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Lack of urgency, ambition overshadow UN Climate talks

The UN climate talks in Madrid (COP25) reached a weak compromise agreement only after two extra days of talks on stepping up the global response to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Now the hope for survival lies with government ambition through the enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to cut carbon emissions. The NDC plans need to be on the table by the end of 2020 for the COP26 in Glasgow. Just Transition measures must be at the centre of these plans.

The Gender Action Plan was approved, and there is a workplan on Response Measures that will go some way to addressing Just Transition and the creation of decent work and quality jobs.

The result was a far cry from what is needed, and major players did not live up to expectations. Small island states, Europe, Africa, and countries in Latin America pulled together to reach the best possible outcome given the challenges, but countries such as Australia, China, Saudi Arabia and the United States continue to block vital ambition.

“We have just ten years to stabalise the planet. Workers and their unions are on the front lines of danger regarding climate change; NDCs with plans for Just Transition and social dialogue are needed. People need hope and a plan to climate-proof their jobs. Climate policies which are fair, just and effective and based on the principles of Just Transition are the only way to secure a sustainable and secure future for all workers and their communities. Without the necessary finance for developing countries, we put at risk social cohesion, and the global age of anger will continue,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

The main discussion item for COP25 relating to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on market and non-market mechanisms exposed the biggest fault lines between all parties – governments, civil society and unions. No agreement was reached.

“Governments should focus on ‘reducing’ emission rights instead of displacing the problem by trading them. In general, and especially on market mechanisms, the human rights, social and environmental safeguards were absolutely insufficient. A price on carbon is important, but offsets that have a negative impact on people, their land or the planet cannot be accepted. By dedicating revenue generated through trading emissions to adaptation projects, developing countries risk being drawn into a dangerous process that will affect their land. COP26 in Glasgow cannot be a repeat of the discussions at COP25 in Madrid,” said Sharan Burrow.

Little progress was made on the fundamental question of finance. While previous language recognised the need for enhanced action and support for the “Loss and Damage”, which disproportionately affects developing countries, no meaningful progress was made on addressing the harms caused by the climate emergency.

“Only general commitments were made to the finance goals, and no concrete commitments on Loss and Damage. The calls for more ambition should not be limited to plans that lead to carbon neutrality through enhanced NDCs. Rich nations continue to evade their responsibility in an unacceptable way,” said Burrow.

Ambition and Just Transition plans are urgently required to secure the trust of people in every country. Unions demand that, in 2020, governments:

• Stop the delaying measures and increase ambition in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
• Start implementing the social dialogue vital for agreements that deliver Just Transition for all.
• Legislate for climate action, including procurement rules.
• Ensure Green New Deals mean a New Social Contract in every country with labour rights, climate ambition and Just Transition at the core.
• Commit to the UN Climate Action for Jobs Initiative.
• Increase climate finance in alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

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The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) represents 200 million members of 332 affiliates in 163 countries and territories.

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