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Joint Declaration by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB)

Published date
In the context of the annual British-German Trade Union Forum and with regard to the upcoming UN climate change conference in Glasgow (COP26), the Trades Union Congress (UK) and German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) commit to social justice, inclusive prosperity, and effective climate action in order to foster a sustainable future.

As trade union organisations from countries with a long industrial history, we have seen through many industrial transitions. Their causes and starting points were different but they all had this in common: leaving any transition to the market has harmed both societies and the environment.

Social and economic progress is shaped by human hands. As trade unions, we work for transitions shaped with and for workers.

The trade union movement supports the Paris Agreement and advocates for ambitious climate action internationally and at home. Science is clear that pro-tecting our livelihoods urgently requires us to reach a net zero carbon future. Current catastrophes show the need to act quickly and in solidarity. This pro-cess, however, must be socially and ecologically sustainable to leave no one be-hind.

The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) constitute a respected framework for this process. We are confident that this necessary transition entails enormous opportunities for decent work and new forms of sustainable employment. This requires a new social settle-ment and political framework, and in particular. a Just Transition as a guiding principle of effective climate policy.

The DGB and the TUC consider the following as the principal building blocks of just transition policy:

1. Investments and an Active State

We require massive public and private investments in zero-carbon technolo-gies, sustainable infrastructures, and decent jobs in order to shape a Just transi-tion. In particular, the high-carbon industrial sector, a pillar of prosperity and decent work in both UK and German economies, needs huge investments to reach net zero emissions.

Active structural, industrial, and service sector policies are needed with envi-ronmental, social, and economic goals on a par. This implies the creation of de-cent and sustainable jobs, accompanied by Just Transition measures, to guaran-tee that no one is left behind. In the face of the current and upcoming transformation processes, policymakers must act proactively before jobs are lost. Investments in climate adaptation and protection of workers are also im-portant.

2. Just Finances

The financing of the transition has to be socially just. Therefore, we will not support tax cuts for the rich or cuts to welfare state budgets. Tax rises should focus on the wealthy.

Climate mitigation and adaptation measures must be affordable for everyone. Climate protection measures need to take into account employment and distri-bution effects in order to ensure the burden is shared fairly during the transi-tion.

3. Decent Work as Part of the Transition

Decent work, collective bargaining, and co-determination have to be strength-ened, regardless of workplace history (established or new), sector (industry, manufacturing, trades, or service sector), ownership (private or public), or size (multinational corporations, SMEs or microenterprises). If the transition threat-ens people’s job security, it will be perceived as a threat and will generate re-sistance. Instead, decent working conditions provide safety and public ac-ceptance in times of structural change.

4. Qualified Workers will Shape the Transition

Workers are innovators who develop products and services, optimize systems, and use new technologies. In order for workers to remain innovators, their pro-fessional qualifications must be developed to meet the needs of the moment and the future.

The exact makeup of skills needed in a net zero emissions future is as yet un-certain. The state must take an active role in anticipating skills gaps and re-sourcing the expansion or upgrading of skills provision.

5. Shaping the Transition Democratically

The transition will affect the economy and society as a whole. We need guidelines in order to achieve a transition oriented towards the common good. These include socially just funding; protection against unemploy-ment, degradation, and social descent; gender and inter-generational fair-ness; equal opportunities for everyone; social participation; equal educa-tional opportunities; and equal living conditions. Co-determination at company-level, especially when linked to trade union representation, is an ef-fective tool for enshrining worker voice in decisions. To shape the transition means to live out democracy – in society, in the economy and in companies. There must be no room for xenophobia, antisemitism or racism. Political educa-tion and participation are essential guiding principles for us. Political actors, trade unions and employers are responsible for strengthening social cohesion. They must do everything in their power to prevent people from being left be-hind during the transition.

6. Strengthen International Partnership and Solidarity

Net zero emissions can only be achieved when the international community acts jointly in a coordinated manner. In times of global crises, multilateralism is more important than ever. Pandemics or climate change do not stop at na-tional borders. Vulnerable groups in industrialized countries and especially in the global south are affected most by these impacts.

Industrial nations must meet their outstanding responsibility. We demand that the heads of government resolutely fulfill their responsibilities under the Paris Agreement and other international agreements, including a Just Transition do-mestically and sufficient support for the Global South in its transformation to-wards a green economy – including meeting the existing $100 billion climate fi-nance commitment. In addition, Just Transition criteria must be part of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) within the framework of the Paris Climate Agreement.

In closing, the signing trade unions declare that they will continue and deepen their sharing of experiences, collaboration, and exchange of ideas in respect to shaping a sustainable Just Transition.

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