How can workers get a ‘just transition’ amid the climate crisis? | The Stream


Labour unions worldwide have for decades been on the frontline of efforts to restore, protect and improve worker rights. But as the global climate crisis intensifies, they are demanding a worker-friendly green future.

Environmental organisations have for years lobbied governments to swiftly move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and now a growing number of labour movements is pushing for a ‘just transition’ where workers have a voice. The International Labour Organization will also discuss ways to achieve such a transition during its annual conference starting June 5.

In a recent sign of how labour organisations are prioritising climate change, the Canadian Labour Congress’ annual convention heard from climate-focused union representatives who warned of the impact of wildfires and floods on working people. The union later pledged support for clean energy and green industrial policies that will guarantee workers dependable union jobs.

Labour unions are also allying with environmental groups to call the public’s attention to the climate emergency. In April, labour unions joined the Big One, a mass demonstration in London led by Extinction Rebellion.

But some unions are nonetheless wary about what the future holds for working people amid the transition to low-carbon energy sources. South Africa’s National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) is among those who have expressed concerns that a recent energy transition investment deal between the country’s government and several western nations will see increased privatisation of the energy sector and endanger jobs. The union is calling for a renewable energy sector under public ownership.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at how labour unions are fighting for workers amid the climate crisis and ask what’s needed to achieve a truly just transition from fossil fuels.

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