International Confederation of Free Trade Unions  Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD  Employment, Climate Change & Sustainable Development   Trade Union Statement to the COP4  Argentina Conference  (2-13 November 1998)

Sustainable Employment and the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

Urgent action needed  

1. Trade unions around the world are increasingly conscious of the need to take concerted international action to slow down and, ultimately halt the process of global warming. The strong scientific consensus over the relationship between rising levels of green house gases, climate change and the steadily increasing risk of disruptive environmental effects must be matched by a strong political consensus for international action. Such action will require major economic changes in many countries and have a considerable impact on the structure of employment. However, as yet, the international community has given little attention to the sustainable employment strategies which will be the key to the broad political support needed for successful  programmes to reduce greenhouse gas emission. 
 Avoiding the jobs versus the environment dilemma  

2. The Buenos Aires Conference of the Parties (COP4) must therefore initiate a serious programme of work now to analyse the positive and negative effects on employment of possible scenarios for emission reductions, along with scenarios based on policies that will be needed to address the regional, international and sectoral mismatches they are likely to reveal. Unless such work is put in hand now, international policies on climate change could conflict with global efforts to reduce unemployment and poverty in developing, transition and industrial countries. 
 Employment Issues are the Key to Consensus   

3. The success of emission reduction strategies will depend on the engagement of workers and their trade unions, working with employers to achieve agreed targets at workplaces and in promoting political support for other measures within their communities around the world. For this to materialise, workers must feel confident that their livelihoods are not jeopardised. Governments at Kyoto failed to address this fundamental problem. Sustainable employment must, therefore, become a cornerstone of sustainable development policies in general, and climate change policies in particular. 

 Engaging the Trade Union Movement in Climate Change Policies 

 Setting Targets are only Part of the Solution 

4. The failure to address employment issues at both the national and international levels is a major weakness of the Kyoto Protocol. It is vital that in developing mechanisms to implement the agreement, employment issues are integrated into follow-up programmes. In the European Union, for example, the European Trade Union Confederation and national unions have supported strong implementation measures and are actively involved in examining and addressing employment issues. In many other countries unions have not been involved in climate change discussions with the consequence that employment issues have been neglected. This range of response indicates how the potential for broadly-based worker and public support for integrated and effective target-setting and implementation can be jeopardised by inadequate consideration of social impacts of proposed changes. A just employment transition programme should be the basis for stronger public agreement on essential measures, including for the eventual support of any climate change protocol. 
 Workers are at the front-line of expected changes  

5. The direct impacts of a sea level rise alone create the potential for over 60 million environmental refugees by 2030, as 70 per cent of the world's population live and work within 60 kilometres of the coast. When other anticipated effects are accounted for, the potential for disruption of workers lives and jobs is staggering. In addition, hundreds of thousands of workers within CO2 contributing industrial sectors, which are the focus of desired changes, (i.e. manufacturing, energy, transportation and construction) are at risk of losing their livelihood, thereby increasing the risk of higher levels of poverty and social unrest. Further, as existing programmes and insurance schemes become inadequate, workers will be expected to bear the social costs of disruption through increased taxes and levies imposed by all levels of governments to support preventive measures, disaster relief and re-fitting of production, as well as the restoration of damage caused by the effects of climate change itself. Many other costs and effects have yet to be quantified or assessed. 
 Just Transition Mechanisms must be foreseen 

6. Equitable distribution of costs through "Just Transition" policies must deal with the recovery of the economic and social costs of climate change and of emission reduction programmes.  Companies, which have profited from unsustainable practices, must assume their share of responsibility. As a means of building social consensus around climate change policies, transition measures must provide for income protection, redundancy procedures, re-employment, education and re-training, coupled with promoting employment through energy conservation, alternative energy development and “green job” creation strategies, generally. The employment potential of new and alternative energy paths is encouraging, but translating this into reality will require active government employment programmes with a mixture of solutions, including with appropriate financial mechanisms. 

 Can Tradable Permits Work? 

 Avoiding Policy Conflicts: The Case of Tradable Permits  

 7. Trade unions are concerned that the use of tradable permits in emission reduction programmes has yet to be adequately thought through, especially with regard to their impact on jobs. All measures, including tradable permits, must be analysed in terms of an overall sustainable employment strategy. The intent of the international resolve to limit greenhouse gases must not be undermined by ill-conceived or poorly implemented measures. Strong regulatory measures to verify environmental performance would be essential to ensure the credibility of any system of tradable permits. For example, any system which might lead to job losses with little or no overall improvement in emission reductions would seriously damage public support for climate change programmes. Furthermore, revenues from related financial mechanisms must be properly directed to promote environment, employment and economic development to eliminate possible  regressive effects on income distribution and social development. 

 COP 4 must initiate work on Sustainable Employment Strategies 

 Co-ordinated Research: Paving the Way for Concerted Action. 

8. The ICFTU and TUAC urge decision-makers at COP-4 to consider the ways to undertake large-scale detailed studies on the employment implications of adopted targets or implementation measures. Research by international and inter-governmental bodies into the employment implications of climate change and its mitigation must be encouraged as a first step and as a means of fully understanding the best approaches for implementation and transition measures. In particular, the ILO and OECD, must assume responsibility in both doing basic research and promoting it. The ILO has a clear mandate to address employment related issues. As well, the OECD has a responsibility to undertake concrete action as part of its programme of work which grows out of last April's Environment Ministerial meeting in Paris. The complexity of the research needed cannot be underrated. It must include the interacting effects of financial, trade and investment decisions on employment as related to climate change. As well, it must be a continually evolving process, modelled after new and emerging knowledge from the scientific and other research communities. Such research must also have practical results, pointing to alternative courses of action for national and regional governments in shaping their economic and employment policies. 
 Social Partnerships for Actions on Emissions:  

9. The setting of targets and implementation of measures through the millions of workplaces which trade unions have organised around the world will become the centre of changes which will be needed. Trade unions have shown how such tools as workplace eco-audits are suited to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation and eco-efficiency. Workplaces can also be powerful vehicles to influence personal consumption patterns of workers at the job site, travelling to and from their homes and in their communities. This calls for promoting partnerships with governments, employers and NGOs in very tangible ways.  Joint employer/trade union programmes must be encouraged and working with community organisations must become common practice.  Governments must play a central role in promoting stakeholder involvement in decision-making and in ensuring transparency, as decided by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in April 1998 which urged governments to include workers and trade unions within the decision-making framework on sustainable development 

Low Emission Development Must Start Now 
Sustainable employment and development  

10. Emissions from developing countries are rising fast and the costs of breaking away from high emissions development patterns will be onerous. While industrial countries have a responsibility to take the lead in cutting emissions, developing countries must also start to participate in emissions limitations. Industrial countries should provide substantial financial and technical assistance as a means of enabling developing countries to adopt binding targets within the context of differentiated goals and long term implementation strategy. In this context, it is vital that projects, especially in the energy and transport sectors, be supported by bilateral or multilateral development assistance and also incorporate greenhouse gas targets to lower emissions.


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