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‘COP28 should be the most important meeting in the history of the world’

By David Hill and Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, November 30, 2023

British journalist DAVID HILL interviewed Jeremy Brecher in the lead-up to COP28 about why international climate negotiations fail and how a “global nonviolent constitutional insurgency” could be a climate game-changer.

DH: Last year when we were in touch you said you thought COP27 “should be the most important meeting in the history of the world – nothing could be more important than international agreement to meet the climate targets laid out by climate science and agreed to by the world’s governments at the Paris Climate Summit.” Do you feel the same about COP28?

JB: Of course, COP28 should be the most important meeting in the history of the world. That was also true of COP27, COP26 and all the previous COP climate meetings. While they should be producing international agreement to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to zero, the reality is that the decades of international climate conferences have simply legitimated ever rising GHG emissions and ever increasing climate destruction. The idea that it is being hosted by Dubai and chaired by Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the head of the United Arab Emirates’s state-owned oil company, represents the height of absurdity – like putting Al Capone in charge of alcohol regulation. Sultan al-Jaber’s letter laying out plans for COP 28 is lacking in ambition to reduce climate destruction. The entire so-called international climate protection process is now controlled by those who hope to gain by climate destruction. A global nonviolent insurgency against the domination of the fossil fuel industry and the governments it controls appears to be the only practical means to counter their plan to destroy humanity.

DH: In other words, COP28 should be the most important meeting in the history of the world, but it’s not going to be. What do you think is the percentage chance of an international agreement to phase out fossil fuels being reached?

JB: The answer to this one is easy: there is zero chance that COP28 will produce an agreement that will actually phase out fossil fuels. The forces that are in control of the governments represented in COP28 represent fossil fuel interests that are intent on continuing and if possible expanding their use. US President Eisenhower once said that the people wanted peace so much that some day the governments would have to get out of their way and let them have it. An international agreement that will actually phase out fossil fuels will come when governments discover that if they want to go on governing they have to let the people have climate safety.

Analysis: How do the EU farmer protests relate to climate change?

By Orla Dwyer - The Conversation, February 5, 2024

From Berlin and Paris, to Brussels and Bucharest, European farmers have driven their tractors to the streets in protest over recent weeks. 

According to reports, these agricultural protesters from across the European Union have a series of concerns, including competition from cheaper imports, rising costs of energy and fertiliser, and environmental rules. 

Farmers’ groups in countries including Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Poland and Romania have all been protesting over the past couple of months. 

The UK’s Sunday Telegraph has tried to frame the protests as a “net-zero revolt” with several other media outlets saying the farmers have been rallying against climate or “green” rules. 

Carbon Brief has analysed the key demands from farmer groups in seven countries to determine how they are related to greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, biodiversity or conservation. 

The findings show that many of the issues farmers are raising are directly and indirectly related to these issues. But some are not related at all. Several are based on policy measures that have not yet taken effect, such as the EU’s nature restoration law and a South American trade agreement. 

UAW’s Latest Labor Victory Is a Huge Climate Win, Too

By Katie Myers - The New Republic, April 28, 2024

(excerpt...)

Climate regulations and the Inflation Reduction Act’s generous incentives are now stimulating electric vehicle manufacturing. Despite the Biden administration’s pro-labor economic agenda, IRA funding—and thus billions of dollars in public and private investment—has largely gone to areas with low union density, spurring worries among autoworkers that the E.V. shift could create a second tier of lower-paid, nonunion workers spearheading the transition to electric vehicles, working in dangerous conditions with flammable elements like lithium.

In 2022, Volkswagen broke ground on E.V. production and assembly; the same year, the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama—UAW’s next battle, organizers tell me—began manufacturing an electric SUV. In the most recent union contract between UAW and the Big Three automakers, General Motors and Stellantis agreed to allow joint-venture E.V. manufacturing plants under the union umbrella, and now, Tennessee may be the next step.

Since the beginning conversations about reducing dependence on fossil fuels—a necessary transition that nonetheless could have deleterious impacts on workers across steel, coal, oil, auto, and building trades industries—workers have demanded a “just transition”: an energy transition that prevents as much of the workforce as possible from being dislocated, allows for training and opportunity, and provides jobs equal to or better than the ones that came before. Environmental organizations have taken up the demand, too, seeing that a united front for labor rights and environmental justice is more powerful than keeping the two at loggerheads, as right-wing politicians might prefer. A just transition is what workers in the South are demanding as the IRA funds flood in.

