EU Climate Commissioner to EPSU: Taking Global Warming and Climate Change seriously
European Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard addressed the EPSU Executive Committee on 24 April 2012. EPSU had invited the Commissioner to discuss the impact of climate change on public services following the EPSU study which explored the effects for a broad range of services. Public services play a key role in mitigation and especially in adaptation measures. The Commissioner is also responsible for adaptation. EPSU is concerned that the austerity crisis will affect the investment in adaptation negatively. It would leave Europe unprepared and citizens vulnerable.
The Commissioner acknowledged that much attention is paid to industry and not enough to public services. “We hope to continue to work with you on the impact of climate change on public services.” The Commissioner continued arguing that: “Trade unions have a key role to play.” Employers and governments need to hear from workers and citizens that they should address climate change, she argued. She underlined that the EU can not compete with emerging economies on wages, on working conditions or tax levels and that the EU should look to develop its advantages on green technologies and green jobs further. The Commissioner warned for complacency as emerging economies are catching up rapidly and in particular China.
The Commissioner referred to the discussion on energy efficiency and underlined that binding targets have helped to keep the EU on track to achieve its targets. EPSU supports binding energy efficiency targets. The Climate Commissioner underlined that energy efficiency will not only assist in keeping global warming in check but also offers the potential of job growth. Members of the Executive engaged in a lively discussion on procurement and the importance of social and environmental criteria in public contracts. The Commissioner fully supported the importance of using public contracts to achieve broader goals. The Commissioner referred to the recent publications of the European Commission as part of the Employment Package. The Commission underlines that policies to reduce, re-use and recycle waste have a large potential for creating jobs, up to an estimated ½ million in 2020 in a working paper; that working paper points out that the low quality of working conditions of these jobs will be a problem to attract sufficient workers. The Commissioner agreed with EPSU that the status of waste workers needs to be “upgraded”.
Following the discussion the trade union leaders adopted a statement on the Climate Change and Rio+20. The main points:
The European Parliament has supported binding energy efficiency targets. These should be part of the energy efficiency directive. EPSU, ETUC and many other organisations have expressed support. The EPSU Executive confirmed this support and calls on the Danish Presidency and Member States to support the position of the EP.
Further unilateral targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions up to 30% are feasible. The Commission should propose plans. But we can only accept such plans if there is a clear social plan including sufficient finance to address the situation of those industries and regions that will face negative consequences. Just transition and decent jobs remain a guiding principle to judge such plans.
The possibilities to use Social and Environmental criteria in public contracts are to be strengthened and facilitated by the proposed legislation on public procurement.
EPSU supports the demands of the ETUC and the ITUC for Rio+20. Public Service unions will be led by PSI and key points will be: the role of quality public services, financial transaction tax, social protection floor, human right for water, access to energy services.
Europe’s public service union leaders are concerned about the next summit on Climate Change to be held in Doha, Qatar, end of the year. There is no trade union freedom and there is a risk that trade union delegations will be harassed.
The EPSU and ETUI Beyond GDP Conference will take place on 11-12 June 2012, Brussels and will also focus on alternative economic model to the current situation.
For the statement (EN FR DE SV ES RU)