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Transport workers are key to stopping climate catastrophe

news 08 Apr 2022

After countless studies showing the urgent need for climate change action and describing the catastrophic effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) release (Part III of their 6th report) this week now outlines the detailed and concrete steps we can take to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

This clear guidance for adopting a global climate action plan is invaluable - and employers, workers, trade unions, and policymakers throughout the transportation sector should take serious note of their prescriptions.

The IPCC report gives us a sense of the scope of the problem in transportation. As of 2019, transportation contributed 23% of energy-related CO2 emissions globally. More worryingly, however, the growth rate of transportation emissions (2%/year) has yet to slow down and is now outpacing the growth rates of larger, more polluting sectors like energy (1%/year) and manufacturing (1.4%/year).

Without any interventions, transportation emissions could grow by 65% by 2050 and prevent us from keeping global temperatures within the limits of the Paris Agreement.

However, the report also notes that it is still possible with “successful mitigation strategies” to “reduce sectoral emissions by 68%” in the same period. The IPCC details many of these strategies in the Transportation chapter of the report, including offering specific solutions for urban transport, road transport, rail, maritime, and aviation.

Many of these concepts rely on innovative technologies that will transform the way we work – including electrification of land vehicles, the use of biofuels or hydrogen fuel by aircraft, the development of new fuel storage systems in ports, the expansion of battery charging networks, among many others. Other solutions they present could have even more fundamental impacts on transport workers lives beyond the workplace like radical shifts in city planning and design, equitable land use policies, and changes to our consumer behavior.

At times, the IPCC even makes major global policy recommendations such as suggesting that “including international shipping and aviation under the governance of the Paris Agreement could spur stronger decarbonization.” Understanding the details of all these possible components of a greener economy will undoubtedly be important for decisionmakers in the sector.

But the IPCC report mostly does not tell us who should be included among those decisionmakers. In addition to employers and governments, transportation workers, their trade unions, and their communities need to be involved at every step in the transformation of the industry.

For many transportation workers still reeling from the impact of the pandemic it is crucial that such changes are anchored by the retention and expansion of high-quality union jobs, access to new training and opportunities (particularly for women and young workers), and full social supports. Just as importantly, more worker inclusion and community participation are central toward achieving the end goal of a greener world. Inclusion of workers’ voices at all levels will result in more successful implementation of new technologies and more socially just policy choices.

Whether through more representation on corporate boards, the development of green worker representatives at worksites like airports or transit systems, trade union participation in key policymaking bodies, or other similar methods the transportation sector needs more democratic oversight if we are to achieve the goals so clearly outlined by the IPCC.



Demand your government does more to tackle climate change here:

As part of the Paris Agreement, every government has to produce a NDC - a “Nationally Determined Contribution”, outlining what they will do to contribute to the Agreement’s goals of averting catastrophic climate change. But these NDCs, currently, simply don’t go far enough when it comes to transport.

We are demanding specific and ambitious emissions targets for transport, including:

  • International aviation and maritime emission reductions must be aligned with Paris Agreement targets
  • Transport must be supported by an energy transition plan, which is vital for providing zero carbon fuels and renewable energy on which a zero carbon transport sector depends
  • A decisive modal shift to publicly-owned public transport and away from private journeys - transport is a public good
  • Commitment to financing investment in zero carbon transport infrastructure and services that ensure rapid decarbonization and democratic control
  • Funding commitments for zero carbon transport systems in the global south

So, please, we invite you to add your union’s weight behind this campaign and demand governments across the world do what it takes to deliver a just transition in transport?

Your union can sign up here: