ITF delegates were at this year’s COP27 conference, putting the voices of our affiliates and transport workers around the world at the heart of discussions on our planet’s future.
- We highlighted the unequal regional impacts of climate change, and the need for global attention to the devastation being caused across Africa - looking across urban transport, road and rail, aviation, tourism, shipping and fisheries.
- We marked one year of the Maritime Just Transition Task Force and brought the voice of seafarers to Egypt
- On inland transport, we took part in vital discussions on the future of rail and urban transport, including the launch of key initiatives on low carbon urban transport
- On aviation, we launched a ground-breaking new Sustainable Aviation policy
- We represented women and young workers within the conference, highlighting the disproportionate challenges climate changes poses to these workers.
- As part of a wider trade union and civil society movement, we co-ordinated with our partners and friends to strengthen all our voices
- Throughout the high-level negotiations, the ITF delegates prioritised the vital issue of climate finance
Transport workers made their presence felt at COP27, the UN’s annual climate summit, held in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh in November 2022. And the transport workers’ presence was more important than ever before.
As the climate crisis wreaks ever more damage around the world, transport workers are among the most exposed to harm. At the same time, climate action is bringing changes to every transport sector, and these will have big impacts in the workplace.
Transport workers must have a voice as decisions are made which affect their lives, their livelihoods and conditions, their futures. And that’s what the ITF delegation was there to do at COP27.
At COP27, we campaigned for climate justice and worker justice to go hand in hand. We intervened in the negotiations, spoke at major panels, met with governments, international bodies, and employers, joined demonstrations and actions, and built relationships with other trade unions and the wider social and environmental movement.
COP27 saw some important steps forward. The agreement to provide ‘loss and damage’ funding for countries hit hard by climate disasters was an important breakthrough. And the creation of a work programme on just transition, with specific recognition of the need for social dialogue and social protection.
We also won high level support for our just transition demands in the transport sector. The Egyptian Presidency’s key transport initiative at COP27 addressed a long-standing gap on public transport, and crucially, included a commitment to strong labour standards and a just transition for informal transport workers. The launch of the Maritime Just Transition Task Force action plan for a just transition for seafarers secured high level support from international bodies and a number of governments, including the Philippines and the US. We also forcefully set out the case for a just transition for workers in the rail and aviation sectors.
The fact that we brought transport workers to COP made our case especially strong. Our transport worker delegates, all women and young workers, brought the experience of the workplace directly to key decision makers, which was a big change in this arena - and a vital one.
At the same time, there were challenges. The failure to agree emissions cuts on the scale the world needs is a big concern. Workers issues were marginalised in many key negotiations, including climate finance. This reinforces the need for us to build on the platform we’ve created, and to keep pushing transport worker voices to the fore as we move forward.
As we look to 2023, it is more important than ever before that workers’ issues are at the heart of climate action. Workers are essential to effective action on climate. This starts with making sure that workers are protected from the harm being caused by climate change, and it continues with good working conditions and good union jobs, this is what we need so that workers can play their part.
We must keep up the fight for climate justice and worker justice.
ITF General Secretary
Bringing a regional perspective to COP27, looking at climate action across transport sectors
Dubbed the African COP, the Sharm El Sheikh climate summit was a chance to draw global attention to climate devastation across the continent, call out broken promises and push for action.
We produced our own report on the role of sustainable transport in driving Africa’s energy and economic transition for COP27. This set out the action needed in urban transport, road and rail, aviation, tourism, shipping and fisheries to cut transport emissions and limit further climate change, achieve climate resilient transport systems and working conditions fit for Africa’s new climate realities, put in place industry plans based on a worker-led just transition, and ensure financing is available at the scale and in the form needed for climate action on transport in Africa.
Crucially, we were able to draw on work the ITF and affiliates have been carrying out across the continent, bringing in transport worker insights, experiences and proposals. This meant that we could speak to realities on the ground and bring worker perspectives to issues such as the approach to informal transport, the action needed on occupational health and safety and the opportunities for good, green transport jobs as Africa moves forward.
The ITF launched the Africa report at COP27, bringing transport worker perspectives into the climate summit.
