Battle for ‘just transition’ engaged at Paris Climate Conference


(Dec. 4, 2015) — Brothers and Sisters, today I leave to join the labor delegation to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. The labor movement has a strong presence there and I look forward to learning a lot. I will summarize for you what I learn over the course of the next week.

At the start, there is pitched battle over where in the document language on just transition, decent and quality jobs, and human rights will appear. In the pre-Paris documents, the language below was in the operational section of the document in Article 2, but at the moment it has been demoted to the preamble section of the document which puts it in the realm of nice thoughts rather than guiding principles. The language is:

“This Agreement shall be implemented on the basis of equity and science, and in accordance with the principle of [equity and] common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, [in the light of different national circumstances,] [the principles and provisions of the Convention], while ensuring the integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems, [the integrity of Mother Earth, the protection of health, a just transition of the workforce and creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities] and the respect, protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights for all, including indigenous peoples, including the right to health and sustainable development, [including the right of people under occupation] and to ensure gender equality and the full and equal participation of women, [and intergenerational equity].]] “

In the meantime, as all eyes are focused on Paris, behind closed doors in Geneva, corporate interests are negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), involving 22 countries and 70% of global trade, that could become a major stumbling block to governments trying to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. According to Wikileaks:

If adopted, the current text could become a major obstacle for governments taking policy measures to switch from fossil fuel to renewable sources of energy.

First it would allow fossil fuel companies to sue governments for their domestic regulation in favor of renewable energy and climate protection and,

Second it would prevent local governments from using public procurements in favor of green purchases and local sources of renewable energy.

So a lot is happening over across the pond. I will let you know what I learn.

In Solidarity,

Jeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 500 local unions and 400,000 rank-and-file union members.

ALSO see the 2015 Washington State Labor Council resolution on ​”Climate and Jobs” approved by delegates representing unions from across the state.

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