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COP28: A breakthrough for workers but a long way to go on climate ambition


Today, at the global climate summit, COP28, governments took a critical step forward on just transition, setting the foundation to put workers at the heart of climate action.

In a landmark move, leaders adopted the Just Transition Work Programme, with an explicit focus on key worker issues including decent work, quality jobs and social protection. Crucially, in a first for any COP, COP28 recognised the importance of labour rights to a just transition, alongside Indigenous Peoples, women and youth.

‘We have long called for a just transition. Governments have now committed to an annual spotlight on just transition. In the months and years ahead, the global labour movement will make sure that governments put workers at the centre of measures to make just transition a reality,’ said Steve Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation 

On climate finance, the Loss and Damage Fund was launched. However, initial contributions of $700m are well short of the $400bn per year that will be needed and worker issues have yet to be properly recognised. 

All climate finance flows need to align with a just transition for workers, including the new climate finance deal, the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG), due to be agreed at COP29. COP28 was a missed opportunity to recognise that labour standards must be a core component of the NCQG. Bringing workers to the fore will be crucial over the next 12 months.

More broadly, COP28 committed to transitioning away from fossil fuels, but did not take the decisive commitment that will be necessary to in order to deliver on the 1.5 degree target. All countries recognise that emissions must be cut by 43% by 2030, and real action on transport based on a just transition is key to achieving this.

All countries need to submit new climate plans, or nationally determined contributions, by February 2025 at the latest. Transport trade unions are putting governments on notice that these plans must contain much stronger commitments to just transition for workers, modal shift to public transport, and investment in transport systems fit for new climate realities. 

More than ever before, transport workers are central to climate action.