Working together collectively is never easy, but winning makes it worthwhile – any trade unionist will tell you that much.
The signing of the Paris Climate Agreement is a signal to working people, communities and to business, that governments recognise they need to work together collectively to keep the average global surface temperature to “well below 2C”, compared to the pre-industrial era.
The Agreement was never going to be the ambitions treaty that the world attempted in Copenhagen, but it sets a global framework, is legally binding and sets us on the path for the massive industrial transformation required.
The Paris Agreement also includes a commitment for a just transition.
When there are plans for a just transition, when you can see the future, people will have hope; hope is vital to overcome the fear that drives people to say no to change. Workers in some industries have been through many small-scale transitions, and they’ve learnt that too often they are simply displaced.
When governments take responsibility for a national plan for energy, for decarbonisation, for jobs and communities; a plan that shares the economic transformation across an entire country and doesn’t leave one sector or one community to shoulder the burden, we’ll know we’re talking about a just transition.
When companies understand that workers aren’t negotiating just for individual jobs, but for the life and soul of communities that depend on their work, we’ll know that we’re talking about a just transition.
And when workers have a seat at the table and a fair and equitable stake in the dialogue, we’ll know we’re talking about a transition which provides justice for everyone, not just those at the very top.
There’s no doubt that the systems change required for a zero carbon future is massive – it’s an industrial transformation that must be faster and deeper than at any time in our history. The challenge of industrial transformation is both an imperative and an opportunity.
Without a plan for a just transition, there will be fear and uncertainty for workers and business. That’s why we’ve started the conversation with workers, and their communities. Workers have a right to know how companies will be transitioning to a zero carbon future.
Our job now is to demand a dialogue between employers and unions, to make sure working people have a clear view of the future of their jobs. We say very clearly that our grandchildren may very well work in energy, but they won’t work in fossil fuels. This requires a national commitment to frame the dialogue, and ultimately then a national plan.
Government responsibility starts with the signing of the Paris Agreement, but does not end there. The next steps are the most critical, which is why we demand a plan to meet our shared commitments.
Most nations don’t have such a plan and are not on target to meet their national contributions let alone higher ambition. Germany, some of the Scandinavian nations, legislation in France, contended regulation in the U.S. and an emerging dialogue in Canada and a few African nation's make up the sum game to date. This is simply not enough. The urgent challenge is have to have business, trade unions and governments engaged everywhere to develop a plan for a zero carbon world.
We know there are jobs in action on climate, millions of jobs. With infrastructure investment projected to be US $90 trillion in next 15 years to 2030, this means jobs. There are more jobs in construction, manufacturing, transport and services as we green every industry and build the mega cities that will accommodate population growth. There are more jobs in agriculture and reforestation.
Already the U.S. solar industry is creating jobs 20 times faster than the overall economy while the world's largest renewable energy job market is in China, with 3.4 million working in the industry. And in Germany, 370,000 people are employed in renewable energy, the largest number in Europe.
At the closing of the Paris Climate Summit, together with the ITUC, We Mean Business, The B Team and seven major international NGOs we made a commitment to a just transition dialogue for a zero carbon future.
Representing half a million people and a thousand business we made a start. But we are on borrowed time.
Working together collectively is the only way we’re going to keep global temperatures well below two degrees, and ensure we live within planetary boundaries.
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