By Charlotte Blommestijn and Emily Hickson
Reporting from COP24 in Katowice
The setting of this year’s UN climate negotiations in one of the last remaining coal regions in Europe raises a question at the core of succeeding to limit warming to 1.5°C: how do we make a transition that is just and fair for the people and communities who will be affected by it?
World leaders are beginning to tackle this question, with the adoption of the ‘Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration’ this morning at COP24. “The choice we are making is not between jobs and natural environment, but whether we are going to keep both or none of them,” Polish President Andrzej Duda emphasised during the announcement.
Businesses concerned about just transition can join the Polish President in “being delighted” that 37 states, including Germany, France, Bangladesh and Nepal, as well as the EU as a whole have adopted this declaration. However, rightly, we must now ask these governments to put it into action by developing and sharing specific just transition plans (i.e. investment in green jobs, reskilling and investment in social security measures for those that cannot be transitioned) made in consultation with workers and employers and aligned with their national climate strategies.
These plans must consider all affected communities, not just in the energy sector, but across automotive, agriculture and other industries and include adequate financing. Crucially they must ensure these policies do not disproportionately affect the most poor and most vulnerable in society, whether from particular regions or sectors. We must have a transition that leaves no one behind.
If governments do invest in these types of measures within their new nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and national long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies, trust can be built between workers, employers and governments helping all sectors raise their ambition.
“This declaration means that workers and their unions will have a seat at the negotiating table and workers’ voices will be heard when climate policies are developed and implemented,” B Team Vice-Chair and International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow commented, “Good social dialogue processes are a crucial factor to make the changes to industries, sectors and national economies that will stop dangerous climate change and unleash a 65 million low-carbon jobs dividend by 2030.”
Business has stepped up and acted on the call for a just transition that protects all workers and communities. Enel, AGL and many others are making plans and commitments to manage impacts on workers and communities transitioning away from high-carbon sectors and ensuring new jobs in emerging, green sectors are decent and respect workers’ rights. Unilever, Autodesk, Orsted, Enel and Safaricom have taken the Pledge for a Just Transition to Decent Jobs, committing to a decent job-creating, rather than job-reducing, new net-zero economy.
For these companies, this was a natural next step in their decarbonisation efforts, reinforcing their dedication to upholding the rights of their workforce and respecting the communities they operate in. However it is only with concerted action by government fulfilling the recommendations of the Silesia Declaration that business and workers will be able to move further, faster toward a just net-zero future.