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Trade unions confronting climate change in Cancun

Issue date

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Cancun, Mexico (29 November - 10 December 2010)

Until the middle of December, energy and environment ministers representing governments from across the globe, unions and green organisations have taken all up residence in the Mexican party resort of Cancun.

Commenting on the two-week conference, TUC Deputy General Secretary, Frances O'Grady, said: 'Governments meeting in Cancun probably won't 'seal a deal' on cutting CO2 emissions this year, but they must show that they have learnt the lessons of Copenhagen.

'This means reaching binding decisions on making the money available to help developing nations counter the damage caused by climate change, securing a global financial transactions tax, tackling de-forestation and agreeing common rules for measuring and reporting CO2 emissions.

'Many developing countries are on the climate change frontline. That's why the TUC is backing climate projects in three developing countries - Ghana, Sierra Leone and Bangladesh - and paying for union activists from these countries to join the 200-strong global union delegation in Cancun.

'Climate change presents the single greatest threat to meeting the Millennium Development Goals in these parts of West Africa and Asia. Shifting rainfall patterns, coastal flooding, drought, and landslides are destroying livelihoods, most notably in agriculture.

'Climate change remains the overriding priority for all our futures. This 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) is a unique opportunity to enact union proposals for a just transition (a process where the world's economies shift up a gear towards a low carbon future and which ensures that during the move to greener economies the burdens caused by change do not fall more heavily on the world's poorest and most vulnerable). More than 200 trade unionists from developed and developing countries will be taking part in COP16 and their practical proposals for a just transition can be seen here.'

Saki Rezwana, Chairperson of the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) said: 'For a highly vulnerable country like Bangladesh, climate change is an important issue for working men and women, and it has already had a serious impact on jobs and living standards.

'The TUC/OSHE/Sustain Labour project has allowed unions in Bangladesh to respond more effectively to the issue of climate change. A just transition television talk show recently organised by OSHE sparked a debate in the country and has sent a clear signal to government that it should support union just transition proposals in Cancun.'

Bangladeshi trade unionists demanding 'just transition'

More than 300 union members recently demonstrated in Bangladesh demanding that the government push for just transition to be contained within the texts of the COP16

Kingsley Ofei Nkansah, General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union in Ghana, said: 'Climate change is a major challenge for humanity, and is devastating the agricultural sector in Ghana. Agricultural production relies on rain falling and farmers are at the mercy of the extreme weather conditions now being experienced. Developing measures to make the farming population less vulnerable to the impact of climate change is essential.'

Max Conteh, Director of Education at the Sierra Leone Labour Congress said: 'Before our climate change project with the TUC, we acknowledged environmental issues but had not fully appreciated just how much they are affecting us at work. Now we realise their importance and are lobbying the government to take up the issue of just transition to ensure that the people don't suffer as the world goes green.'

Kingsley Ofei Nkansah and Max Conteh were interviewed for a special focus on Climate Change on Radio Labours' Solidarity report on 28 November 2010, the extract of which you can hear here.

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