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Climate change mitigation: what does it
mean for trade unions and workers?
Pre-orientation meeting
COP13, Bali
• What is mitigation?
• How much reduction in GHG emissions ? and when?
• How GHG emissions can be reduced?
• The economics of climate change : Stern report
• Impact of mitigation policies on employment
• To reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions
• Art. 2 of the UN Framework Convention on climate change: ‘To
stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level which will avoid
dangerous climate change, allowing ecosystems to adapt naturally
to climate change, ensuring food production is not threatened and
enabling economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner
Two key questions
 What are the criteria to define limits to climate changes?
 To what extent is mitigation compatible with economic
development ?
Decoupling economic growth from GHG emissions
How much reduction in GHG is needed?
IPCC 4th Assessment report
• Adaptation can not be a substitute for mitigation –
mitigation will always be required to avoid dangerous
and irreversible changes to the climate system
• The lower the final CO2 stabilisation target level, the
earlier global CO2 emissions have to peak (eg. 445490ppm ~ 2015)
• Mitigation efforts over the next two to three decades will
have a large impact on opportunities to achieve lower
stabilization levels
Characteristics of stabilisation scenarios
Global mean
temperature increase
above preindustrial
Peaking year for
CO2 emisisons
Changes in global CO2
emissions in 2050 (% of 2000
-85 to -50
-60 to -30
-30 to +5
+10 to +60
+25 to +85
+90 to +140
Peak in 2015
Good news: Technology already exists
• Potential could offset the projected growth of global emissions, or
reduce emissions below current levels
• Substantial mitigation opportunities involving net benefits (costs less
than 0), with a large share being located in the buildings sector.
All sectors and regions have the potential to
Energy efficiency plays the most significant role
in the CO2 reductions by 2030 (source IEA)
Energy efficiency is the single largest contributor to CO2
reductions, is cost-effective and reduces energy dependency
Source: Energy Technology Perspectives, IEA
A diverse portfolio approach will be needed but
some features are clear
• Energy Efficiency … available now at low or no cost !
• Natural Gas, Coal … with CO2 capture & storage
• Biofuels, Renewables … with lower costs and sustainable
carbon cycle
• Nuclear.… with safe waste management
• H2 & Fuel Cells … with lower cost
• Strong reduction from deforestation are needed…
through sustainable management of forests
The importance of RD&D policies
• Deployment of low-GHG emission technologies and RD&D would
be required for achieving stabilization targets and cost reduction.
• The lower the stabilization levels, especially those of 550 ppm
CO2-eq or lower, the greater the need for more efficient RD&D
efforts and investment in new technologies during the next few
• Government support through financial contributions, tax credits,
standard setting and market creation is important for effective
technology development, innovation and deployment.
• Government funding for most energy research programmes has
been flat or declining for nearly two decades (even after the
UNFCCC came into force); now about half of 1980 level.
Nuclear has had
the largest share
Substantial additional investments in and policies for R&D are needed
Changes in lifestyle and behaviour patterns can
contribute to climate change mitigation
IPCC 4th Assessment report:
• Education and training programmes can help overcome
barriers to the market acceptance of energy efficiency
• Reduction of car usage and efficient driving style, in
relation to urban planning and availability of public
• In industry, management tools that include staff training,
reward systems, regular feedback, documentation of
existing practices
Overall economic impact
Stern report
Stern report: costs of inaction almost certainly very high, whereas
mitigation costs comparatively limited
• If no action is taken the costs will represent at least 5% of GDP
each year. Allowing for other factors, the figure could be as high
as 20%!
• On the other hand the policies necessary to stabilise global
greenhouse gas concentrations and thus temperatures are
estimated at around 1% of GDP a year.
• Moreover, climate change also offers growth opportunities for
those firms and countries offering ‘smart’ technologies
• Stern concluded: ‘Tackling climate change is the progrowth
strategy; ignoring it will ultimately undermine economic growth’
Impact of mitigation on employment
ETUC study, Appolo, Dutch Energy4sure
• Massive and rapid technological change processes will lead to
major impacts on employment in all sectors
• Overall, mitigation should not lead to net job losses. Jobs in
activities based on conventional energy production will be replaced
by jobs in labour intensive sectors
• Mitigation can also be positive for: energy security, health, social
inclusion, air quality
• Winning and loosing jobs are not fully substituable: redeployment
of workers likely to be harmfull
• ‘Risks’ and ‘opportunities’ rather than ‘loosing’ and ‘winning’
New job opportunities
 New energy and transport infrastructure investments in
developing countries, upgrades of energy and transport
infrastructure in industrialized countries
 design and equipment manufacturing (Renewable energy, public
transport, clean automotive tech) RES Germany: 170.000 jobs
 operating and maintenance for Renewable energy sources and
Gas, public transport
 urban planning engineers
 Energy efficiency improvements in buildings
 manufacturing of energy efficient appliances (ex.bulbs)
 construction industry
 energy savings consultants and engineers
 Forest-related mitigation options
Jobs that may be negatively affected
Power generation from coal (except with CCS?) and coal mines
Automotive industries
Road freight transport if modal shift
Globalised energy intensive industries, if mitigation is implemented in
one country or group of countries (could also lead to higher
emissions elsewhere (“carbon leakage”))
Conclusion (1)
• This requires a new social agenda to:
– anticipate, and assist workers to adapt to change
– provide education and training in the “new” sectors
– improve attractiveness and working conditions in the
new sectors (eg. energy services)
– make sure that the burdens as well as the benefits are
fairly distributed (eg. CO2 taxation)
Social policies must be seen as a parallel ‘investment’ to
that in resource-saving technology
Conclusion (2)
• The major structural changes required by any serious
energy/climate policy offer considerable opportunities for trade
unions because regulatory action by governments will be
needed as the market can’t solve the problem; the workplace is
a key arena; the scale of change is such that unions’ support
will be vital.
• The energy issue may be a lever that can be used by unions to
get what they want in important areas outside the immediate
area of energy policy: e.g. worker participation in company
decision making, corporate social responsibility, better working
conditions/health and safety, supportive active labour market
policy, support for R&D and innovation.
• Trade unions have the challenge of explaining to members (and
policymakers) the scale of the changes required and
representing the interests of ‘losers’ without blocking needed
ETUC study on Employment and climate change
Full report is available at: