Skip to main content

Proposals 20-23: Climate change

We believe in transport and energy democracy

If we act NOW, there is still a chance of stopping dangerous climate change.  Bold policies are needed, and they must be adapted to specific national and city contexts. Expanding public transport is an essential part of the fight against greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and climate change. The upfront costs of such an expansion can be considerable, but the social, economic and environmental benefits of public transport far outweigh the costs.

The ITF’s reduce, shift, improve model to lower transport-related emissions involves three main approaches: (a) reducing the movement of people; (b) shifting the ways in which people move, away from high-carbon to low-carbon modes of transport; and, (c) improving our use of both existing and new methods and technologies to promote energy efficiency[4]

Transport related emissions are rising faster than any other sector. Efforts to slow down emissions have failed. Almost three quarters of transport-related emissions come from road transport, which means that CO2 generated from cars, trucks, and motorcycles must become a policy priority. Private vehicle ownership is rising, and only 0.2% of the 1.2 billion vehicles on the world’s roads are electric. Public transport is increasing, but too slowly to stop the rise in emissions or to meet the needs of a rising global urban population.

Rising private vehicle ownership poses a major challenge to the fight against transport-related emissions and climate change. Robust policies are needed to curtail private vehicles in public spaces. This is needed to reduce emissions and congestion, and to create space (both economic and physical) for the growth of modern public transport systems.

Policy proposal 20: Guarantee a ‘just transition’ for transport workers

As transport unions we seek a just transition for workers in the existing transport sector and will strive to ensure that the transport workers of the future enjoy decent pay and conditions as well as employment stability. If transport-related emissions are to be reduced, many new jobs need to be created [5]. Transport workers in both the formal and informal transport workforce must be fully engaged in the planning and implementation of these expanded public systems. Workers who drive taxis and minibuses today have the knowledge, skills and experience to help design and staff the new public mobility services of the future.

Policy proposal 21: Adopt a ‘whole economy’ approach to reduce transport emissions

Reducing emissions from transport will only be part of a successful energy transition if emissions in other key sectors—electrical power generation, industry, buildings, food and agriculture, and more—are also reduced. It also allows us to ask questions about the role of transport in our lives, how transport systems take shape, and how they are controlled. This means the solutions must take effect at the very heart of the global economy and will have a major impact on our way of life. It also means that it is necessary for trade unionists to build alliances and widen our political perspective.

Policy proposal 22: Support the electrification of public transport 

There has been an unjustified emphasis on electric cars providing the solution to decarbonisation, while there has not been enough investments in the electrification of public transport. Electric cars charged using renewable energy can help meet transport needs in the future, but much greater emissions gains are possible from the electrification of public transport fleets including BRT services.

The shift to cleaner, greener, electric public transport will require a considerable increase in power generation. The electrification of rail and buses should be a top priority, as is expanding their use. There is also a role for electric taxis (including on-demand taxis) for first and last mile connections to public transport hubs.  When electrification is applied with the decarbonisation of the electricity supply, through a massive expansion of renewable energy, big gains in emissions reductions can be achieved. 

Policy proposal 23: Campaign for energy democracy and transport democracy

While renewable generating capacity is increasing each year, overall energy demand continues to grow even faster, and therefore the use of fossil fuels continues to rise. Market-focused approaches are impeding further advances and breakthroughs. We need faster development of renewables to support the decarbonisation of transport.

Transport unions have a visible stake in the struggle for energy democracy and public renewable power. Both the power sector and the transport sector must be subjected to more democratic participation and public ownership, so that the decarbonisation of both sectors can proceed unhindered in a planned and coordinated way, with a guaranteed just transition for workers.

Developing the infrastructure and inputs needed to develop public transport will create jobs. For example, large numbers of charging stations will be needed, and these should be public. Their deployment could be under community-level control. An integrated, ‘public goods’ approach is essential to the future of both sectors. 

[4] See ITF transport workers and climate change: towards sustainable, low-carbon mobility.

[5] The creation of new green jobs in transport must be linked to national employment policies, in line with ILO convention 122 and recommendation 169.