28, 2017

On November 10th, during COP23, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) convened a “Strategy Roundtable” in Bonn, Germany. The meeting was attended by more than 40 representatives of roughly 25 unions from 14 countries as well as several allies from the environmental movement, media and research bodies.

Union participants came from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, UK and USA. The meeting was organized with support from the New York office of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS–New York). Participants were welcomed by Stefanie Ehmsen of RLS-NYC, and TUED Coordinator Sean Sweeney of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute, City University of New York.

The meeting provided a rare opportunity for unions that are not yet part of the network to be exposed to TUED’s analysis and to participate in a lively debate about the struggle for the future of global energy systems. Copies of TUED’s most recent working paper, “Preparing a Public Pathway: Confronting the Investment Crisis in Renewable Energy,” were circulated.

Setting the context for the meeting, Sweeney provided a brief overview of the 5-year history of the 60-union network, and the political origins of the “Resist, Reclaim, Restructure” framework. There was broad consensus among participants that the current, market-driven approach, focused on “mobilizing the private sector,” is failing to produce a just energy transition and that, given the Paris targets, there is an urgent need to pursue public alternatives that advance social ownership and democratic control of the power sector and the broader energy economy, including energy options, management, and research and development.

Participants also provided updates on recent developments in their regions, including reports on: the Philippines and the challenges facing trade unions under Duterte’s government; the September meeting in Buenos Aires on “The Energy Grid and the Commons”; the UK Trades Union Congress resolution to support public ownership of energy; developments and next steps to follow the June 2017 meeting in Geneva of TUED unions in Europe; why “Public Renewable Power” is gaining support among unions in Australia; latest developments in Canada, particularly Alberta and Quebec; and the recent sharp debate around the AFL-CIO resolution on climate change in the US. Participants also heard about ITF’s campaigning work on public transportation.

Identifying points of agreement and shared analysis, representatives of Friends of the Earth International (FOE-I) and Friends of the Earth Europe (FOE-E) also participated in the discussion.

Hemispheric Congress of Unions in São Paulo Urges Governments to Stop Fracking

By Sean Sweeney - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, April 28, 2016

More than 500 delegates representing unions in the Americas today adopted a ‘base document’ that included a call for governments in the hemisphere to issue a moratorium on fracking. Via the TUED-initiated Unions Against Fracking, five trade union centers in the Americas had earlier supported the call for a moratorium, namely CTA Argentina, CSN Quebec, the Canadian Labour Congress, CUT Brazil, and CUT Peru. A growing number of individual unions are also on board. The TUCA-CSA Congress document also declared, “We fight against the extractive model imposed by the business logic of large oil production and mining transnational corporations that do not foster development.”

Convened once every four years, the 3rd Congress of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americasis meeting at a time when unions in Brazil and across the region believe that a coup against president Dilma Rousseff is imminent. A right-wing government replacing the governing Workers Party is expected to push forward with an aggressive privatization agenda and a full-force attack on collective bargaining.

At a pre-Congress international seminar on April 26th titled “Democracy & Development in the Americas: Trade Union Strategy for the 2016-2020 period,” João Felício, current ITUC president and former leader of the main Brazilian union federation, CUT, underscored the seriousness of the situation. Referring to Dilma's period of incarceration during the 1964-1985 dictatorship, Felício said, “The torturers of Dilma, our democratically elected president, are poised to seize power. This is a coup. The CUT will never sit across the table with murderers and thieves.”

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow told the main session of Congress today, “This is about greed and corruption — corporate greed. We say, ‘No to coups, no to corruption.’ Dilma is the one person not charged for any personal corruption. Dilma is being tortured today in a different way.”

On climate change and the need for a ‘just transition,’ Burrow delivered a strong message: “Workers in fossil fuels should not be simply cast aside in the shift to a new economy. But there are no jobs on a dead planet. After the Paris Agreement, we need to act on the commitments made.”  Thanking Sharan for her work, TUCA president Hassan Yussuff acknowledged the ITUC's role at COP 21 in Paris. "Temperatures can not be allowed to rise above 2 degrees," he said, "We must ensure that unions are at the front of this fight." 

