But let's tackle it in a way that doesn’t damage communities
In just over a month, 196 countries will come together in Paris for the United Nations International Climate Change talks. It is a historic opportunity to sign a new agreement and create a new global milestone in sustainable development and climate change.
What the world needs is a universal, ambitious, binding and enforceable carbon emission-reduction agreement that goes beyond 2020; acknowledges and fairly differentiates capacity and commitments between rich countries and poor; and includes effective monitoring and review measures to halt global temperature increase beyond 2°C.
Failure to do that could have catastrophic consequences for future generations.
The role of the public sector and public finance will be essential ingredients to make the agreement successful. Tough targets to cut CO2 emissions, supported by new environmental regulations and carbon markets, will transform economies over the next decade. These shifts will have major implications for working people in energy supply, industry and transport, public services and for everyone as consumers.
The shift towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient path of growth and development will not be easy. Not all climate policies are win-win, and some trade-offs are inevitable, particularly in the short term.
Although many new green jobs will be created, and there will be larger markets and profits for many businesses, some jobs will also be lost, particularly in high-carbon sectors.
All governments will need to commit to a just transition as the human and economic costs of the transition will need to be managed, whether it is support for displaced workers, affected communities who suffer local plant closures and job losses or low-income households who need support for affordable fuel.
The UK Climate Movement has united around three key slogans – Climate, Justice and Jobs – mirroring the same Public Service International demands. The slogans have been used to mobilise for the UK rallies in Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London on the weekend of the 28 and 29 November, as part of the world wide rallies to highlight citizens’ demands and hopes for the Paris agreement.
UNISON will be both supporting the rallies and marches in the UK and Paris and participating in discussion workshops organised by the ITUC and PSI in Paris in December.
The voices of public services workers need to be heard. The necessary political and economic framework for solving the climate crisis will need to focus, amongst other things, on public infrastructure and public services, and on making adequate resources available to support a just transition for workers and communities.
Tackling climate change is the greatest challenge we face as a global community – so let’s tackle it in a way that doesn’t damage communities and lives as we seek to do the right thing for our children and grandchildren.
Dave Prentis is general secretary of UNISON
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