The inclusion of the 'just transition' worker protection provision in the Paris climate change agreement is a "considerable achievement" a union has said, but pressure will continue to be placed on governments to deliver on that commitment.

The final version of the Paris Decision and Agreement was released this weekend at the end of COP21 – the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The outcome, global union IndustriAll said, is "weak and imperfect" in several areas, but may be "the best that could be politically achieved at this moment."

Included in the agreement was the 'just transition' provision, which is a framework for a fair and sustainable shift to a low carbon economy, proposed by trades unions and supported by environmental NGOs and organisations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO). 

It makes the case for meaningful environmental transition and sustainable development; representation and employee involvement; stable employment and long-term planning; social justice and a fair distribution of costs; and government backing and a united purpose.

For trade unions, the three core issues involved in the 'just transition' are the importance of consultation, investment in low carbon technologies, and equipping working people with the skills for a low carbon, resource-efficient economy.

There was concern, however, by some unions of the exclusion of 'just transition' measures in the draft Paris Outcome, but it has since been included in the final agreement, albeit in the preamble.

The wording of the measure is "clear and concise", IndustriAll says, and "better in some ways than past formulations".

It asks the parties to take into account "the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities". 

IndustriAll says it would have preferred these to be referenced in the body of the agreement rather than in the preamble, but nevertheless is a "political commitment of the signatories" and represent "a considerable achievement".

"After the Lima COP there was no guarantee that the words would even appear," said IndustriAll's director of sustainability, Brian Kohler. "I think that whether they are in the preamble or the body, our task will be the same: to lobby and campaign for our national governments to accept that a political commitment to their workforces has been made in COP21, and pressure them to deliver on that commitment."

The main aim of the annual COP agreement is to keep global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to try to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. To reach these ambitious goals and help developing countries switch from fossil fuels to greener sources of energy, appropriate financial flows will be put in place, with the developing world providing US$100bn per year by 2020. 

IndustriAll said its 50m affiliated workers in the manufacturing, mining, and energy sectors will be among those first and most affected by measures to control climate change. "The Paris Agreement must be seen as a starting point, not a finish line," said Jyrki Raina, IndustriAll's general secretary. "It creates an institutional framework that has all the necessary ingredients to succeed. Whether it actually does, or not, is now up to us. IndustriAll must be ready to lead the way forward."
 
Earlier this month, a group of seven apparel companies, including Levis Strauss & Co, VF Corp and Gap Inc, signed a declaration calling on government leaders to reach a strong climate change agreement. 

Apparel groups urge strong climate pledge from leaders