Representing TUED at the Congress, coordinator Sean Sweeney said, “Oil and gas multinationals have set their sights on Latin America in particular, and those supporting their agenda are playing their part in the attack on democracy in Brazil and across the continent. Unions at this Congress have seen with their own eyes what happens when mining and drilling companies move into their countries. They don't just go after fossil fuel deposits and water supplies, they also target democratic institutions and worker and human rights."

In Face of Climate Crisis, Environment and Trade Union Movements Finding Common Cause

By Susann Scherbarth - Common Dreams, November 28, 2017

World climate negotiations concluded in Bonn, Germany recently after two painstaking weeks. Whilst many parties to the UN convention and other commentators choose to highlight any small steps forward in the talks, no matter how inadequate, Friends of the Earth opts to speak truth to power.

Asia Pacific is the region where the most people are already feeling the impacts of changes in the climate and Meena Raman of Friends of the Earth Malaysia spoke out in Bonn, saying “Every COP feels like a broken record.  We are sick and tired of talkshops. Act!”

2017 has been a devastating year and is set to be one of the hottest three years on record. Around the globe people are paying with their lives and livelihoods for climate-exacerbated extreme weather events in the form of hurricanes, wildfires and heatwaves. Terrifyingly, new data shows that global emissions will rise again this year after several years of stagnation—world emissions have not even peaked yet when we need them to be falling fast. The disconnect  between the scale of government action and the urgency of the climate crisis is as vast as ever.

And yet, the transition of world economies away from fossil fuels will happen. The energy transformation is as inevitable as climate change and its devastating impacts are real. The questions are; how fast will it be? who will benefit? and who will lose out?

Analysts believe the transition to clean energy sources is likely to happen faster than anyone expects. Even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – not a body prone to invite instability – predicts that the pace of technological change will be underestimated.

But if left to market forces guided by transnational corporations it is very likely to be unfair, slow and painful. We should be ready for the most rapid industrial transformation ever. And we should learn the lessons from history of other industrial shifts. Trade unions are already warning that transitions of industrial systems in the past have brought a lot of suffering for workers. People’s jobs, livelihoods, connections to the land, family bonds and heritage have been lost.

With this in mind, environment and trade union movements have come together to call for a ‘just transition’—a transition that leaves no-one behind. A transition that is fair and secures workers' jobs and livelihoods through the creation of decent opportunities. Done right we can simultaneously tackle the climate crisis and also inequality, employment and democratic crises.

Just Transition - Where are we now and what’s next? A Guide to National Policies and International Climate Governance

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, September 19, 2017

Just Transition is a key requirement of the Paris Agreement. More than a decade of advocacy in environmental and climate negotiations has resulted in ensuring that social considerations must be an integral part of policy, planning and implementation of climate action. But what is Just Transition? This Frontline briefing provides a guide to national policies and international climate governance. It summarises our work to date and puts forward ideas on how the concept can be developed further.

Download PDF Here.

The Role of Labour in the Fight Against Climate Change

By Asbjørn Wahl - International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), (hosted by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy) November 2016

The climate crisis is steadily coming closer. At the same time, we face a deepening economic crisis, as well as social and political crises. This creates an increasingly serious situation for the future of humanity.

However, given that the various crises have many of the same root causes, going to the core of our economic system, this can contribute to strengthening the mobilisation of social forces needed to break the current trend-–in favour of a democratic and planned development of society.

Action to combat dramatic climate change will require major societal transformation. In other words, we have an all-out battle on our hands over how to organise society. Solutions to the climate crisis do exist. We have most of what is required in terms of technology, knowledge, and competence to avert a climate disaster. It is the power to translate words into action that will pose the greatest challenge.

