In the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) set out its demands and climate priorities in its Frontlines Briefing titled ‘Social justice enables climate ambition: unions set course for COP 26’.
The trade unions’ demands include: 1) raising climate ambition with Just Transition policies and measures in enhanced nationally determined contributions (NDCs); 2) implementing inclusive climate policies that respect and promote human and labour rights; 3) providing climate finance to decarbonise the Global South; and 4) implementing strong industrial policies and investment plans underpinning the transition to zero-emission economies.
“Climate change is an issue that trade unions in Asia and the Pacific cannot ignore. For being in a region that is prone to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters that affect millions of workers and their families, standing by during a climate emergency is not an option. Now is the time to act and push for the transformation of our societies towards greater resilience and sustainability. This transformation will only be possible with climate and social justice at its core,” said Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-AP.
According to the Environmental Risk Outlook 2021 by Verisk Maplecroft, 99 out of the world’s 100 riskiest cities are in Asia. Meanwhile, the International Displacement Monitoring Centre found that weather-related events were responsible for almost all the displacements recorded in 2020, displacing 30.7 million in Asia and the Pacific, which accounts for 69.4 percent of all the disaster-induced displacements globally.
“Climate catastrophes and disasters in the past have wiped out peoples’ lives and livelihoods. If we do not meet the goal of limiting global warming below 2oC or ideally 1.5 oC below pre-industrial levels, the climate crisis can pose greater unprecedented impacts than those of the global pandemic. According to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), slow-onset disasters are responsible for an annual economic loss of 675 billion US dollars, equivalent to 2.4 percent of the GDP. Considering the increasing and intensifying occurrences of natural disasters, economies in the region will suffer more losses,” Shoya Yoshida added.
The ITUC-Asia Pacific recognises the disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis on the Global South. Shoya Yoshida said, “We underscore the demands that benefit the interests of workers in developing countries in Asia and the Pacific, including increased climate financing for adaptation, adoption of an effective loss and damage financing instrument, and provision of financial supports with no strings attached, and implementation of genuine nature-based solutions that protect and conserve biodiversity rather than carbon capture projects that drive land grabbing and privatisation of public spaces.”
Considering that majority of the countries in the region do not have industrial plans, the ITUC-Asia Pacific also supports and highlights the call for the development of comprehensive industrial policies with clear roadmaps that guide the process of Just Transition.
“A starting point to develop a strong national industrial policy for Just Transition is social dialogue at all levels. Furthermore, strong multilateralism to support developing countries in their transformation with no one left behind is essential. We should work together to eliminate this clear existential threat,” Shoya Yoshida emphasised.