By Sharan Burrow and Mary Robinson
Yesterday we witnessed much needed climate leadership at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany. More than 25 countries, states and regions, led by the United Kingdom and Canada and including Fiji, Mexico, the Marshall Islands, France, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Quebec, Oregon and Alberta, announced their participation in the Powering Past Coal Alliance and their declaration to accelerating growth through a rapid transition from coal power to clean power.
The Powering Past Coal Alliance declared that a transition away from coal is necessary if the world is to deliver the Paris Agreement. It is also critical for climate justice and the protection of human rights.
Today we celebrate this commitment to delivering concrete action on cutting emissions. We wish to emphasise, however, that the transition away from coal to net-zero emissions can only happen with commitment from governments and businesses to work hand-in-hand with workers to ensure a just transition, which secures decent, low-emissions jobs, upholds rights, protects vulnerable workers and communities and leaves no one behind.
As B Team Leaders, we urge that the Powering Past Coal Alliance ensure that their work and statements about it include this “just transition,” as enshrined in the preamble of the Paris Agreement and by the International Labour Organisation. The fact that the declaration does not include just transition is in our view a major omission. Minister McKenna of Canada and Minister Shaw of New Zealand both reflected on the need for just transition during their remarks yesterday.
As the Powering Past Coal Alliance moves forward, we hope that it can revisit its declaration and commitments by participants, so that they reflect just transition as well as moving away from coal. Governments who support the alliance should commit to setting targets to move away from existing traditional coal power through a just transition of the workforce, that protects human rights and takes steps to revitalize affected communities. Businesses and other partners should commit to powering their operations without coal and to collaborating with unions to achieve to a just transition for workers and communities that spurs new, decent and low-emissions jobs.
We, like our fellow B Team Leaders, know that businesses will only grasp the opportunities of the net-zero economy if workers are partners in the process to develop concrete plans to protect themselves and their communities. This cooperation will ensure workers get the skills and opportunities they need for good and green new jobs that respect global labour standards.
We are pleased to see fellow B Team Leader Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, which has an industry-leading coal phase out commitment, working with the alliance to explore how the global business community can engage. We, along with partners such as We Mean Business, encourage continued support for a just transition to power past coal and encourage business to join this alliance.