A just transiction to save fossil fuel workers
Climate change is not only affecting the environment but has both a direct and indirect effect on humans.
The effects can have an impact on health, on housing and also on employment. Therefore a transition to a greener society is necessary. This is what the UN side event on climate justice regarded: how to allow and begin a just transition for all but also how to bring a human right based approach when we talk about climate intervention.
The first question to arise was how employment matters in climate change discussion. The transition towards a low-carbon production will have different impacts. New jobs will be created while other ones will adapt, many existing profession will be revised and new skill required. Moreover the high-carbon sector will be either relocated or eliminated. If a right policy mix is put into place the green transition can lead to the creation of 60 million jobs, mostly in the green economy.
But the positive impacts of the transition can have negative repercussion in certain sectors. For example the changes in the high-carbon and high-polluting sectors will result in job losses. They are going to be small because these sector employ low share of population, but nonetheless a share of people will become unemployed. It is necessary to protect the rights of these people.
We do not have to focus only on the quantity but also on the quality of the jobs. Green economy gives the opportunity of increasing the quality of work. More stringent regulation can be adopted to improve condition of workers. For example , some sector could reduce pesticides, and introduce safety measures.
The discussion on employment depend on the time frame: short term and long effects. For example coal mine workers will face disadvantages in the short term but in the long term the positive effects outgrow the negative ones. As said before, it is however necessary (based on justice principles) that the government introduces policies to support workers affected from a future transition.
One example comes from the Philippines, which is one of the pilot countries introducing policy guideline for just transition. The country is creating green jobs and trying greening workplaces, as well as creating certifications of green practices. Moreover, fiscal policies are established which give 50% tax breaks in investment on green innovation as incentives.
One other aspect is to improve social dialogue between governments, employers, workers , trade unions and partners. Everyone should be around the table. It essential to raise awareness about what it means to have a just transition but more importantly it has to be clearly defined and let be known to the public.
Unfortunately a green transition has the risk of exacerbate inequalities because the mostly affected from it will be the low skilled workers and communities.
The topic is not an easy one, the discussion should not be closed to a few powerful but all the subject should be included. The decision making on transition should be also based on the human right’s point of view to protect the one that will suffer from it.