What will stop fuelling hothouse earth? Working people demand decent jobs on a living planet.

Working people and their families are on the front lines of the devastation of climate change. The temperatures of this year’s northern summer with drought, fires and floods putting lives and livelihoods at risk should be more than enough to focus government attention on urgent climate action. The last nineteen years included eighteen of the warmest years on record. Disasters triggered by weather and climate-related hazards were responsible for thousands of deaths and US$320 billion in losses in 2017.

Yet as we head towards the UN Climate Conference (COP24) in Poland in December, too many countries are failing to meet emission reduction targets and too many are still in denial. Lack of ambition and lack of action is the fuel for our own destruction.

Very few governments have seriously committed to Just Transition measures for workers and communities, yet these commitments for workers and communities affected by the shift away from fossil fuels are essential. Just as measures which will see investment in low carbon infrastructure, manufacturing and services will both ensure jobs and sustainability in cities or rural areas. Just Transition can be the driver of ambition

This is why trade unions will join the leaders of thoughtful companies, investors, and political leaders of cities, states and provinces along with civil society organisations at the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in California this week in both a call for ambition and a demonstration of action we can and are taking collectively.

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GCAS has been spearheaded by California’s Governor Brown, who presides over the fifth largest economy in the world — and they are not waiting for Donald Trump! Workers will be represented centre stage with Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, calling for protection of displaced workers, and Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, joining with the C40 group of cities in driving clean energy mass transit in the interests of jobs and climate and with our Just Transition Centre. I will be telling the stories of unions at the bargaining table for Just Transition. With a group of companies in energy production and distribution plus large corporate buyers, we will release a pledge that commits to renewable energy with jobs that meet the test of decent work.

With other companies we will initiate a dialogue to ensure social dialogue that secures Just Transition measures and decent work with other companies. And with the UN PRI, Harvard University and the London School of Economics, we will be launching a call to investors, our own pension fund managers, to ensure Just Transition is central to their investment decisions. With a shameful average 1% only being invested in low-carbon ventures, we need responsible fiduciary decisions that both scale up sustainable investment and ensure companies invested in are committed to Just Transition and engaged in dialogue with workers and their unions. Our own Committee on Workers’ Capital (CWC) will meet alongside the forum.

Union leaders and representatives from Australia, Canada, Norway, South Africa and the USA will be present to advocate for national and city ambition with concrete stories of action across cities, regions and communities.

The science is in. There are no jobs on a dead planet. But bold action on climate could deliver US$26 trillion in economic benefits by 2030 compared with business as usual. With Just Transition measures included, this could be the new growth story of the 21st century generating over 65 million new low-carbon jobs.

That’s why unions are calling for decent jobs on a living planet.

Sharan Burrow is moderating the session Creating a Just Transition: Decent Jobs and Climate Action at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco 13th September 2018.

Written by

General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. Representing the world's working people.

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