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Trade Unions at COP 17

Promoting Solutions to the Climate Crisis that are Democratic, Equitable and Effective
Unions from all over the world gathered in Durban for the UN's 17th annual "Conference of the Parties" (COP 17) under the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They were greeted by trade unionists from South Africa who showed their support for a bold climate protection agenda that offers real solutions to both the climate crisis and the economic crisis. However, the meeting in Durban took place at a time when leaders of the rich countries had previously indicated that there will be no global climate agreement in effect until 2020.  

The International Trade Union Confederation issued a statement on November 23 that urged governments in Durban to "step out of their comfort zones and take decisions to extend the Kyoto Protocol, deliver a mandate to negotiate a comprehensive legally binding instrument for all countries, and fund the US$100 billion Green Climate Fund." ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said, "The financial crisis must not be used as an excuse for inaction on climate change. Workers, in decent jobs, in green jobs, will help drive many countries out of the financial crisis and tackle climate change."

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA), and one of the world's foremost authorities on climate economics, told the Guardian: "If we do not have an international agreement whose effect is put in place by 2017, then the door to [holding temperatures below 2C] will be closed forever." Lord Stern, author of a landmark review of the economics of climate change, said "This is a collective failure, and [leaving agreement to] 2020 is taking considerable risks with the planet."

Unions have for years worked diligently to help bring about a fair, ambitious and binding global climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, with the principles of ‘just transition' and decent work at its core. But the UN process is facing its biggest crisis ever. 

Unions and other social movements understand that new strategies and approaches are needed, and that it is time to develop bold proposals and solutions that can address both the climate crisis and the economic crisis simultaneously. GLI reported on these discussions throughout COP 17.

View the Cornell GLI's Photo Gallery from COP 17.

Trade Union Events at COP 17

View the GLI's Trade Union Calendar for COP 17

COP 17 Updates

COP 17: Farther from science, farther from equity, by Laura Martin Murillo of Sustainlabour

Legal instrument with no commitments, too unbalanced and too late.  Durban delivers a new legal agreement instrument, but distances us from the path of emissions reductions recommended by science and global justice.  Read more.

Durban Outcome: No Guarantees for the Climate as Governments Again Delay

ITUC OnLine: The international trade union movement expressed its disappointment as climate negotiators in Durban had agreed a platform to continue negotiations, but without any guarantees that will make the cuts to emissions demanded by science to stop a climate disaster.  Read more.


Demand for Climate Jobs Grows at UN Climate Meetings in Durban, South Africa

Trade Unions, Civil Society Organizations and Social Movements Support Creation of Public Sector Climate Jobs Programs to Address the Economic and Environmental Crises

In response to the global economic and jobs crisis and the need to drastically reduce emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change, an International Climate Jobs Conference was held Sunday, December 4 in Durban, South Africa.  More than 500 people gathered for the conference, “Cool it with Peoples Power:  1 Million Climate Jobs Now!  The conference coincided with the UN climate negotiations (COP 17) and was sponsored by the One Million Climate Jobs coalitions of the UK and South Africa, the Public and Services Union (UK), the University and College Union (UK) and the Cornell Global Labor Institute (US).  Read more.