“Just Transition” and Decent Work continue to struggle at COP21

These important concepts are noted as not being agreed to by the parties in a note to the French Presidency. This gives the Presidency the opportunity to resolve the disagreement by including or excluding the the two concepts.


What is so difficult for us to understand is why national delegates are afraid or opposed to these words.


Is it possible to have a sustainable economy, culture, or life without Justice and Decent Work?


All of us from BWI know it is not possible. If the technology that is put in place to reduce carbon emissions promotes unsafe low wage work or increases social and economic inequality then the result will be no different than it has ever been through out human history. When a group of people are put in an intolerable situation they will react. The reaction ranges from setting fires to forests and illegally harvesting in order to feed your family to – if the conditions are severe enough – armed resistance.


This is not a call to arms it is just our history. We as a species fight against injustice on a daily basis, sometimes through small personal private acts other times through massive public demonstrations. Some engage in peaceful actions others resort to violence.


The point here isn’t to judge but simply acknowledge that the challenges ahead to create a world with less than a 2 degree temperature are monumental. If the average worker is not engaged and on board then no mater the technology, no matter how brilliant the policies they will fail.


Today, the world is as unjust as it has been for generations. Across the global from the global North to the global South conditions for most workers are going in the wrong direction. Education of our children, protection of our migrant brothers and sisters, job safety, fair pay are all under attack. The notion of “austerity” which means we get crumbs while the 1 per cent drink champagne is becoming more popular everyday even while it fails as both an economic and public policy.


Will having the words, “Just transition” and Decent Work in a climate document change the world? Of course not, but it creates a space for us to be better able to change the world.


Since it will be up to us to build or unbuild whatever is required for a safe and sustainable future perhaps it makes sense and cents to give us more tools to build a better world.


As one of our Danish colleagues suggested to be against a just transition implies that one is for an unjust continuity.