Saturday afternoon at the Gigiri conference centre. Our big day, a union Side Event -there's been a big climate change demo in town, and now we are here with speakers on Unions, climate change and employment . . .
Sophie Dupressoir of the European union confederation (ETUC) spoke about an ambitious study looking at the employment consequences of climate change across 12 EU nations. Climate change policies could be implemented with overall positive employment benefits. Massive job growth is forecast in sectors like renewables, but some areas, like electricity generation and road haulage could face difficulties. “Employment transition measures are therefore essential for social acceptance of climate policies," she told delegates.
Other union speakers described various models of union engagement with governments and industry on climate change in the UK, Spain and elsewhere. We didn't get the head of the UK delegation - he was called away to some urgent other event - but his stand-in,Ian Pickard, said his government bekieved that stakeholder engagement in policy development was a key part of the UK strategy. Hmmn. The TUC’s greenworkplaces project was a good practical example of concrete action to tackle energy use and carbon emissions at work. True.
Ana Belen Sanchez spoke about the Spanish Government’s tripartite social dialogue, set up in 2005 to plan commitments to meet its national carbon allocation plan. This is EU scheme to cut emissions by market trading. The Spanish dialogue is much more ambitious than the UK model. Consultations cover 1,000 installations in seven industrial sectors.
Daniel Van Daele from the Belgian unions said they were able to turn the government’s CDM tender process into a true tool for sustainable development by incorporating social criteria – such as respect for ILO Conventions. It's a great way to combine carbon saving projects in developing nations with good labour standards.
Then a comrade from Kenya asked a question from the floor - would European comrades defend Kenya's flower farms from attacks by European critics. A tough one! I said that European unions are concerned about the increasing carbon emissions from aviation, and see flying beans and flowers to our supermakets as seriously damaging and unecessary. But aviation unions are also becoming concerned about job losses if flights are limited. Sophie probably go it about right when she said earlier that “employment transition” measures are therefore essential for social acceptance of climate policies. And meanwhile what do we do now . . .
Lucien Royer for the International Trade Union Congress (who organised the event) told the 50 delegates present that the unions' strategy combined research and policymaking with concrete action in the workplace and across its membership. But building capacity among African unions was now a crunch issue, given their key role in disseminating climate knowledge information and encouraging engagement among their millions of members across the continent.