There was no ‘Transport Day’ at COP27, but there were several key events in the official programme focusing on transport. One of the highest profile events was the Marrakech Partnership Global Climate Action Event on Transport.
John Mark Mwanika represented transport workers on this panel, setting out the major actions needed in maritime, inland transport and aviation to tackle climate change and achieve a just transition for Africa’s transport workers in particular.
“Resilience for workers is a huge gap in transport policy. Supporting resilience for workers is about many things: it’s about equipment and infrastructure, it’s about the approach to services, it’s abouts health and safety and social protections, it’s about training.”
He presented Angie Farag-Thibault, the Road Sector Transport lead in the High-Level Champions Team with copies of the ITF’s latest reports on Sustainable Transport for Africa, maritime, and aviation.
A just transition for seafarers: The Maritime Just Transition Task Force one year on
Delivering a just transition for seafarers was a big topic at COP27.
Working seafarers came to COP for the first time, bringing their perspective from working on board in front of the industry’s key decision makers, including senior executives from shipowners and governments.
Following AP Moller Maersk Vice President Morten Bo Christensen, Lindsey Austin, Chief Officer and SIU member spoke about the importance of making sure that seafarers voices were listened to. ‘I understand social dialogue as unions and employers getting around the table to iron out the key issues, that is what we need to do to make our industry green’
Lindsey and Cleo were in demand to speak at a number of events during COP.
The strong seafarers voice at COP27 translated into high level backing for a just transition.
At the launch of the Maritime Just Transition Task Force 10-point action plan, ‘Mapping a Maritime Just Transition for Seafarers’, leaders of the of ITF, ICS, UN Global Compact, IMO, ILO and Philippines Environment Secretary Maria Loyzaga gave their backing for the plan.
The Task Force is the first global body on just transition to be established at industry level, and the action plan also received strong support from the US government. Sue Biniaz, the Deputy Special Climate Envoy for the US Government, also spoke at the launch of the Task Force action plan, and later declared that the US would call for a just transition for the workforce to be included in the IMO’s revised Greenhouse Gas Strategy, which will set emissions targets for the shipping industry.
Making progress with governments and employers on inland transport
The ITF delegation went into COP27 with a range of materials setting out the challenges workers face in inland transport. Our reports included in-depth analysis of just transition issues for urban public transport workers, analysis of national climate action plans around the world, as well demands for the People’s Public Transport Policy and the Safe and Sustainable Rail campign. We had also engaged with multi-stakeholder groups such as the Sustainable Mobility for All consortium which launched a report incorporating our demands on urban transport at the summit.
To promote our asks, the ITF delegation joined panels and held meetings with employer groups, government and international stakeholders.
The COP27 presidency included urban transport within its ‘Solutions Day’ at the end of the conference. ITF engaged in preparatory sessions for this event with employer groups, financing bodies and other transport actors, pushing for key demands, including the expansion of public transport, and a just transition for workers, including informal transport workers, to be incorporated. On Solutions Day, the Egyptian presidency launched the Low Carbon Transport for Urban Sustainablility (LOTUS) initiative, setting out a vision which took account of our worker demands. We will look at how we can build on this as we move forward.
Launching the Sustainable Aviation Policy at COP27
COP27 happened at an important moment for aviation. In September ICAO, the UN body that regulates global aviation and also international aviation emissions, agreed that aviation should reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Speaking on a panel debating what a just transition to net zero for aviation should look like, Jeremy Anderson made sure the critical role of workers was on the agenda. ‘Aviation workers are the missing piece in this discussion. Aviation workers are acting on climate change, 9 million aviation workers are the industry’s everyday problem solvers, and governments and industry need to listen’
‘We are launching our Sustainable Aviation policy today, and we are calling for a Just Transition Task Force that will set out a workforce plan for decarbonisation’
Bringing young and women workers to COP27
Bringing the voice of young transport workers was a major focus for the ITF at COP27. Although the voice of youth is well established in the COP system, the voice of young workers has been almost entirely absent. The ITF young sustainable transport workers group is mobilising to bring the workers issues into youth policy at COP.
