We regret the lack of ambition and commitment to Just Transition

Despite pandemic restrictions, an impressive number of trade unions were represented at the COP, coordinated by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). In a statement released yesterday, the ITUC stressed that a jobs plan with Just Transition was essential to implement the agreement.

The most critical demands from trade unions were the integration of Just Transition into the operational part of the Paris Agreement – the so-called Paris Rulebook - as well as commitments to human rights, the need to implement commitments on climate finance, and financing for loss and damage to compensate vulnerable countries dealing with climate disasters.

Prior to the conference, the International Panel for Climate Change found that global warming has already reached 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, and is on track to reach 2.7°C. Countries will also miss 2030 National Determined Contributions (NDC) targets: instead of reaching the necessary emission reduction target of 45 per cent, emissions are set to increase by 13 per cent by 2030. Countries are being urged to submit updated NDCs in 2022.

Developed countries failed to meet their commitments to provide US $100 billion annually to support developing countries to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. Instead, they committed to defining a new finance goal by 2024 and doubling climate finance by 2025.

At the concluding plenary on Saturday evening, India and China watered down commitments to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies, by changing the language to “phase down”. This amendment was pushed in the final text of the agreement, while other countries were discouraged from introducing new amendments in order to conclude the negotiations. Crucially, Mexico was prevented from introducing language on human rights.

Countries vulnerable to climate change felt overrun by this change of language, while their push for a finance mechanism to support them dealing with loss and damage was blocked, in particular by the US and the EU.

Speaking on behalf of the global labour movement, Richard Hardy of the Prospect union addressed the final plenary, saying:

    As the voice of workers, we are truly puzzled. To whom have you been listening in the run up to this COP? How has the outcome on ambition, finance, responsibility and inclusion fallen so short?

He concluded:

    Labour rights are human rights! Unions need a voice at the table in social dialogue processes that deliver on jobs, just transition plans and investments."
    This is how we will deliver the climate ambition that is needed. We hoped for greater ambition here in Glasgow, and as we move forward, the global trade union movement demands that we set our sights much, much higher.

There were victories for unions: Just Transition language was introduced into the preamble texts of Article 6 of the Rulebook, dealing with International Carbon Markets, and there were promising commitments, such as the Declaration on Just Transition and the commitment to fund the phase-out of coal in South Africa.

Judith Kirton-Darling, deputy general secretary of industriAll Europe, said:

    "We regret the lack of ambition and commitment to Just Transition. Trade unions very actively demanded climate ambition linked to guarantees of quality jobs and strong social dialogue mechanisms. This will only be achieved if Just Transition commitments are integrated systematically into the operational parts of the Paris Agreement.

Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said:

    The transition to net zero is not a transition of the rich, governments, multinational companies and financial institutions. It is a transition of all people and all countries. However, at the last stages of the negotiations, this did not seem to matter to the powerhouses making the final decisions."
    We got a multilateral deal, but we saw a lot of hypocrisy and spin in the plenary room. We were especially disappointed to see the EU blocking developing countries’ demands for a finance mechanism to support them dealing with the loss and damage caused by climate disasters.

Trade unions will continue to fight for climate ambition linked to Just Transition in line with the ILO Guidelines at COP27 next year in Sharm-El-Sheikh.

Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication) and Corinna Zierold (senior policy adviser)