International action on Just Transition: what’s been accomplished, and proposals for the future

ituc logoJust Transition – Where are we now and what’s next? A Guide to National Policies and International Climate Governance  was released on September 19 by the International Trade Union Confederation, summarizing what has been done to date by the ITUC and through  international agencies such as the  ILO, UNFCCC, and the  Paris Agreement.  It also provides short summaries of some transition situations, including the Ruhr Valley in Germany, Hazelwood workers in the LaTrobe Valley, Australia, U.S. Appalachian coal miners and the coal mining pension plan, Argentinian construction workers, and Chinese coal workers.  Finally, the report calls for concrete steps to advance Just Transition and workers’ interests.

The report defines Just Transition on a national or regional scale, as  “an economy-wide process that produces the plans, policies and investments that lead to a future where all jobs are green and decent, emissions are at net zero, poverty is eradicated, and communities are thriving and resilient.” But the report also argues that Just Transition is important for companies, with social dialogue and collective bargaining as key tools to manage the necessary industrial transformation at the organizational level.  To that end, the ITUC is launching “A Workers Right To Know” as an ITUC campaign priority for 2018, stating, “Workers have a right to know what their governments are planning to meet the climate challenge and what the Just Transition measures are. Equally, workers have a right to know what their employers are planning, what the impact of the transition is and what the Just Transition guarantees will be. And workers have a right to know where their pension funds are invested with the demand that they are not funding climate or job destruction.”

The ITUC report makes new proposals. It calls on the ILO to take a more ambitious role and to negotiate a Standard for Just Transition by 2021, carrying on from the Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies forAll  (2015).   The ITUC also states “expectations” of how Just Transition should be given greater priority in the international negotiation process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), so that:  Just Transition commitments are incorporated into the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of countries; Just Transition for workers becomes a permanent theme within the forum on response measures under the Paris Agreement, and Just Transition is included in the 2018 UNFCCC Facilitative Dialogue. It also calls for the launch of a “Katowice initiative for a Just Transition” at the COP23 meetings to take place in Katowice, Poland in 2018, “to provide a high-level political space”.  Finally, the ITUC calls for expansion of the eligibility criteria of the Green Climate Fund to allow  the funding of Just Transition projects.

Just Transition – Where are we now and what’s next? is a Climate Justice Frontline Briefing from the International Trade Union Confederation, with support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and is based upon Strengthening Just Transition Policies in International Climate Governance by Anabella Rosemberg, published as a Policy Analysis Brief by the Stanley Foundation in 2017.

Other Just Transition News:  In Calgary in September, the  Just Transition and Good Green Jobs in Alberta Conference took place, sponsored by BlueGreen Alberta, with updates on national and provincial developments and with a global perspective from Samantha Smith, Director of the ITUC’s Just Transition Centre as the keynote speaker.  A companion event, the 3rd Annual Alberta Climate Summit, hosted by the Pembina Institute and Capital Power,  also included a session on  “Just Transition: Labour and Indigenous Perspectives” which featured Andres Filella (Metis Nation of Alberta), Samantha Smith(Just Transition Centre) and Heather Milton-Lightening ( Indigenous Climate Action Network).

In advance of these events, the Alberta government had announced  on  September  11  the launch of  the Coal Community Transition Fund to assist Alberta communities impacted by the mandated coal-phase out in the province.   Municipalities and First Nations can apply for grant funding to support economic development initiatives that focus on regional partnerships and economic diversification.  Further funding is anticipated from the federal government, with retraining programs also expected after the Advisory Panel on Coal Communities  provides its recommendations in a report to the government, expected this fall.

Business Voices call for Net-zero Emissions Target at COP21, as well as Carbon Pricing and an end to Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The B-Team, a group of international business leaders, released an Open Letter to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change on Feb. 5, calling on governments to commit to a zero-net-emissions target for 2050 at the COP 21 talks in Paris in 2015. Further, they call for businesses and governments to adopt meaningful and effective carbon pricing; an end to all fossil fuel subsidies, and redirection of that capital to renewable energy solutions; and for businesses and governments “to ensure the benefits of responses to climate change flow to vulnerable and impoverished communities that suffer disproportionately from climate change and are least equipped to cope with its impacts”. In October 2014, the B-Team partnered with other business organizations (The Climate Group, Ceres, Carbon Disclosure Project, BSR, World Business Council for Sustainable Business and the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group) to form the We Mean Business Coalition.

UN COP-19 underway in Warsaw from November 11-22

The first week of the UN COP19 proceeded with a sombre air following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Despite this, talks faced significant difficulties as Japan announced a reduction to its emission targets and Australia declared its decision to axe the country’s carbon tax.

Canada has come under criticism for applauding Australia and encouraging other countries to follow suit. The WWF condemned Canada for undermining progress at the talks, while NDP Environment Critic Megan Leslie asserted that “the Conservatives are still asleep at the wheel” in a statement issued November 13th.

Delegates from Warsaw have indicated that the new accord will likely abandon the international treaty model of past agreements and instead resemble a “patchwork” of national emissions reduction targets that are governed by domestic law. COP19 is seen as a precursor to the more important international conference in Paris in 2015.

See the speeches and documentation from COP19 at the UNFCC website at: http://unfccc.int/2860.php; See WWF condemns Canada at: http://www.wwf.eu/index.cfm?212403/WWF-condemns-Japan-Australia-Canada-undermining-progress-climate-talks, and the NDP statement on Canada at COP19 at: http://www.ndp.ca/news/statement-ndp-cop19-united-nations-framework-convention-climate-change.