ITUC – IOE joint statement on just transition negotiations at COP28

Employer organisations and trade unions at the United Nations climate negotiations are speaking with one voice today to address COP28 Parties.

Government climate negotiators in Dubai at the COP28 are in the midst of negotiating a “Just Transition Work Program” which aims to formalise the way governments include just transition policies in their climate action. The discussion aims to combine the international dimension of just transition, linked to sustainable development and poverty eradication to what is happening in the transitions at home, and ensuring coherence across government action to address the impacts of climate change.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), representing 210 million workers in 165 countries and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) representing 50 million companies in 142 countries have together been reminding governments that they, as social partners, as actors in the real economy are pushing for the COP28 to come to agreement on a global architecture that ensures that a Just Transition is supported and is impactful. Workers and Employers are key actors in building a climate resilient future and have solutions to offer.

Before the Paris Agreement was negotiated in 2015, employers, unions and governments from 187 countries came together as members of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and agreed on “Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all” [1]. At the International Labour Conference in June 2023, representatives of governments, workers and employers from 187 members of the ILO consensually and widely endorsed the Guidelines for Just Transition as the central reference for policy making and a basis for action on just transition, to be implemented at the national level. The content of these Guidelines and Resolution are needed now, more than ever. They stress that “Transitions need concerted efforts and must be planned and structured in a way that addresses employment losses, decent work deficits, inequality and sectoral and educational misalignments. Policies have to be coherent and balanced and must address the nexus between climate change, decent work and sustainable development”. There is a need to focus strongly on workers and companies, especially small and medium sized enterprises which need a conducive environment to innovate, be sustainable and create decent jobs.

We, representatives of employers and trade unions at COP28, are concerned that COP28 negotiations on a Just Transition Work Programme are failing to build on the foundation and consensus on just transition which the very same governments with the engagement of trade unions and employers have agreed to at the International Labour Conference in June 2023.

The Resolution [2] of the International Labour Conference contains elements to define and reach a common understanding of just transition. They provide a policy and framework to inform and guide pathways towards a just transition taking into account national circumstances and development priorities.

Transitions are impacting people who work and run businesses in all sectors of the economy, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), now and in the future. Investing in social dialogue – that addresses work-related challenges - is important to underpin the biggest transformations we need for the benefit of people and the planet.

These reminders are needed now, more than ever. The Guidelines and Resolution are relevant to macro-economic, industrial, and sectoral policies, active labour market policies, policies related to skills development, occupational safety and health, sustainable enterprises , social protection, gender, inclusion and equity, and should be based on inclusive social dialogue.

Ensuring a just transition is important for all countries, at all levels of development, and for all economic sectors, the formal as well as the informal economy, and should be in line with national development priorities.

These elements should be integrated in the discussions at COP28 on the Just Transition Work Programme. Unions and Employers don’t want the employment dimension to be diluted in the important Just Transition discussions taking place in Dubai. Both the national and the international dimensions are equally important to deliver a just transition that contributes to social justice and climate action.

The negotiators at the COP28 can consider the elements of the Resolution from the International Labour Conference as a solid basis to reach a common understanding of just transition for the Work Programme and policy framework to inform pathways towards a just transition.

The IOE and the ITUC stand ready to work with governments at the national and global level to achieve a Just Transition.