Nepal: ITUC-NAC reinforces strategies to advance Just Transition

May 2024
United Nations
Just Transition, Climate Justice, Nepal

The ITUC-Asia Pacific and the International Trade Union Confederation - Nepal Affiliates Council (ITUC-NAC) organised a pivotal workshop on May 16-17, 2024, to build and reinforce trade unions’ strategies and actions to advance Just Transition.

The Presidents of the ITUC-NAC affiliates – All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF), General Federation of Nepal Trade Unions (GEFONT), and National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC) opened the session with powerful remarks, recognising the urgent need to collectively take actions to address climate change and its impacts on the working population.

Presidents of ITUC-NAC deliver their welcome remarks during the inaugural session. From left: Yogendra Kunwar (NTUC), Jagat Bahadur Simkhada (ANTUF) and Binod Shrestha (GEFONT)

The workshop deepened the participants’ understanding about why climate change is a pressing issue that trade unions must care about. Joy Hernandez, Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer of ITUC-Asia Pacific said, “While the huge share of greenhouse gas emissions is contributed by developed countries, led by fossil fuel corporations, it is the working people who are suffering from the brunt of climate change as well as from unjust climate policies.” She also briefed the participants on the various challenges and opportunities for trade unions’ actions on Just Transition in the Asia-Pacific region, sharing the experiences of other ITUC-Asia Pacific affiliates in this regard and highlighting the climate, labour market and economic realities in the region that may be different from other parts of the world.

Understanding the climate policy context in Nepal and globally

Zooming in to the Nepal context, Prof. Keshab Prasad Adhikari presented the key findings from his baseline study titled "Trade Unions and Just Transition in Nepal," providing valuable insights into the current landscape in the country, including a discussion about Nepal’s existing climate policies, the challenges facing trade unions amidst the climate crisis, and the existing initiatives of trade unions on Just Transition. He also outlined his recommendations for trade unions to enhance and strengthen their existing Just Transition-related initiatives.

Providing the participants with the global climate policy context, Bert De Wel, Global Climate Policy Coordinator of ITUC, discussed global climate policies, including Just Transition policies, that are being and have been negotiated in the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He offered recommendations for trade union actions that ensure that Just Transition policies adopted at the global level are operationalised and implemented at the national level. He said, “We want explicit reference to "Just Transition" in the nationally determined contributions. Trade unions must take the opportunity to talk to their government when the government starts formulating the NDC.” Recognising that climate change and climate policies are also drivers of migration, he stressed that Just Transition must protect the rights of all workers, including migrants.

Bert De Wel of ITUC joined virtually to give updates on global climate policies

Abishek Yadav, Climate and Energy Policy Analyst at Climate Analytics, presented the salient points of Nepal’s NDC, including the process and timeline of updating the NDC, which is due for submission to the UNFCCC in 2025. He noted that while Nepal’s NDC raised its climate ambition, its implementation is lagging. His presentation also revealed that the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security is not part of the High-Level Steering Committee of the NDC, which the participants deem as a constraint to trade unions’ inclusion in NDC formulation and implementation.

Listening to the perspectives of women and young workers

Recognising that climate change disproportionately affects women and youth and acknowledging their crucial role in mobilising workers' power for Just Transition, the workshop also included a dedicated session to cull the perspectives from women and youth.

Baldev Tamang of NTUC shared insights from the lens of the youth. He drew attention to the overrepresentation of youth in transport, agriculture, and tourism sectors, which also happen to be the same sectors that are affected by climate change and climate policies. He said, “Trade unions have been struggling to attract more young workers into the labour movement. Connecting workers’ issues to climate change issues could be an organising strategy to include people care about climate justice.”

Meanwhile, Sita Lama of GEFONT talked about the various issues and challenges faced by women amidst the worsening climate change in a patriarchal society. Women are also overrepresented in the ever-growing informal economy, including the tourism sector. According to Sita Lama, the impacts of the climate change, along with the added burden of care work, have resulted in the loss of income for many women workers.

Reinforcing strategies to advance Just Transition in Nepal and beyond

With a deeper understanding of Just Transition, climate justice and the policy environment surrounding these issues, ITUC-NAC affiliates assessed their existing strategies to advance Just Transition, identified areas for improvement in their Just Transition work, and proposed new, innovative approaches to push for Just Transition at various levels in Nepal and beyond.

The workshop, supported by the Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA), not only bolstered the capacity of trade unions on Just Transition but also facilitated the reinforcement of their strategies to secure a better future for workers amidst the climate crisis.

"The insights and strategies developed during this workshop are crucial for our ongoing efforts in climate justice and Just Transition. This workshop underscores the commitment of trade unions in the Asia-Pacific region to lead the charge in advocating for a Just Transition, ensuring that no worker is left behind in the face of the global climate crisis,” said Shoya Yoshida, ITUC-Asia Pacific General Secretary.

“Trade unions have a significant role to play in advocating for policies that ensure a Just Transition for all workers. Without workers at the table in transition planning and implementation, the transition cannot be considered just at all," Shoya Yoshida added.

With representatives from ITUC-NAC affiliates ANTUF, GEFONT, and NTUC, the event marked a significant step towards a collaborative approach in addressing climate change through the lens of labour rights and social justice.

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