Simple enough – cut emissions and transform jobs

The transition to a low-carbon economy must guarantee employment and result in the development of new, decent jobs, global industrial unions have said.

An October climate change meeting convened by global unions ICEM and IMF – the union federations representing most of the world’s unionised workers in the traditional metal, chemicals, mining and manufacturing jobs not often associated with environmental wholesomeness – discussed the issue of job preservation in a greener, kinder world.

 The unions, understandably, believe there’s nothing either green or kind about throwing millions of workers onto the scrapheap. And they add the contribution of their sectors to greening the economy is often under-estimated.

IMF general secretary Jyrki Raina told the meeting: “Our industrial sectors are frequently seen as contributors to the current environmental crisis. Yet it is within these very industries that solutions already exist or are being developed. We want to reduce emissions, while at the same time increasing employment and protecting the environment.”

The union bodies argue that good jobs and a clean environment go hand in hand, noting that “we will have both; or we will have neither.” They add that a problem created by developed nations shouldn’t be made a problem for developing nations, which “must have their chance to develop. However, their development need not follow the same harmful paths as it did in developed countries that caused the environmental crisis in the first place. International institutions for capital and finance, resurgent protectionism, and restrictions on technology transfer, can create a new era of colonialism if we do not prevent it.”

Manfred Warda, general secretary of ICEM summed up the key challenges. “For industrial workers and their unions an important question for changing to a low-carbon economy is who pays for it and who benefits from the transition. We only have one planet and we all have an interest in protecting our future.”

IMF climate change webpages and ICEM sustainable development webpages.

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