“Cutting Emissions - Transforming Jobs" in the WoW

An article by Brian Kohler (International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions - ICEM):

The ICEM and the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) jointly held a discussion panel entitled “Cutting Emissions - Transforming Jobs," exploring the links between the economic, environmental, and social crises. The 7 December panel was part of a trade union-sponsored side event at COP16 and was held at the Universidad del Sur in Cancún, Mexico, under the general banner "World of Work."

Several high-profile trade unionists gave their perspectives on how to preserve and create decent, sustainable jobs, and the role of trade unions in fighting climate change.

Shoichiro Kaneko, IMF-JC/JBU of Japan, emphasized the progress that nation has made in controlling carbon emissions through technological advances, and the support offered to the proposed climate fund. However, he expressed concern about the potential for carbon leakage if a new accord does not include all the major emitters and is not enforceable.

Michael O’Connor, National Secretary-elect of Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMEU) told of how his union had forged a working relationship with environmental groups to unlock the economic potential for a new pulp and paper mill in Tasmania.

He said the key was to remember that a trade union represents workers, and to ensure that their voice is heard.

James Howard of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) elaborated on ITUC’s policy of Just Transition. Far from simple, a Just Transition will only be achieved through research, dialogue, union-employer agreements, strong social programmes, investments in industry, and training and education of workers.

The keynote speaker was Izura Kobayashi of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), part of the Japanese official negotiating team in Cancún. He presented a very frank resume of the ongoing climate talks.

Besides explaining Japan’s position (Japan believes that the Kyoto process does not have sufficient country support to prevent carbon leakage) he also explained the status of many of the important main track and subsidiary body discussions. As of 7 December, the unusual situation has evolved of the high-level talks commencing while the ad-hoc working groups have not completed their tasks.

What this means for the final outcome is difficult to guess, but progress has been made on some important issues. Japan, of course, believes that efficient energy use in its manufacturing industries and investment in new technologies is one of the key paths forward.

Brian Kohler of the ICEM and Kan Matusuzaki of IMF presented ICEM and IMF policies, the outcomes of the World Conference on Sustainability held in June along with the International Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), and a discussion paper on "Anticipating Change" that examines how the proposed climate fund could be a starting point for discussions on industrial policies and worker participation in such areas as training.

The ICEM-IMF World of Work event was well attended, and feedback following the event was extremely positive.