The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change is clear – global warming is human made and every ton of CO2 released in the atmosphere contributes to climate change. This needs to stop if we are to avoid tipping points such as the thawing of the permafrost or the slowing and possible disappearance of the Gulf Stream. If these tipping points are reached we face uncontrollable climate chaos with major consequences for weather patterns. This will impact agriculture and food production, leading to rising prices while workplaces across a range of industries and public services will need to adapt. Green and Social deals are therefore important not just in the EU but also in Eastern partnership countries, as well as Turkey, the UK, Russia and Central Asia and beyond. Radical climate justice should be guiding us towards increased investment in public services as vital to transform our societies away from profit-driven growth strategies.
And while workers and our communities are extremely concerned, there is still non-cooperation and even resistance to measures to reduce CO2 emissions. This is not just about the vested interests in fossil fuel industries but also about the mindless consumption of the wealthy. The report, Confronting carbon inequality, calculated that the richest 10 percent of the world’s population (those earning around 33000 Euros per year or more as of 2015) were responsible for 52 percent of cumulative carbon emissions while the richest 1 percent (93000 Euros or more per year) produced 15 percent of cumulative emissions.
The over-consumption of the wealthy minority fuels the climate crisis. Broadly speaking the global south, poor communities in rich countries and the young and future generations pay the price. The EU’s Green Deal is a way forward although it is still framed in the concepts of more Single Market, more competition and consumption. But tax justice, the redistribution of wealth and of consumption have to be part and parcel of addressing climate change and the pandemic has underlined that the need for investment in care services and in caring for our communities and environment.
The European Council of 21-22 October will be a focal point for decisions on addressing climate change in advance of the Glasgow COP 26 meetings in November. Belgian trade unions and others plan a big rally on 10 October while the ITUC is coordinating actions worldwide leading up to Glasgow where an EPSU delegation will be part of the union presence. Will your union join in? The recent floods and fires in Europe and elsewhere underline the need for urgent action.
And as our societies are gradually relaxing the measures to contain the pandemic, the highly uneven progress with vaccinations across the world exposes further inequalities. While rich countries discuss destroying vaccines that have reached their expiry date, poor countries are desperate for more supplies. We continue to demand that the EU and Member States make it easier for more countries to produce vaccines by waiving the intellectual property rights of the pharma companies on their vaccines. Reports about huge profits and about companies increasing prices make this imperative.
Meanwhile workers in health and in social care remain under huge pressure. UK health unions are balloting their members on whether to accept the small pay increase offered by the government while Polish medical unions are preparing a massive national demonstration in Warsaw on 11 September. The demands are similar: more staff, higher pay and better conditions and the same goes for workers in social services and this newsletter has several examples.
A charged autumn agenda
As we come back from our summer break, we’ll be engaging again in many important debates. There are the draft EU directives on adequate minimum wages, pay transparency and due diligence and the misnomer of the Future of Europe conference. We also await the European Court of Justice verdict in our social dialogue court case against the European Commission while our social dialogue committees all have full agendas. Then there are the broader debates about the funding of public services, of health and social care, money for climate policies, the challenges of digitalisation and artificial intelligence, addressing migration and fighting racism. Many of these struggles come together in the demonstration in Berlin on 4 September being planned by the German trade unions and social movements. It will be a powerful signal of the sort of Germany people want ahead of the German elections later that month. I wish our comrades a successful mobilisation and all of us a powerful start of the new political season.