High-level social dialogue forum on the impact of climate change

(17 May 2011) The ETUC has demanded for several years that the European Commission should bring together the European social partners to address the implications of climate change on Europe’s economy. A first meeting took finally place 13 May 2011, Commission staff introduced some of the work that is being undertaken including on climate change and what this implies for different sectors: (transport white paper, energy efficiency measures, follow up to ETS and issue of leakage). It was also announced that the Commission will soon come with legislative proposals to address energy efficiency including an obligation on the energy companies to ensure energy savings by its clients of a certain % and an obligation to offer energy advisory services. Several of the contributions including those of Commission representatives stressed the importance of the transversal approach, the social dialogue and also skills issues. It is recognized this might be an issue.

BusinesEurope stressed the competitiveness aspects: all measures of the Commission are a cost factor, and when talking about transport the representative of BusinessEurope suggested continuity of service was addressed (an implicit attack on the right to strike). A Commission representative underlined that infrastructure is not just a cost but also a benefit to society and that the benefits are not only those of the provider and user. The role of social dialogue at all levels was stressed and several examples were given of projects that were undertaken with the company and trade unions. Strengthening of information and consultation rights and the role of the EWC could bring forward the company approaches to address climate change. ETUC stressed the importance of the Cancun agreement which integrates Just Employment transition and decent jobs.

For EPSU the role of public services in addressing climate change was stressed. Public services do not only play a role in mitigation strategies but especial;;y in adaptation processes, ensuring that societies are prepared and adapted to the challenges that come with climate change. The coordinated austerity programmes of Member States will impact on the ability of governments to address climate change and prepare for the changes. Not only will the EU not be better prepared but the growth enhancing potential of such investment will be lost. EPSU also referred to the work being done with the European employers in the electricity sector on just transition as an example. Other contributions were made by colleagues of EFFAT and EMF for example.

A concern shared between employers and trade unions is to ensure workers and companies are adapted to the challenges arising from climate change. Skills and qualifications, and the emerging lack of a skilled workforce were issues raised in several interventions. The social partners asked for the Forum to be regular and to work on specific issues. The Commission indicated that it will consider this.

The high-level forum brought together representatives of BusinessEurope, CEEP (public service employers), UEAPME (small and medium sized employers), Metalsector employers and others and ETUC and its Federations (EPSU, EMF, Textiles, ETF, Food, Agriculture and Tourism amongst others. For the Commission DG employment, DG energy, DG transport and DG enterprise participated. EPSU’s Deputy General Secretary presented EPSU in the ETUC delegation, 13 May 2011, Brussels. The ETUC memo for the high-level group is available (EN-FR) as well as the evaluation of the Cancun agreements.