3 December 2018
COP24 has already become the “Just Transition COP”
At the formal opening of the COP today the outgoing COP President, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji told the assembly that the choice before us is stark: act, or become the generation that betrayed humanity – and called for the Conference to support the Polish theme of a Just Transition for all.
Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, called for the creation of a Katowice Rule Book for the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. To that end, Poland would present the “Silesia Declaration” on Solidarity and Just Transition.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said, “We are in big trouble, climate change is outrunning us and we must catch up.” He then called for a fair transition for workers and communities, through a transformation that will have opportunities and not just costs. To underline his points, he promised to convene a Climate Summit in September of 2019 in New York (outside of the UNFCCC process).
Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank, signaled that under her leadership, she would ensure that funding for climate change mitigation, resilience, and adaptation would be doubled and that she would help mobilize additional funding from the private sector. Every World Bank decision would be examined using a “climate lens”, and a “shadow carbon price” would be used in its calculations.
Finally, the President of the Conference of the Parties, Michał Kurtyka, called repeatedly for “a deep and Just Transition”. He asked that the Conference show the world vision, and hope. He presented the “Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration” and called on all governments to adopt the declaration.
By adopting the Silesia declaration, countries are committing to take seriously the impact of climate change and climate policies on workers, their families and the communities that depend on them when they prepare and implement their climate commitments, adaptation plans, and industrial strategies. It also places workers and their unions at the decision-making table when these plans are made. Already, a number of governments have pledged their support.
This is nothing short of historic. In 2015, unions successfully had Just Transition recognized in the Paris Agreement – but the Silesia Declaration makes Just Transition the centrepiece of its implementation rulebook.
The objective of the Declaration is not just to have a Declaration, but to inspire action at the international, national, regional and local levels. This translates into demanding public policy in the public interest via sustainable industrial policies and strong social protections.
Just Transition funds and programmes exist or are being created in countries from Spain to South Africa, from Canada to Australia. And the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) will now be known as the “Just Transition COP”.
It is extremely gratifying to see it become mainstream global policy. Let us hope that it was not too late in coming.
2 December 2018
The first plenary meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place on 2 December, 2018, in Katowice, Poland.
With the election of Mr. Michał Kurtyka, the Polish State Secretary, Ministry of Energy, as President COP 24, the annual discussions of how the world responds to the global climate change challenge, commenced. The choice of Katowice – a steel, coal, and industrial centre – as venue is a welcome signal by the Polish Presidency that the impacts of climate change measures on workers and communities must not be forgotten.
The opening plenary was business-like and covered the necessary administrative decisions for the COP and its subsidiary bodies to commence their work. Missing from the opening plenary were any visionary statements of ambition or intent. Perhaps we will hear more of these in the formal opening ceremonies, on Monday.
COP24 is tasked with mapping out the implementation of the Paris Agreement; and the matter of Just Transition is expected to play an important part in the COP24 discussions.
This conference opens under the urgent warnings of recent scientific revelations that the trajectory of climate change is worse than previously estimated. The best science we have now estimates that we have only about 12 years left if the world intends to limit global average warming to less than 1.5 celsius degrees above pre-industrial levels. This, it should be noted, is a level of global warming that will still have many serious consequences, but it is a level that is considered to be manageable.
The need to act is clear, and urgent. The good news is that making the necessary changes is both technologically and economically possible, if the nations of the world make it a priority. It is also socially possible: if and only if workers affected by these transformations are fully protected. IndustriALL and other global labour organizations cannot allow the social dimension of these changes to be ignored. With such an urgent timeline, the world needs all of its citizens to be on-board – and that can only happen if affected workers, their families, and the communities that depend on them are kept whole. That is the meaning of a Just Transition. We will be making that point strongly, and repeatedly, throughout this COP.