US President Barack Obama, in announcing his clean power plan stated, “Climate change is not a problem for another generation - we are the last generation that can do something about it”. The announcement on the 3 August commits the US Government to a reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions by 32%, from 2005 levels, by 2030.
China, responsible for a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, has also committed to capping its greenhouse gas emissions. China’s 2020 pledge consists of overall reduction of CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2020.
Adapting to and mitigating against climatic changes will in the long term, but clearly visible now from the global commitments, usher in fundamental changes to the way we conduct our everyday lives, the sectors we work in and the way we work.
People centred concept
The Just Transition concept for trade union members is not new – it represents our core values of defending workers in a changing world.
This includes quality employment, safe workplaces, informing and educating members and bargaining for the retraining and up-skilling of workers to meet the demands of a changing world.
Just Transition describes the move towards a low‐carbon and climate‐resilient economy that maximises the benefits of climate action while minimising hardships for workers and their communities. Needs will vary in different sectors - though some policies should be applied everywhere. These include:
- Sound investments in low-emission and job-rich sectors and technologies;
- Dialogue and democratic consultation of all front-line stakeholders;
- Research and early assessment of employment impacts of climate policies and
- Training and skills development of the workforce to embrace change.
Essentially, the concept articulates the social element of climate change and provides the narrative and indicators for ensuring that societies, nations and companies transition fairly and equitably to low carbon operations that mitigate against and adapt to climate change. The core ‘Just Transition’ message is that no-one gets left behind.
It’s not just about saving money
Within all workplaces we have seen a shift to environment appropriate behaviours covering waste, energy efficiency and travel policies.
Even at an industrial level there is a growth in evaluating processes to determine carbon output and innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gases whilst improving efficiency through technology.
While a driver is “cost” most of this individual and corporate behaviour is driven by policy, legislation and regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change plans.
Under the Climate Change Act, the UK has a legal commitment to reduce emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. It is a target designed to be in line with actions required across the world to preserve a 50% likelihood of staying below the global 2 degree warming – a safe temperature in which humanity can operate and survive.
The devolved governments of Scotland and Wales have similar legislation with their own established targets. Northern Ireland is in the process of consulting on targets and possible legislation.
Workplace bargaining for a Just Transition can include energy efficiency initiatives, home and flexible working patterns and strategic travel plans aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.