BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Jun 15 10

BlueGreen in Bonn: Moving a "Just Transition"

Yvette Pena Lopes from the BlueGreen Alliance was in Bonn, Germany, and has been blogging about the progress of the UNFCCC climate change talks. This post, her final one, came to us on Friday of last week (June 11).


As the BlueGreen Alliance, we work hard to bring together the viewpoints of both labor unions and environmentalists on critical issues related to job creation and environmental protection. There are often times when we work with one side of the partnership or the other, and then a lot of time is spent bringing those perspectives together.

In Bonn this week, I spent most of my time working with the labor unions, specifically the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and our brothers and sisters in the labor movement from the United States (the AFL-CIO and the United Mineworkers) and from all over the world (Sierra Leone, Spain, Belgium, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, and more). While environmental groups have conversations on REDD, adaptation, financing, and of course the infamous ‘fossil of the day’, labor meetings are often focused on incorporating “just transition” into a final, international climate agreement in addition to adaptation, MRV, financing and so on.

I wanted to spend a few minutes to explain just transition and why it is important.  It is not just important in the international dialogue on climate change, but also on the domestic front. Addressing climate change is critical to the economic, social, and environmental interest of people, workers, and families all over the world, which is why we are committed to emissions reductions. Such policies provide an opportunity for restoring hope, rebuilding and strengthening national economies.  We have realized and see the huge opportunities for green jobs through this movement, and believe that our voice is needed in this debate to ensure that such jobs are quality, sustainable and decent jobs.

We need to make sure that workers are trained on clean technologies and processes so that they may be able to compete and take advantage of the opportunities that will come of this green revolution. It is also about protecting those that may become vulnerable under such change with access to public services and assistance at affordable prices.

In the U.S., we already have thousands of green jobs and millions across the world. With further action on climate and clean energy, millions more will be created. In the United States, it has been estimated that over 1.7 million new jobs will be created with a $150 billion investment in clean energy. The BlueGreen Alliance reported that over 850,000 jobs could be created in existing manufacturing by passing a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) of 25 percent by 2025.

As you see, green jobs can and will make a major contribution to clean and sustainable economic growth.  Not only do we have a responsibility to push for the policies that will provide the opportunities for such job creation, we also have a responsibility to ensure that we create high-quality jobs.  After all, stable and good wages can ensure proper living conditions and contribute to the protection of natural resources. We need national and international bargaining strategies to ensure this happens; we cannot afford is to have this opportunity pass us by and not be sure that the right labor protections are included in this critical debate.

So far, we are in a good place.

As I mentioned the other day, there is inclusion of the labor movements “Just Transition” proposal in the Chair’s text that was released prior to Bonn and in the new text that was released last week. The United States and other governments had even weighed in prior to Bonn and said that such language should be a part of the text.

The preamble section of the “Shared Vision” states:

“Realizing that addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift towards building a low emission society that offers substantial opportunities and ensures continued high growth and unsustainable development, based on innovative technologies and more sustainable production and consumption and lifestyles, while ensuring a just transition of the workforce that creates decent work and quality jobs.”


The second reference to the need for ensuring a just transition for workers appears in the preamble section of chapter VII, Economic and Social Consequences of Response Measures, which is now chapter VIII of the new text:

“Recognizing the importance of avoiding and minimizing negative impacts of response measures on social and economic sectors, promoting a just transition of the workforce, the creation of decent work and quality jobs, and contributing to building new capacities for both production and service-related jobs in all sectors, promoting economic growth and sustainable development.”


These provisions are necessary, and together with the ITUC, and our brothers and sisters in the labor movement, we will defend these provisions and work towards further strengthening and detailing them in order to ensure that all workers are given the opportunity for decent work and quality jobs.

Here at home, we are working on similar job quality provisions, as well as inclusion of Davis Bacon prevailing wage provisions in Senate comprehensive climate and energy legislation — to ensure that jobs created here in America have a fair wage.  The BlueGreen Alliance is committed to action on a comprehensive climate change bill this year; our environment needs it, our workers need it, and future generations of America need it. We believe the time is now, and we recognize that the world is also watching us and needs us to be leaders on this issue.

And so to conclude, as I stated in my first blog in Bonn, there was very much a spirit of willingness to work together between the countries which is encouraging. And while critical issues may not have been resolved, the discussions that took place on financing, adaptation, and MRV do bring us a step closer.  Negotiations will continue in August in Bonn, in November in China, and then in December in Cancun. I am confident that some of these big issues can be resolved before Cancun.

Addressing climate change presents many opportunities and we are very optimistic that a positive and significant outcome can be eventually reached that will both protect our environment and create good jobs. We just need to make sure that the benefits are realized — environmentally and socially — within the labor movement.