The Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy
Issued : Sunday 8 October, 2017
Pushing the envelope on fighting climate change has been a core pillar in Labour's rebuild. Whether the discussion is taking place in our constituencies, within Labour Trade Unionists or our recent annual conference in Wexford, there is a recognition that it is possible to uphold the value of decent working conditions, while moving to a low carbon economy.
While it has been acknowledged that there are many challenges in progressing this agenda, unions representing workers in the areas of the production of fossil fuels are ready to play a pivotal role in a transition to a greener economy. It was noted that certain areas of Ireland are particularly dependent on employment centred on the production of fossil fuels. However, the move to a green economy is likely to have an impact on nearly all sectors of our economy including manufacturing, construction, transport and agriculture.
This has also been acknowledged by the international trade union movement, who developed the ‘Just Transition’ framework as a response to the increasing need to address this issue. This framework was subsequently adopted by international partners who acknowledged there would be a requirement for meaningful dialogue between all stakeholders in order to ensure there would not be conflict in our transition to a green economy. Such a move will need to be swift, if we are to protect future generations from the worst excesses of climate change.
At its General Conference in Geneva in 2013, the International Labour Organisation produced a resolution which stated that if managed well“transitions to environmentally and socially sustainable economies can become a strong driver of job creation, job upgrading, social justice and poverty eradication.” The greening of the economy has the potential to deliver for workers, communities and generations to come if it’s transition is managed in a coherent way.
Central to this must be an acknowledgement of the important role workers in the fossil fuel industries have made to the wealth of our nation. Any move to limit our dependence on the fruits of their labour must only be done so under a firm understanding that future opportunities will be made available to them; and that their terms of employment and pensions will be protected. It must also be on the understanding that any new industries, developed as a result of our move to more sustainable modes of transport, fuel and food production will only be in the context that these new industries will enter in to collective agreements with workers and their unions.
The Labour Party has an opportunity to combine our stellar record on the protection of workers; and our working relationship with the trade union movement, with our understanding of environmental policy in the context of social justice and class politics. We are all aware that the future sustainability of our planet should be of concern to all; but no group is likely to harmed more than workers and their families when the worst excesses of climate change come to fruition. We have the opportunity to be leaders in this area; and no other political party has the means or understanding to bring about a just, fair and equitable transition to a green economy.
*Article first published in Labour's Left Field May 2017