(20 October 2015) Climate Change remains the most urgent challenge to current and future generations. If climate change is not controlled to remain near a temperature rise of 2 degrees in 2100, it could result in climate chaos. Through feed back mechanisms like melting ice caps and thawing permafrost, global temperatures could rise to 4 degrees or more. This would impact on communities and on many work places.
The effort to address climate change and promote renewable, reduce CO2 emissions and improve energy efficiency interacts with new technologies such as smart meters and the unpredictability of the internal market. These combined factors cause an upheaval of the sector. Several power plants and including modern ones are no longer profitable. The (mostly private) owners propose closing them. This concerns several thousands of workers in the EU. Indirecty a far greater number is concerned, plus families and communities. These issues were discussed with Benjamin Denis of ETUC.
The concerns underlined that the Global Agreement should have a section on Just Transition and Decent Work. That should be the outcome of COP21 (Paris). Thanks to lobby work of EPSU, ETUC and affiliates the European Council has adopted a mandate that includes this. Members agreed to pressure the European Parliament to also adopt such a mandate. (EPSU and ETUC lobbied the various parties. The European Parliament did adopt an amendment in plenary to support this 14 October).
Global coordination of the public service work for COP21 is with PSI. An EPSU delegation will join the PSI group during the trade union events in Paris foreseen for 3-6 December. EPSU, PSI, ETUC and ITUC are calling on affiliates to send delegations to the large demonstration on 29 November, before the opening of the negotiations. This should give the signal that we want to see action and an agreement.
The ETUC Congress 2015 underlined the commitment of Europe's unions to address climate change. A powerful speech was made at the Congress by Mary Robinson, underlining that the fight to address climate change is a fight for climate justice. And that is a fight or social justice.
Other issues discussed in the Standing Committee included:
- Prioritising the discussion on the circular economy. Workers interests regarding health and safety, training and social dialogue should be recognised. EPSU sees a role for public services in preventing, sorting, recycling of waste. To make repairing and maintaining of equipment available to all, a role for municipalities can be foreseen. The package is expected towards the end of the year.
- Progress on the Right2Water campaign. The European Parliament adopted a very positive report agreeing with the R2W demands. Members agreed the next focus is the European Commission.
- Results of the social dialogue committee electricity. Not only did it adopt a joint agreement on COP21 and the importance of Just Transition but also a joint demand for an impact assessment on the proposals for a new internal electricity market design. This could have consequences for workers and low income users for example. The social dialogue committee also considered apprenticeships, continued its work on a framework for quality traineeships and on a project on making the electricity sector attractive to young workers
- EPSU continues its work on energy poverty ensuring that low incone households are protected against high prices and abuse. EPSU works together with the EAPN, the European Anti-Poverty Network on this.
- A report from the meeting of the EWC Coordinators on the position of ETUC (and EPSU) on the socalled SUP directive.
- Members also received a short report on the situation in the Greek energy system. It was given by Norwegian colleagues which had recently visited GENOP-DEH the Greek electricity workers trade union. Discussions focus on supporting the union in keeping the high voltage electricity company in public ownership.
The Members briefly joined the demonstration of the Belgian unions against austerity in solidarity. That demonstration saw 100.000 people walking the streets of Brussels.
The utilities committee met 7 October 2015, Brussels. It was chaired by Jan Ruden, its President and of the Swedish union SEKO. The EPSU General Secretary participated temporarily standing in for the policy staff which will commence work in January 2016.
The next meeting of the Standing Committee will take place 11 February 2015.