ITUC-Africa New Year School on climate change

African trade unions stress climate change is a labour issue and claim role in policy responses to ensure decent work gains and a just transition for all.

News | 26 February 2016
African trade unions leaders meeting at the 6th edition of ITUC-Africa New Year School, on 22-26 February 2016 in Lomé, Togo, stressed the crucial role that trade unions can play in the implementation of the Agreement on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in December 2015 in Paris.

The New Year School held under the theme of “Industrial development and Employment in Africa: opportunities and challenges for labour in the face of climate change” presented an opportunity for the ITUC-Africa affiliates and its allies to craft a mobilization agenda for Africa’s industrial development and transformation and adequate responses to climate change. The school brought to the table key issues related to industrial development and employment in the face of climate change, which need translation into strategies and action at national, sub-regional and regional levels, with a distinct role of trade unions as crucial agents.

This edition of the ITUC-Africa NYS came at a particularly opportune moment for ITUC-Africa and the African trade union movement. As part of preparing the intellectual and organizational conditions for rising up to the call on African trade unions to influence economic policy in the interest of their members and ordinary people at large, ITUC-Africa has established an African Labour Research and Education Institute (ALREI) to be the key policy driver for trade unions at the regional level.

Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, General Secretary of ITUC –Africa welcomed the intellectual engagement of unions and partner organizations, noting that the discussions and outcomes of the NYS will provide a useful basis for formulating an advocacy agenda embedded in research and education for ITUC-Africa.

Mody Guiro, President of ITUC-Africa said that “trade unions in Africa recognize both the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change and its policy responses for social development and economic progress. He stressed that unions must be at the forefront in the implementation of the Paris agreement to realize the imperative of decent work and a just transition of the workforce.”

The various trade union leaders noted it is well known that, while Africa accounts for only 3.8 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, it is the most vulnerable region to the impacts of climate change. Drawing from their own country experiences, the representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia highlighted the fact that from recurrent droughts affecting not only agricultural production but also hydropower generation, to damage on productive assets in tourism, fisheries and industry affecting incomes and livelihoods, African people are already paying a heavy price from the devastating climate impacts on workers, enterprises and communities.

The trade union leaders also discussed African regional initiatives to respond to climate change, including the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative and the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative, and explored ways through which unions can play their part both at the continental and national levels. They called for a clear consideration of African specificities with regard to climate change adaptation and mitigation, taking into account labour imperatives in particular for young African people as well as important gender dimensions of climate change.

The Green Jobs Programme of the ILO provided a contextual framework on the Paris Agreement on climate change, its implications for labour, and issues of specific interest to African countries. The Just Transition Guidelines adopted by the ILO Governing Body in November 2015 and the Green Centenary Initiative were presented as guiding frameworks for action by the ILO.