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The CUPE delegation to the Convention on Climate Change (COP) spent a full day immersed in presentations and discussions with international labour colleagues at the World of Work (WOW) Pavilion. WOW is a separate labour event that runs at the same time as the formal climate change negotiations at COP16 in Mexico. It is an opportunity for labour delegates to hear about actions to combat climate change that others are taking in different parts of the world.

A diverse range of speakers made presentations at WOW. The high water mark was Anabella Rosemberg’s talk “Trade Unions and Climate Change”. Rosemberg is the environment and sustainability officer with the International Trade Union Confederation based in Brussels. Sister Rosemberg described the key role that trade unionists are playing at these UN climate change negotiations by bringing the voice of labour to the table. She said, “The fight against climate change needs us. A big part of our role is to bring social issues into these international negotiations, by, for example, making sure that Just Transition and decent work are in the negotiating text of the parties at COP16.”

Rosemberg urged trade unionists to work to ensure that an international agreement on climate change is worker compatible.

Other keys steps for unions taking on climate change are to strengthen social dialogue on the issue with our allies from environmental and social justice organizations. Likewise, we must push for investment in green and decent jobs and for an expanded scope of workplace rights that includes environmental provisions, such as the right to know the harmful effects a particular process might have on the climate and the environment more broadly.

Other key speakers at day-one of WOW were:

  • A panel of trade unionists from countries such as Malawi, Bangladesh, Turkey and the United Kingdom described actions they are taking in their workplaces and communities on climate change.
  • A woman farmer from Nicaragua talked about a network of women workers that has been created to strengthen resilience in vulnerable communities that face disasters linked to climate change, such as more violent storms.
  • A member of Sustain Labour spoke about the social impacts of climate change and how widening inequality is a central negative outcome of climate change. The serious impacts from climate change affect one in nineteen people in developing countries, compared to one in 500 in the developed world, in large part because social inequalities put some people at greater risk and make the impacts of climate change worse.

Members of CUPE’s delegation will make a presentation at WOW when it picks up again next week. Until then, the delegation will return to the formal UN negotiating sessions and to other civil society events in Mexico.