Since economic growth and ruthless exploitation of natural resources are embedded parts of a capitalist economy–indeed, any capitalism without growth is a capitalism in crisis-–a narrow focus on individual issues of environmental policy will not suffice. Nor will we be able to combat the climate crisis by making individual choices. A system critical approach is needed. We need democratic control of the economy. This means that we are not only faced with a threat, but also an opportunity-–an opportunity, not just to prevent a climate catastrophe, but also to fight the economic and social crises which are currently eroding and threatening the living conditions of millions upon millions of people. In particular, this also provides us with a foundation upon which to build extensive social alliances in search of a different kind of society.

Read the report (PDF).

Sharing the challenges and opportunities of a clean energy economy: Policy discussion paper A Just Transition for coal-fired electricity sector workers and communities

By staff - Australian Council of Trade Unions - November 2016

The ACTU is primarily concerned with workers, their rights, their welfare and their future. A just and civil society is one where everyone shares in the wealth of the nation but it is also one where economic costs are equally shared.

Transitioning an industry is a massive economic and social disruption. History shows that this has often been done poorly in Australia, with workers and communities bearing the brunt of such transitions - suffering hardship, unemployment and generations of economic and social depression.

Research in the textiles, clothing and footwear (TCF) and car manufacturing industries shows, for example, that only one third of workers find equivalent full time work following their retrenchment, while one third move into lower quality jobs (lower wage, lower job status or into part-time and casual work) and one third are locked out of the labour force altogether.

International experience however shows that a transition can be done equitably, achieve positive outcomes for workers, save communities and forge new areas of industrial growth and prosperity.

Australia is currently facing one such transition in the coal-fired electricity sector. If Australia manages this transition well, the nation would have a structured and equitable approach that could apply to any industry undergoing similar change in the future.

At last year’s Paris climate conference, Australia alongside 194 countries, committed to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. As part of this historic agreement, unions successfully achieved recognition of the need for a ‘Just Transition’ that supports the most affected workers obtain new decent and secure jobs in a clean energy economy.

While Australia’s international obligations will require a range of complementary policies that focus on emission reduction across a number of sectors of the economy, as the largest contributor to Australia’s emissions, effective reform of the electricity sector has been identified as a key step in tackling climate change.

Download (PDF).

How labor is working on climate justice

By Sean Petty - Socialist Worker, December 14, 2015

Many political leaders and the mainstream media are hailing the agreement signed by nearly 200 countries at the United Nations climate summit in Paris as "groundbreaking." But for the many thousands of people and hundreds of organizations struggling for climate justice, the deal struck at COP 21 doesn't go far enough--and not nearly fast enough.

Sean Petty, a pediatric ER nurse in New York City and member of the New York State Nurses Association, traveled to Paris during the two weeks of COP 21 to be part of protests and discussions organized by climate justice organizations. Here, he answered SW's questions about the presence of unions during the summit and what lies ahead for labor and the struggle to save the planet:

WHY WERE people from your union present at the climate talks?

FOR A number of reasons. Especially after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 caused heavy damage in large parts of New York City, including several public hospitals where our members care for patients, we have become very active in the movement to stop climate change.

We opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, we opposed fracking in our state, and we helped mobilize for the People's Climate March in September 2014. We also developed lunchtime educational meetings in our hospitals around climate change and are organizing a Climate Justice committee, which is something we hope other unions emulate.

We wanted to come to Paris to relate these experiences and join with other unions in sending a clear message that we have to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, and that the necessary transition to renewable energy has to happen on a world-historic scale, has to involve the creation of good, union jobs, and has to happen through a massive expansion of public investment in energy, infrastructure and transportation.

HOW WAS the union presence organized during the COP 21?

THE MAIN global federation of unions is the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC), and it is the official voice of unions within negotiations. The ITUC also organized a two-day series of workshops called the "Trade Union Forum on Climate and Jobs," where a number of unions contributed to panel discussions around different aspects of the climate crisis.

