[Fourth in the series “Labor goes to Copenhagen]

One of the most contentious issues in climate negotiations is how to share the burden of climate protection between the rich developed countries of the North and the poor developing countries of the South.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) represents unionized workers in all parts of the world, including both the developed and the developing countries.  For that reason it has had to work hard to develop a consensus based on an approach to climate protection that recognizes the needs of workers in developing countries while also protecting workers in developed countries.

Developing countries point out that most of the carbon in the atmosphere has been produced by developed countries.  They emphasize that developed countries are still pouring far more carbon per capita into the atmosphere than developing countries.  And they argue that carbon restrictions must not prevent poor countries from developing to meet the needs of their people.  They call for the developed countries to provide technology transfer and financial support to help them contribute to climate protection.

The developed countries point out that countries like China and India are increasing their carbon emissions at a rapid rate; China is now the world’s largest carbon emitter.  They argue that unless developing countries limit their carbon emissions growth, the climate will be unacceptably changed whatever the developed countries do.  They worry that if there are emission restrictions for developed countries but not for developing ones, production and jobs will simply shift to the unregulated areas.

The ITUC’s approach starts from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreement that developed and developing countries have “common” but “differentiated” responsibilities.

The ITUC agrees:

“Developed countries must take the lead on emission reductions, and provide sufficient funding for adaptation if we want to have a chance for achieving sustainable development and social justice.  Developing countries can change the nature of their growth if they are provided with the necessary funding and technology to undertake those measures.”

Drawing on a traditional labor theme, the ITUC calls on governments and society to show “solidarity with those who are most vulnerable around the world.”

Such solidarity first of all means countering global warming and its effects on the most vulnerable.  Trade unions consider the best way for developed countries to exercise solidarity with developing countries is by cutting their own emissions in order to limit further suffering and irreversible changes, and by creating the means for other countries to participate in reduction efforts.

The ITUC calls for developing countries to participate through targets on renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean coal technology, and forest protection.  Developed countries need to support these efforts through finance and technology transfer.

Creating “green” economies requires technology and resources.  The ITUC calls for a major effort by developed countries and advanced developing countries to promote research, innovation and investment in low-carbon and carbon-reducing technologies.  “Developed countries have to make major financial support and green technologies available to developing countries to enable them to contribute to reducing carbon emissions.”  Both governments and private enterprises need to re-direct financial flows toward these investments.

Poor countries and communities are disproportionately subject to the disastrous effects of climate change.  The ITUC notes that 98% of the millions people affected by climate disasters annually live in developing countries.  Small island and low-lying developing countries are particularly vulnerable.  The ITUC calls for a major increase in development aid for adaptation to climate change in the developing world.  It points out that such adaptation could be an important source of new jobs.

The ITUC argues that mitigation and adaptation efforts are for the global good and “must not be based on an approach of “charity” or “philanthropy” which puts “receiving countries in a technology and resource-dependent situation vis-à-vis donor countries.”  Further, such funding is “aimed at repairing a damage developing countries have not caused.”  Therefore, such funding should not be in the form of loans or other future burdens on developing countries.