Towards the Copenhagen Summit: interview with JoŽl Decaillon, ETUC Confederal Secretary
JoŽl Decaillon, ETUC Confederal Secretary, talks us through the issues for the forthcoming Copenhagen Summit on climate change and the demands of the European trade union movement.
What are the issues for the forthcoming Copenhagen Summit on climate change?
JoŽl Decaillon (JD): The Copenhagen negotiations are very important: the point is that the conference to be held on 7 to 18 December this year will seek to extend the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012, putting the battle against climate change on a global footing. There is a new factor in these negotiations in Copenhagen, in that the United States and China have opened the debate with a view to attaining objectives of driving down greenhouse gas emissions. This is an extremely important element compared to the past. Over 190 countries will be represented in Copenhagen, with very diverse economic interests, widely differing economic and social situations and above all, some major inequalities in the face of the consequences of climate change. Against such a complex background, we will need to find the makings of a fresh dialogue between the developed countries, the emerging countries and the developing countries. We are facing an enormous challenge, but one that it is essential for us to tackle if mankind is not to find itself in a catastrophic plight twenty years down the line.
We will need to find the makings of a fresh dialogue between the developed countries, the emerging countries and the developing countries. We are facing an enormous challenge, but one that it is essential for us to tackle if mankind is not to find itself in a catastrophic plight twenty years down the line.
What is the international situation like? Why is an international agreement on climate change so difficult to achieve?
JD: Extending the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012 and securing a fresh agreement remain two objectives which are extremely difficult to achieve. The arrival of the new administration in the United States is a positive development in creating new conditions, but the contradictions between environmental protection, social protection and economic development are still not being addressed.
There are two key points:
Firstly, the financial crisis has shown the predominance of the financial system over the real economy. In this unchanged situation, the idea of setting in place a radical economic and industrial transformation, which implies a medium and long-term perspective, remains all but impossible to square with the demands of a return to double-digit growth rates.
We are also faced with a second difficulty: it is crucial to take account of the fact that climate change exacerbates not only the inequalities between the various regions of the world, but also the inequalities within individual regions. This is what the ETUC stressed in its 2007 Study on climate change and employment.
The political, economic and environmental acceptability of the results of the Copenhagen negotiations will depend on combining reductions in greenhouse gases (GHG) and environmental protection measures as well as measures on social treatment, poverty and social inequalities.
What is the ETUC calling for?
JD: The ETUC has recently confirmed its demands in a resolution which it adopted on 20 October at its Executive Committee meeting in Stockholm. In this document, the European trade unions reassert their backing for an ambitious, exhaustive international agreement designed to limit the global rise in temperatures to a maximum of two degrees, in accordance with the scenarios laid down by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reducing developed countries’ emissions of GHG by at least 25%-40% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. At its meeting on 21 October, the Council of EU Environment Ministers backed the principle of these objectives.
The contribution made by Europe to the funding of global climate change mitigation remains another key factor in the debate. The most thorny issues surround the financial contribution that the European Union will have to make in order to resolve the problem, and therefore the financial solidarity instruments. In that regard, we call for the creation of an international fund and a European fund to facilitate the development of technologies producing low carbon emissions and of technologies based on energy efficiency and renewable energies in the developing countries, as well as the development of employment policies based on social protection, the promotion of decent work and public services. We also call for improvements to European governance by implementing stronger Community policies in the industrial and research fields. Europe needs to support coordinated global initiatives on research and development, the pooling of scientific knowledge, and the development and dissemination of green technologies at the worldwide level.
We need a European low-carbon industrial policy based upon a strategy of Community industrial coordination enabling us to move beyond intra-European divisions and the damaging effects of demands for short-term profitability on industrial investments. To achieve these objectives, this European low-carbon strategy needs to be based upon a transition relying on the principles of just transition.
4) What are the principles behind this ‘just transition’? Does the greening of the economy have to be seen as an opportunity or a threat for Europe’s workers?
JD: The principles of just transition are dialogue between Government, industry and trade unions and other interest groupings on the economic and industrial changes involved; green and decent jobs; investment in low-carbon technologies, and new green skills. We also need to bolster the negotiations and coordinate those negotiations at European level, so as to ensure that we anticipate the socio-economic transitions while reinforcing dialogue between the social partners and public authorities. In this framework the EU must commit itself to the challenges of industrial restructuring with which the new member states are confronted. This is why anticipation instruments need to be put in place on the strength of much more searching impact studies, in particular in terms of social consequences.
The social dimension must be intimately involved in the European policies contributing to the development of the industrial strategies responding to the requirements of a low-carbon economy and workers’ social aspirations. Tomorrow’s green growth must help to maintain and create quality jobs and social progress.
In that connection, the study on ‘Climate disruptions, new industrial policies and ways out of the crisis’ unveiled by the ETUC in London on 5 October clearly shows that we need to consider employment in all its dimensions. There are opportunities for job creation in sectors such as those linked to renewable energy sources, as well as in energy efficiency, in particular in the building sector.
Our study demonstrates that this transformation is something that affects every sector and every job. For all these reasons, the social dimension must be intimately involved in the European policies contributing to the development of the industrial strategies responding to the requirements of a low-carbon economy and workers’ social aspirations. Tomorrow’s green growth must help to maintain and create quality jobs and social progress.
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