Decent work and just transition to address climate change
Organized by the International Labour Organization and the Geneva Environment Network
Held 50 days in advance of the 2015 United Nations Paris Climate Conference (COP21), this dialogue aimed to offer a platform for sharing views and perspectives on how the creation of decent work and a just transition for all can contribute to a climate agreement that fully engages the actors in the world of work in the transition towards low-carbon societies.
Introduction - Climate change: negotiations and prospects for COP21
Peter POSCHEN, Director, Enterprises Department, ILO
Nick NUTTALL, Coordinator Communications and Outreach, UNFCCC (video)
Decent work and just transition to address climate change
Hon. Esther R. BYER-SUCKOO, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Barbados - Guest of Honour
H.E. Amb. Cecilia B. REBONG, Permanent Representative of the Philippines
YU Vicente Paolo, Coordinator, Global Governance for Development Programme, South Centre
Moderator: Steven STONE, Chief, Economics and Trade Branch, UNEP
H.E. Amb. Luis Enrique CHÁVEZ BASAGOITIA, Permanent Representative of Peru (COP 20 Presidency)
H.E. Amb. Elisabeth LAURIN, Permanent Representative of France (COP 21 Presidency)
Summary and discussion
Peter POSCHEN opened the session, introducing the potential synergies for decent work for all and climate mitigation policies. He stressed that the world of work is full of solutions for climate change.
Peter mentioned key milestones on the decent work and climate change joint agendas such as (1) the World of Work Summit at the 2015 International Labour Conference (ILC), which focused on the relationship between sustainable development, green jobs, (2) the conclusions adopted at the 2013 ILC, (3) the launch of the ILO's the green initiative, (4) the launch of the Peru & France joint initiative, (5) the French President Francois Hollande's speech at the 2015 ILC, (6) the ILO October 2015 expert meeting to develop policy guidelines to put conclusions into practice.
Nick NUTTALL, UNFCCC spokesperson, provided an updated on COP21 preparations and main challenges. Nick mentioned the over 140 countries have submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These are now being aggregated into a report that will be launched on 30 October 2015, in Berlin. He stressed that environmental finance is an important issue and that finance was central to discussions in Lima last week (WorldBank and FMI meeting) and is at the heart of the agreement. Nick also referred to the OECD's analysis on climate financial flows from developed to developing countries.
Steven STONE, UNEP Economics and Trade Branch Chief, introduced the panel and stressed that the transition to green and decent job is coming fast. Steven mentioned Pope Francis’ message in his address to UN General Assembly in New York: when the environment is affected, we are all affected. He said that finance is central to the transition.
Hon. Esther R. BYER-SUCKOO referred to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by UN general assembly and said that labor is in Goal 8. She spoke about how we can work together at different levels to develop the necessary policies to achieve decent green work. She said that government, employers, workers are eager to find solutions. We have to all work together. She mentioned the challenges for small island developing states and stressed that Barbados is already feeling the effects of climate change and using solar energy. They are already seeing jobs change and seeking retraining. There are opportunities for decent work as we transition to a green economy.
Hon. Esther R. BYER-SUCKOO said that the guidelines (LO October 2015 expert meeting policy guidelines) present a comprehensive policy framework for governments to work with social partners and other stakeholders including the private sector. She mentioned the nine policy areas of the guidelines and noted the collaborative spirit of tripartite meeting; all were willing to find ways to converge goals and "make it work". Finally, she emphasized the importance of social dialogue.
Amb. Cecilia B. REBONG mentioned Philippines vulnerability: top 5 in this year's vulnerability report, #5 in the German Watch climate change index, #3 in disaster risk for 1994-2014. She referred to the effects of sea level rise on arable land and the effects of changing thermal conditions on working conditions of outdoor workers. She stressed that Philippines don't want to be remembered for the disasters and losses but for their resilience – rising above these challenges. They are rethinking engagement with stakeholders, looking at new technology for green industries, re-skilling, and adjust education systems and social safety nets to new circumstances.
She referred to a side event at the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council in June. She said that corporate social responsibility is not enough; we need environmentally consciousness business leaders. She mentioned other initiatives: the "Green Jobs Bill," the first of its kind; ILO's Greening Enterprises Programme (awareness raising, research, skills development, integrated livelihood assistance and employment programs, linking disaster and climate change management with social protection and active labour market policies); and disaster risk management (preparedness, mitigation, adaptation).
Amb. REBONG mentioned the launch of the "Vulnerable 20" (V20) - Barbados is also a member - at the Lima meeting of finance ministers in early October 2015. Finally, she called for increased collaboration on nexus between work and climate change, and endorsed the just transition policy guidelines.
YU Vicente Paolo speaking points can be downloaded below. He recalled when "just transitions" were first mentioned in internal G77 negotiations; there was a resounding "yes" to adopt. He said that the just transition idea should not be considered as an add-on to climate negotiations; it needs to be built into discussions and text. He added that at present, the just transition idea is only included in the preamble of the climate agreement; how do we operationalize it?
Vicente spoke about transitions in developing countries:
- national level education, skills training, capacity building programmes
- social protection floors for workers who have "fallen through the tracks"
- elimination of barriers to sustainable development
- support beyond national skills programs including finance and technology transfer
- strong social dialogue and consultation with all stakeholders throughout the transition process
In the discussion World Vision International representative, Beris GWYNNE, said that we should pay attention more to ecosystems than economy, livelihoods over work. Are we looking creatively enough at the context and narrative that shapes the work we are to do for COP21 and onwards? She said that there are many existing approaches that can be scaled up if there were more creativity and proper financing, and called for more partnerships.
Panellists stressed that education is the "golden thread"; the most powerful weapon against climate change is mass public education. A well educated population can support and enable governments to achieve climate action. Investing in education is investing in the future and in human capital. Emphasis should also be put on women and youth.
Amb. Luis Enrique CHÁVEZ BASAGOITIA remembered that Peru chaired and hosted the UN Climate Change Conference (COP20), where several key points were agreed: the need of a universal binding climate change agreement to be signed in the COP21, the rules on how every country will submit their national contributions, the establishment of the Green Climate Fund and the launch of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda.
Since Peru holds the Presidency of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, these elements are at the centre of the negotiations and important progresses have been made.
Nonetheless, the role of decent work wasn't considered at the COP20. This gap was filled thanks to an ILO initiative, which concluded with the signature of Peru and France of the "Joint call for action on climate change and decent work". As a direct result of this Joint call, the draft decision released on 5 October 2015 has included this dimension in its 6th preambular paragraph and may be also present in the preambular section of the agreement.
Amb. Elisabeth LAURIN said that "there are no jobs on a dead planet". She mentioned that the idea is to have a global environmental alliance based on 4 pillars:
1. The global climate agreement: short and accessible text released to public on 5 October 2015; will be discussed next week at Bonn.
2. Ambitious INDCs, important indicator of state mobilization - a "collective dynamic".
3. Finance - needs were identified in Copenhagen; $15b more in Lima; by 2020 $5b more.
4. The solutions agenda to come into effect in 2020. Civil and private sector action is crucial to success.