The ITUC also held workshops at the broader assembly of climate justice organizations called the "Sommet citoyen pour le climat" (People's Climate Summit), which took place in Motreuil, a close suburb of Paris, over the weekend of December 5-6.

The ITUC's main objective in the talks over the last decade or so was to fight for two words to be included in any final agreement: "just transition." This language was included in drafts leading up to the COP 21, but was dropped pretty early on during negotiations.

This triggered a significant action on December 10, where as many as 400 members of the union delegation and their allies staged a sit-in for several hours in the social space adjacent to the talks. This was a somewhat bold move, as the French ban on protests, imposed following the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, was still in effect. The French authorities chose not to have a confrontation and allowed to action to proceed without incident.

The protest gained attention for this issue. But the strategy of focusing on getting vague language into a nonbinding agreement as the primary focus of international trade union action has to be questioned. The stakes are way too high for such low expectations.

ITUC calls on workers to join climate rallies in support of Paris climate justice

Press Release - International Trade Union Confederation, November 19, 2015

With the climate summit taking place in ten days in Paris, the ITUC issues a renewed call to all its members to take to the streets for climate justice in countries around the world.

“The cancelation of Paris marches and demonstrations based on security concerns adds one more reason for workers to show that no wall can be built between immediate problems and so-called long-term ones: climate change is already happening and destroying jobs and communities,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

The union movement is heavily involved in the organisation of the 28-29 November marches in Spain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia, and dozens of national centres, sectoral federations and local unions are bringing workers together to show social justice is climate justice.

“Workers and their unions stand for decent jobs, social justice and prosperity for all, and the fight against climate change is about all those,” said Burrow.

Trade unions from around the world will still come to Paris and join its French counterparts as well as other social movements and organisations in the COP21 as well as for the Trade Union Climate Forum, part of which will be held in the Citizens’ Summit in Montreuil.

“Even without the Paris demonstrations, politicians will not be left off the hook. Our voices will be stronger than ever in calling for a climate deal that must protect people and the planet,” concluded Sharan Burrow.

Union members are asked to wear green hard hats in the rallies to show support for jobs and climate action. Hard hats can be personalised with stickers available from the ITUC.

ITUC calls global union climate summit

By the International Trade Union Congress - Climate and Capitalism, May 18, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) is hosting an international climate summit for 200 trade unionists from all over the world in Paris on the 14th and 15th of September. The climate jobs campaigns in several countries will be part of the conference, and we urge any trade unionists interested in the idea of climate jobs to come.

The details of the call from the ITUC are:

Trade Union Climate Summit – will you be there?
Paris, 14 – 15 September 2015

Is this you? Climate change is your concern and a just transition to a zero carbon economy is a struggle you are passionate about. Your union has taken a commitment to support climate action and you have plans or ideas for union actions in the fight to ‘decarbonize’ our world.

If you want to come to the conference what you need to do is:

Send an email to Anabella.rosemberg@ituc-csi.org, and include the following:
Your name, your union, and your country.
And indicate that the leadership of your union supports your nomination as a delegate.
There will be some support for a small number of delegates but the support of your union would be necessary.

There are likely to be more than 200 people who want to be delegates. If so, the organizers will select people with an eye to a balance of countries and between the global south and the global north, and get back to you with an invitation by the end of June.

A just transition for all: Can the past inform the future?

By various - International Labour Office, 2015

2015 is a decisive year for global agreements on Sustainable Development and climate change. The ILO calls for a just transition for all towards a greener and more socially sustainable economy. This Journal is focussing on drawing lessons from a few transition experiences in order to analyse how successfully (or not) these processes were managed in the past and how future transitions might be handled in a just manner. Challenges such as policy coherence, consultations and participation by all relevant stakeholders are addressed and lessons learned on these issues are highlighted in the Journal.

Read the report (Link).

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