IndustriALL Global Union’s director of sustainability, Brian Kohler, reports with a trade union perspective from the climate change summit taking place in Katowice, Poland, from 2-14 December.
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.
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