“We’re seeing a bunch of E.V. manufacturers come here,” said Michael Adriaanse, “and they should be union.” Adriaanse organizes with the Blue Oval Good Neighbors Committee. In rural, working-class Black communities in west Tennessee, this labor and community coalition is mobilizing to bargain with Blue Oval City, a Ford joint-venture electric vehicle plant that’s the recipient of the largest public investment the state of Tennessee has ever made, with an added $9.2 billion in funding from the Department of Energy. The VW victory has given workers hope for their efforts to negotiate good jobs and community benefits with the E.V. industry, he added. But it’s going to be hard-won.

Grangemouth Refinery: Lessons for aviation workers on sustainable transitions

By staff - Safe Landing, April 16, 2024

Safe Landing recently attended the “Keep Grangemouth Working” event organised by Unite the Union at the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) conference in Dundee, Scotland. Grangemouth refinery is a classic case of an ‘unjust’ transition where poor industrial planning for the shift to low-carbon operations has led to major impacts for the livelihoods of workers and communities in the area. 

There are definitely lessons to be learned for the aviation industry – particularly as a sustainable future for the fuels sector is so intertwined with sustainable aviation!

Grangemouth Refinery: Scotland’s only refinery facing imminent closure

Grangemouth Refinery is one of the six remaining refineries in the UK and the only refinery in Scotland. It produces jet fuel which supplies airports at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Newcastle. It also produces a significant proportion of Scotland’s petrol and diesel. It’s estimated to account for approximately 8% of Scotland’s manufacturing base. 

In November 2023, the refinery owners, Petroineos, announced that the refinery could cease operations as soon as 2025 following an 18 month process to convert the facility to a fuel import/export terminal only. This could mean up to 500 jobs are lost at the site. 

This event was focused on the fight to maintain those jobs. 

This is a real life example of potential job losses from high-carbon infrastructure as the low-carbon transition (e.g. from petrol/diesel to electric vehicles) takes place. This could equally occur at an airport or aviation production facility unless transition plans are developed early, and future-proof investments are made. As Grangemouth produces jet fuel, there’s also an obvious overlap with the necessary transition required in aviation.

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Bus Drivers Strike with Climate Activists in 57 German Cities

By Berit Ehmke and Yanira Wolf - Labor Notes, April 8, 2024

Public transit workers across Germany have broken new ground by coordinating our contracts—nearly all of them nationwide have expired over the last four months—and shutting down bus systems with strikes in 57 cities.

To add to the pressure, we’ve done something new for our union and for Germany: we’ve formed an alliance between local transport workers and climate activists, including the students who have been leading massive school walkouts.

The devastating effects of climate change are already rocking Germany: major heat waves, flooding, and water shortages. A growing movement demanding climate action has made real headway—our energy and industrial sectors have almost halved their climate pollution over the past 30 years. But on transportation, our third-biggest source, we’ve made nearly zero progress.

To beat climate change we need more buses on the road. We’re building a movement to double bus service. After three decades of cuts and privatization, we need a major federal funding boost.

But these jobs have become so tough that most agencies have huge worker shortages. To make the climate impact real, we’ll also need to raise the floor for wages, breaks, and schedules—making this a good enough job that workers will sign on and stick around.

California delays vote on critical indoor workplace heat safety standard

By Alexandra Martinez - Prism, April 4, 2024

Amid mounting concerns over the safety of California’s workforce, a critical vote on a bill to protect workers from extreme indoor temperatures narrowly passed the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA), but the bill still requires approval from a skeptical governmental agency, leaving workers vulnerable. The decision has ignited anger among labor groups statewide that argue the state’s inaction is putting lives at risk.

On March 21, in a hearing room packed with people wearing stickers proclaiming, “Heat Kills,” a diverse coalition of laundry workers, farmworkers, janitors, steelworkers, fast food workers, stagehand technicians, construction laborers, and shipyard workers gathered to voice their dismay at the cancellation of the crucial vote on the Indoor Heat Illness Prevention Standard. The state’s Office of Administrative Law will need the Department of Finance’s approval before it can move forward with the regulations, but the office is not immediately certain about the time frame for the next steps.

“Our coalition of unions and worker advocates have been pushing Cal/OSHA to do its job and approve regulations that finally protect workers from extreme indoor heat,” said Lorena Gonzalez, Chief Officer of the California Labor Federation, which represents 1,300 unions and 2.3 million union members. “It’s outrageous that after years of advocacy … we learned that it was pulled from the agenda with no prior notice or explanation.” 

The standard would have protected millions of workers in warehouses and other indoor facilities, but Gov. Gavin Newsom objected to the program’s costs. The Department of Finance intervened over concerns about costs to correctional facilities and other state entities, but Cal/OSHA moved forward and voted unanimously to adopt the standards. The rules are now in limbo. 

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