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COP25 blog – 15 December 2019

In my last blog post, dated 13 December 2019, I stated that “perhaps some of the unresolved issues, will have been resolved” by the time of this final report. It turns out I was optimistic: overall, the final outcome of COP25 is disappointing even if it contains a few good results. 

What’s Good

  • The outcome acknowledges that NDCs need to be significantly enhanced for the Glasgow COP, next year.
  • A Gender Action Plan was approved, aiming to increase the participation of women in all UNFCCC processes and to support gender-responsive climate policies.
  • There is a workplan on Response Measures that will deal with Just Transition and the creation of decent work and quality jobs.
  • NGOs, including trade unions, collaborated well at this COP – perhaps better than at any other I have attended.

What’s Not So Good

  • The worst thing is that a serious discussion on dealing with what has indeed become a climate emergency, was largely avoided. Australia, Brazil, China, Saudi Arabia and the USA created most of the resistance to a strong decision.
  • Article 6 is unresolved: the discussion seems to have been hijacked by several Parties who wanted to be able to use emissions credits granted under the Kyoto Protocol towards the NDCs of the Paris Agreement. Since there is a large number of such credits outstanding, this would seriously undermine the Paris Agreement’s effectiveness. I would suspect that there are also those who imagine an emissions trading market as a place where a few would stand to make a lot of money. In any case no agreement could be reached on the protection of human rights or environmental integrity under a hypothetical emissions trading system. Therefore this entire discussion will be taken up again in Glasgow. Given that the discussions were failing to acknowledge the need to protect human and social rights, or even to guarantee progress on the environmental front, it is probably just as well that the text was not agreed upon and adopted. A bad agreement on emissions trading would clearly be worse than no agreement.
  • Although some new financial commitments have been made, the finance mechanism is still inadequately funded, in particular to address the concerns of climate-related loss and damage. We will not achieve the Paris goals on the NDCs of rich countries alone; finance to help poorer nations must be part of the package, and is part of the UNFCCC commitment.
  • Civil society observers (a category that includes trade union delegates) faced increasing difficulties accessing the discussions.

Trade unions wanted much more ambition and much stronger commitments to Just Transition from this COP, in discussions of climate response measures and elsewhere. We were successful in having Just Transition referenced in the Workplan on Response Measures; but there is no clarity on how they will be actualized. We also have the roll-out of the Climate Action for Jobs Initiative, a significant win for trade unions; and not forgetting that the Just Transition words in the Paris Agreement still stand. However progress in the formal outcomes of COP25 has been limited despite our best efforts.

Much time was wasted by Parties choosing to debate trivialities. So another opportunity has not been fully utilized, and we can only hope that COP26 next year in Glasgow, Scotland will do a better job. That is the year where Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) will be revised. Trade Unions therefore have one year to put pressure on their governments to sign up to the Climate Action for Jobs Initiative, and to integrate Just Transition measures with their NDCs.

Here is the closing statement made on behalf of the trade union constituency, read by Francis Stuart of the Scottish Trade Union Confederation in the closing plenary (as COP26 will take place in Glasgow in 2020).

Dear President,

My name is Francis Stuart from the Scottish Trade Union Confederation. I’m speaking on behalf of the global workers movement, represented by the ITUC. We represent 207 million workers from 165 countries. 

What we have seen in the last two weeks is nothing short of a disgrace. Unions are bitterly disappointed. We were hoping to see governments agreeing on ambitious climate justice policies that responded to the climate emergency that is threatening our lives, jobs, livelihoods, communities and dignity. What we see is the polar opposite.

Civil society has been locked out – quite literally – while Government’s backtrack on what has been

Negotiated over the years. What we have seen here is nothing less than parties trying to dismantle the Paris Agreement. They are much more interested in trading emissions and making money from it, instead of actually reducing them. There is no respect for the science, no respect for human rights, no social justice, no ambition and no commitments to action.

This failure cannot be disentangled from the crises we see around the world.

  • The rich getting richer while the poor suffer. This is exacerbated by climate change.
  • Trade unionists under attack.
  • Governments – including the Chilean Government – attacking their people.

We need bold transformative action from Government’s to pave the way for a Just Transition. Next year’s COP will be in my home city of Glasgow. We need to see climate measures to protect workers rights and create decent jobs.

  • Workers have to be at the table to negotiate enhanced NDCs, to be ready to be presented in Glasgow not waiting for other governments to go first or delaying to see how it turns out;
  • We want social protection policies for people that will be impacted;
  • And we want the rich countries to pay up for the climate finance they have committed to for so many years.

None of this is reflected in this COP.

This COP has failed the people and the planet. People power, climate Justice.

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