Wednesday, October 21, 2009

International Metal Federation report on International Union Federation meeting on Climate Change

Cut emissions and transform jobs
Oct 20, 2009
Anita Gardner

The transition to a low-carbon economy must guarantee employment and result in the development of new, decent jobs, say participants at global industrial unions' meeting on climate change.

GERMANY: On October 14 and 15, the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF) and the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers' Federation (EMCEF) organised a conference in Bad Orb, Germany entitled "Cutting Emissions, Transforming Jobs".

The goal of the meeting was to discuss how industrial workers might present a common position at the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Copenhagen Denmark. The UNFCCC COP-15 conference, as it is called, is expected to propose a new set of agreements on greenhouse gas emissions targets to renew or replace those contained within the Kyoto Accord.

Speaking at the meeting, IMF General Secretary Jyrki Raina said, "Our industrial sectors are frequently seen as contributors to the current environmental crisis. Yet it is within these very industries that solutions already exist or are being developed. We want to reduce emissions, while at the same time increasing employment and protecting the environment."

The industrial workers' unions prepared a background discussion document taking into account work that had already been done, such as ICEM's recently-adopted policy on Sustainability. The meeting was structured around five panel discussions: environmental protection, sustainable development, sectoral concerns, sustainable job creation, and just transition.

The lively discussion covered a vast territory, some of the points made include:

* the environmental crisis is as much a failure of global capitalism as the recent and ongoing economic crisis
* good jobs and a clean environment go hand in hand, we will have both; or we will have neither
* developing countries must have their chance to develop. However, their development need not follow the same harmful paths as it did in developed countries that caused the environmental crisis in the first place. International institutions for capital and finance, resurgent protectionism, and restrictions on technology transfer, can create a new era of colonialism if we do not prevent it
* trade unions must hold governments and employers to account, particularly regarding the social dimension of sustainability

The delegates from all four organizations welcomed the opportunity to discuss the social and economic consequences of trying to solve the present environmental crisis. Overall, there was a consensus that industrial sector unions need to make our voices heard in Copenhagen, and particularly to be the champions of the social dimension of sustainable development. While there are certainly concerns within specific industries and regions, and therefore a need for strong Just Transition programs, there are also many opportunities for sustainable job creation.

The ICEM, IMF, EMF and EMCEF will be reviewing the discussion document and comments received over the next couple of weeks. Following this review, we will finalize the materials we will bring to COP-15 in Copenhagen to make our points with the country representatives negotiating the new agreement.

Following the meeting, Manfred Warda, ICEM General Secretary said, "For industrial workers and their unions an important question for changing to a low-carbon economy is who pays for it and who benefits from the transition. We only have one planet and we all have an interest in protecting our future."

Copies of the background paper and presentations delivered at the meeting are published on the IMF website.

Additional information about climate change and the position of industrial workers can be found on the following web links:


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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