Jas Giri was the first youth representative on the ground in Sharm El-Sheikh. Jas attended the Conference on Youth (COY), which took place the week before COP.
‘I was the only trade union representative at COY, this needs to change. There are over a billion young workers, we will be affected by climate change, we need our say’.
At COP itself, youth are represented through YOUNGO (Youth NGOs). Until now, YOUNGO have had no trade union representatives involved. Speaking on a panel organised by YOUNGO and ILO, Jas made it clear that workers issues need a much stronger presence.
The ITF delegation also brought the young workers perspective to transport events. Jas and Cleo spoke about the challenges they face as, respectively, a young rail worker and a young woman worker in shipping.
COP27 underlined to us the need for more women worker voices to feed into climate action discussions, negotiations and outcomes. We were happy to have strong women speakers within the ITF delegation, and this is an area we will look to build further going into 2023.
The wider trade union and civil society movement for climate action
Throughout COP27, we worked closely with the wider trade union group. The ITUC organised daily coordinating sessions, and we were able to share information and coordinate our work to maximise our collective impact.
We were also able to connect with other groups and movements, and joined demonstrations amping up pressure on governments to take strong action on key climate issues.
High level negotiations at COP27: The voice of transport workers
Working with the wider trade union group, we followed negotiations throughout COP27. We helped to coordinate worker demands for the final COP27 text and promoted these through interventions on behalf of the trade union group, side meetings and discussions.
Ahead of COP27, the ITF decided to prioritise climate finance in the formal negotiations. The issue of how sustainable and resilient transport infrastructure and services are funded will be one of the most important issues in the coming decade. There are many issues at stake, will there be enough funding available? Will there be proper public funding that does not place additional debt burdens on countries in the Global South? And will workers have a say in how climate finance is delivered?
Workers issues have been absent from climate finance discussions so far, this is something we need to change.
Behind the scenes
The COP27 venue was a maze. Finding the correct meeting room, plenary room, pavilion, and government office was a daily struggle. One area that was important to find was the government delegations area. Far away from the flashy pavilions, this was the place to get access to key negotiators.
COP27 went into overtime as negotiators wrangled over the final text. We tracked the talks, looked at any ways we could push for a positive outcome, and as information trickled through, we worked on our response.
COP27 is over, what happens next?
As the COP27 outcomes were confirmed, emotions were mixed.
On the positive side, there was jubilation from many civil society groups over the decision to establish a loss and damage fund. Although big questions about the fund remain - including how much money will be available and crucially, for us, what it will mean for transport workers - the decision was seen as a breakthrough after 30 years of demands by developing countries bearing the burden of the climate crisis.
There were also key commitments to just transition that we need to follow up on. The final COP27 decision, officially called the Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan, established a work programme on just transition for the first time, and also an annual high-level ministerial round table. There were also explicit references to social dialogue and social protection, which were important the direct result of campaigning by the trade unions group. Finally, a just transition forum in relation to climate finance will take place in 2023.
At the same time, there were serious setbacks on climate ambition. COP27 did not deliver a strong commitment to reducing emissions in line with the 1.5-degree target, or an agreement to phase out fossil fuels. If anything, the power of the fossil fuel lobby increased at COP27, with over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists in attendance.
And despite the wins on just transition, too often workers issues were being pushed to the side in the negotiations. For example, up until now, workers issues have simply not been on the agenda in the climate finance negotiations. We need to push back and put workers at the heart of negotiations on the economic and energy transformation. As we said in the closing statement:
“The world has been through transitions before. And for workers, transition is too often a dirty word - a word that means job losses, poor working conditions, exploitation, being left behind. We must learn from the past. And this is exactly why a just transition of the workforce as explicitly stated in the Paris Agreement is essential. … A just transition of the workforce must be embedded in every workstream: mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance.”
A final thank you
We can’t finish without a few thank yous!
Firstly, to the ITF Arab World office for your hospitality and support during our time in Sharm El Sheikh.
A big thanks to those who joined the ITF delegation for your time, energy and endless patience.
And finally, to all our colleagues and partners who have worked tirelessly to support the sustainable transport work throughout the year and the delegation through COP, thank you!