UN taps York U climate and labour research project to assist intergovernmental climate change negotiations

A ground-breaking technical paper on jobs and climate change produced by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) draws upon unique research produced by a joint labour and research project based at York University.

The UNFCCC report, titled Just transition of the workforce, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs, profiles research produced by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change project (ACW) as a best practice. According to the UN, the secretariat’s paper was prepared to assist nations to move decisively on reducing the greenhouse gasses produced by work and workforces while creating decent work and quality jobs for a new labour market.

Carla Lipsig Mumme
Carla Lipsig Mumme

“This important UNFCCC paper breaks new ground in a much-trodden field,” said York social science Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé, project director and principal investigator of ACW.

Just transition, carbon footprint reduction in the world of work while ensuring that good jobs and decent work are not only retained but expanded, has long been invoked. But achieving just transition has been elusive, requiring as it requires a mix of state financial support and regulation, technological advances and work redesign, mobilization of the social safety net, willingness of employers, an active labour market policy, and the creative engagement of workers and their unions.

“The UN’s new report will deepen the international community’s understanding of the need to consider the impact of climate policies on workers, and the essential role that labour unions have in combatting climate change,” she said.

“I am delighted that our research, produced through a collaboration of academic and organized labour researchers funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, has contributed to intergovernmental climate change negotiations through the UNFCCC,” she added.

Specifically, an innovative database at York University of collective agreements clauses devoted to environmental conservation receives special recognition by the UNFCCC. “As part of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change project, an online database of green collective agreements has been developed from UK, Australian and American as well as Canadian collective agreements. The database includes clauses related to climate change and low-carbon development,” noted the UNFCCC paper.

The UNFCCC technical paper is timely. At a recent meeting of ACW international researchers in Vancouver, concerns about “Just Transition” for workers impacted by climate change mitigation measures were high on the agenda. Participants noted with concern that governments are skirting their obligation to assist workers in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

ACW membership includes 47 individual researchers and 24 partner organizations in 4 countries and the European Union. It is a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Program–funded project, based at York University.