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Trade union delegates at COP26 have today (Wednesday) written an urgent letter to COP26 President Alok Sharma warning him that he is putting progress at risk by neglecting the need for international commitments to a ‘just transition’.

The Paris Agreement (2015) committed nations to taking account of “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.

Reflecting the concerns expressed in the letter to the COP President, the following joint statement by the TUC, Scottish TUC and Wales TUC, with support from affiliated unions, calls on the UK Presidency to build on the commitment made in Paris:

“The UK COP President Alok Sharma MP has repeatedly committed to just transition as an essential component in rapidly moving the world away from fossil fuels. But so far, the UK Presidency has invested little political capital including just transition in the climate agreement negotiations – leaving workers around the globe out in the cold. 

“We applaud the UK COP Presidency’s role in preparing the Declaration on “Supporting the Conditions for a Just transition Internationally”, which was launched last week. But this is a parallel initiative, and not part of the binding UNFCCC agreements. Similar efforts need to be made to incorporate just transition and labour rights into the official COP26 negotiations.

“The Presidency must:

  • Ensure negotiations cover the needs of workers, families, and communities.
  • Increase engagement with a wide range of stakeholders on just transition, climate action, labour and human rights.
  • Address concerns that observers - and in some cases government parties - have been excluded from official negotiation meetings where they should have access.
  • Retain and progress the commitment to just transition made in the Paris Agreement, including commitments to engagement with workers and to protect and create good quality jobs.”

TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“The Glasgow Agreement will be far more credible with just transition at its heart. World leaders need a plan to take home that working people can get behind. A plan that protects jobs, livelihoods and rights every step of the way to net zero. That’s the key to unlocking the public support across the world needed for rapid progress. Alok Sharma must show leadership, because the best agreement for workers is the best chance for stopping runaway climate change too.”

Scottish TUC General Secretary Roz Foyer said

“At a time when devolved administrations are taking a somewhat more positive approach to just transition and workers’ rights in the context of climate change, we demand greater engagement and greater leadership on these key issues for British workers by the UK Government. This should be an opportunity to lead the world on these issues.”

Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj, who is a trade union delegate at COP26 said:

“As the host for COP26, the UK Government has a central role to play in setting an agenda for the workers and communities that will be directly impacted by the move to net zero – not just in the UK but also across the globe. It is therefore disappointing that the UK Presidency is facilitating behaviour designed to block progress on these key issues. This approach risks undermining the Welsh Government’s new net zero strategy and will create more uncertainty for tens of thousands of workers in Wales.”

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