A safe climate is a human right: the UNI World Executive Board commits to urgent climate action
The UNI Global Union World Executive Board recognized the urgent need for mobilization and action against climate change.
“A safe climate is a human right, it is not an option”, said Philip Jennings, the UNI Global Union General Secretary. “In Bangladesh, where we are working so hard to protect workers’ lives after the Rana Plaza disaster, climate change could put ten million refugees on the road. If we don’t act urgently, there could be five hundred million climate refugees worldwide. With these migrations, we know that many governments will be tempted to restore authoritarian regimes putting democracy and freedom at risk.”
“But climate change is also an unprecedented opportunity to refit our economies, refit our cities, buildings and transport systems. A 1% increase in public investments would create 40 million jobs. This might be the greatest job creation opportunity ever.”
In a passionate speech, Samantha Smith, the Leader of the WWF International Global Climate and Energy Initiative clearly connected the dots between climate and the union movement. Climate change will have major impacts on workers worldwide. But unions also have the political legitimacy and organizing power to mobilize people for a just transition.
“Climate change is not only about polar bears, it is about people”, said Samantha Smith.
“As an environmental group, there are things we can do and others things we cannot do. And this is why we need to build an alliance with the union movement. You have a critical role to play to mobilize people in the lead up to the COP21 in Paris, but also on the long term to ensure that a just transition is being planned in every country and every company through social dialogue between workers, employers and government. Workers have the right to know what their companies will look like in the future and they have the right to be trained and retrained in this transition. The just transition will also imply a huge shift in financial investments from fossil fuel sources of energy towards renewable energy, energy efficiency, recycling and reusing hence creating new jobs in the services economy.
“Climate change is a major risk for insurance companies and communities. It is already affecting supply chains of large companies relying on raw materials such as Ikea or Unilever. No wonder that this is now on the agenda of the G20 summit. It is already affecting agricultural productivity, threatening food security especially in Africa.
“The unions need to ask for a greater social protection for the most vulnerable people to build resilience. People will need health care and shelters in the face of disasters. The poorest workers will be hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change, as well as youth. The next generation will go through extreme weather events which we will never have experienced before.”
“In a world of climate crisis, youth unemployment and political repression, the union movement can lead the industrial transformation with a message of hope and resistance. The role taken by the Tunisian Quartet, who has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is the kind of effort required”, she concluded.