Strategic global alliances and cooperation to address climate change

Trade unions attribute many issues concerning energy, climate change and human security to deepening globalization, a condition that calls for a collective global response. National efforts towards sustainable development can only succeed if, for instance, trade in harmful products is restricted or if Multilateral Environmental Agreements prevent overexploitation of natural resources for export. In his report, Stern pointed to examples of successful collective action in the areas of international trade, health, development aid, terrorism and environmental protection as cause for hope (Stern et al, 2006, p453).

To this end, trade unions are creating strategic alliances with business and other Agenda 21 major groups, such as the Climate Action Network, with whom they are developing joint plans of work for meetings of COPs and subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC. They also support such compliance systems as the Kyoto Protocol, and are providing input through national governments to Article 9 reviews for the post-Kyoto terms of reference (Nieto, 2006).

Trade unions have never subscribed to the popular notion that globalization renders nations incapable of serving the needs of their citizens. They see the state as playing a central role in providing opportunities for people, providing a stable environment so that livelihoods can be pursued with confidence, and providing measures to protect people whose livelihoods are threatened and ensure political freedoms, as well as providing such social opportunities as education and healthcare, etc. As one example, national governments can do much to promote 'green jobs' linked with 'decent work', as urged by ILO Secretary General Juan Somavia in his keynote address to the 2007 ILO Labour Conference. He urged government, worker and employer delegates to develop policy tools through a tripartite social dialogue framework for a global Green Jobs Initiative to support workers and enterprises through the transition to a much more environmentally sustainable process of development (Somavía, 2007).

To this end, trade unions will pursue national and sectoral tripartite approaches, such as the 2005 agreement between the Spanish government, the Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) and leading business organizations. Parties were brought together around a Dialogue Table to guide national efforts to meet obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, with specific reference to social and employment impacts. It was followed in June 2005 by an agreement between the government of Argentina, the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) and employers to engage in joint target-setting, monitoring, record-keeping and implementation of management systems. As well, the government of Belgium has geared its approach to 'flexible mechanisms' under Kyoto to social and employment policy. Project proposals must apply the principles of the OECD's Guidelines for Multinationals, ILO conventions and the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and trade unions are involved in monitoring to ensure essential services, including energy, to local populations and performance on environmental, social and economic impacts.3

The Trade Union Sustainable Development Unit has been set up to track and report on the performance of states along energy and climate indicators, a process now mainstreamed by a number of United Nations agencies.4 As well, unions will press for vigorous national programmes through 'blue-green' alliances between unions, and environmental and community organizations, such as the new Apollo Project in the US, which intends to forge a national commitment that mobilizes resources to achieve a new energy infrastructure that is diversified, environmentally safe and more efficient, to generate good jobs and to help capture the green markets of the future (New Energy for America, 2006).

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