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Unions prepare for climate talks

29 November 2011

The stakes will be high for decision-makers at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP 17), which will be held 28 November through 9 December in Durban, South Africa. Not only are the emission reduction targets established by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol set to expire in 2012, but another major climate meeting, the Earth Summit, RIO+20, is coming up in June 2012.

As the world gears up for the negotiations, union members are consolidating their top priorities in various conferences and meetings across the globe. On 1 September, COP 17 President and South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane met with various labour representatives from the Congress of South African Trade Unions and Federation of Unions of South Africa. The minister emphasised the important role she hopes unions will play in Durban. “We are of the view that the majority of people who will have to adapt to climate change is the workers themselves,” she said.

Experts have argued that previous climate talks have been weakened by the lack of a formal role for businesses and labour. Authorities say there is a growing appreciation of the emerging role that labour and business can play in mitigating (reducing carbon emissions) and adapting (to inevitable climate events) to climate change.

PSI supports both mitigation and adaptation as top priorities. In terms of mitigation, energy production, transmission, distribution, and transportation are centrally concerned. For adaptation, the full range of emergency and health services will be needed to deal with the human and infrastructure impacts of extreme climate events and changing temperatures across the planet.

In another meeting addressing labour climate concerns, the 64th Annual UN Department of Public Information and Non-Governmental Organizations Conference, took place in Bonn, Germany on 8 September. Meeting participants discussed sustainable development, and possible results of the RIO+20 Conference. The UN DPI event concluded by highlighting several labour priorities including green and decent jobs, social protection and the Financial Transactions Tax, which would help developing countries to lower their carbon emissions.

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