Trade unions urge deep greenhouse gas cuts

Europe's trade unions have called for greenhouse gas cut targets of 75% by 2050, which they say will minimise future impacts of climate change on workers as long as social aspects are factored into policy.

In anticipation of an EU green paper on climate change adaptation, expected by the end of the year, the European Trade Union Congress (ETUC) urged ambitious greenhouse gas cut targets of 25% by 2020 and 75% by 2050.

The cuts should be accompanied by measures to protect the populations and jobs most at risk, the trade unions urged:

“ETUC is concerned that, until now, the majority of countries in the European Union have not assessed the impact that global warming will have on their economic and social fabric.

“If no action is taken, the populations that will suffer the most will be those who are already the most disadvantaged, a situation that would then cause serious tensions in society.”

Policy should take advantage of the ways workers could benefit from climate change – through an increased use of labour to compensate for less intensive use of natural resources, for example. Europe’s most disadvantaged populations and workers should also benefit from the improvement in air quality that would results from lower emissions.

“Many studies show that tackling climate change could, on the whole, be beneficial for employment,” ETUC said, noting that income, jobs and working conditions in the highest-emitting sectors would inevitably change.

The unions also urged Europe to tap into the potential for job creation that climate change will bring, in particular in the areas of renewables, energy efficiency and public transport.

The union should also “support efforts to raise the level of qualifications required for these jobs and make them more attractive to young people,” ETUC said.

The benefits of ambitious greenhouse gas targets will far outweigh the costs for the EU – as long as all sectors, including aviation and shipping, and all greenhouse gases are covered.

The EU should also establish a very long-term policy for the carbon trading market to match the investment timescales needed for the low carbon sector to develop, and harmonise the CO2 trading scheme across Europe, the trade unions believe.

Goska Romanowicz

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