Labor fights for ‘Just Transition’ at Paris climate conference

Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, was part of the labor delegation that attended the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) on Dec. 6-12, 2015. He and other labor leaders advocated for policies that aggressively address climate change while providing for a “Just Transition” that invests in the communities and working families that will be hardest hit by the transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy.

Here are links to his reports and photos from that conference:


Battle for a ‘just transition’ engaged at Paris climate talks — (Dec. 4, 2015) — 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. Read more.

►  Now’s not the time for small steps on climate (background) — “Now is not the time for small steps” is a quote from author Naomi Klein from This Changes Everything. It seems an apt quote to put into context what should happen at the Paris climate talks but may well not. Before reporting further on activities at Le Bourget, I would like to give a few basics as background to the talks. Read more.

►  In climate deal, banks must be accountable to civil society (Dec. 7, 2015) — At the Citizen’s Summit on Climate Change, speakers also put a vivid face on how the climate crisis is impacting people in the developing countries — the grinding poverty and migration to flee drought and starvation — particularly on women, children and the poor. But they also spoke of a strategy to leapfrog the fossil fuel economy in large parts of Africa and Asia, going directly to a renewable energy economy if we are successful in changing the funding priorities of the banks. Read more.

►  U.S. should lead on including human rights in climate talks (Dec. 8, 2015) — It has been a full-court press to get “just transition” and human rights language into the operational portion of the Paris climate document… I will be part of a delegation presenting a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that urges, “The United States has a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to lead the international community by increasing its ambition and providing scaled-up resources to reduce the very worst climate impacts.” Read more.

►  “If the planet were a bank, they would have already saved it” (Dec. 9, 2015) — A rank-and-file member of a public sector union said this at an event I attended outside the COP 21 talks that featured Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and author Naomi Klein. She couldn’t have been more on target. If there is any relevance to “too big to fail,” it ought to apply to our planet. Read more.

►  [Ambiguity] on human rights, Just Transition in latest draft (Dec. 10, 2015) — As countries jockey for position over thorny issues, much of the text of the latest draft agreement remains ambiguous with many bracketed area around key areas of text [read: maybe it’s in there and maybe it isn’t]. This of course becomes a problem when the issues are human rights, gender equality, food security, Just Transition, and how do we measure and verify actual carbon reductions so that the planet doesn’t exceed temperature x. That’s right even that goal is [bracketed]. Read more.

►  From Paris: “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible” (posted Dec. 14, 2015) — COP 21 came to a close Saturday afternoon, Dec. 12. As international delegates finalized text of the Paris document and prepared for celebratory photos, the streets of Paris erupted with a stronger message. … The Paris Climate Agreement does give us a starting point from which to create a global renewable energy economy. And also a starting point to create a climate and economic transformation rooted in equity and justice. It is our job as union leaders and civil society leaders to make sure that no worker, community, or country is left behind because to do so is simply to perpetuate the inequalities that define our current fossil fuel regime. Read more.

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