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United Nations Climate Talks: Expectations and Opportunities in Doha, Qatar

Bob Baugh directs the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council and chairs its Energy Task Force. He is at the United Nations climate talks with labor delegates from around the world.

After two years of exceeding expectations, a United Nations group of unions is ready to continue creating plans for jobs and addressing climate change.

At the start of this year’s conference, which is known as the 2012 COP 18, nobody thought much would happen, especially because the meeting is being held in Qatar, which leads the world in per capital carbon emissions.

Plus, the host country gets to run the meeting, and Qatar represents the bloc of oil nations that tied up previous negotiations. 

Frustration in the talks came during the major meetings drafting language for the key document for a climate agreement.  

The action part of last year's platform is the area where progress is being made. The 2011 adopted platform is implementing the Green Climate Fund, which will be headquartered in South Korea. The technology centers group has begun working on forestry (REDD).  The adaptation work group just finished a 28-hour marathon negotiating session with 22 action items and a work plan that others were excited about. And today, the chair for the Durban Platform working group put forth a 2012 proposal on energy, transport, agriculture, waste, forestry and construction.

It took years to make sure “Just Transition” language was included in UN agreements, but the effort seems to have paid off because the Climate Fund together with the other plans could produce a set of programs that will hold new jobs to a high standard, and include training and worker education.

That’s how the International Trade Union Confederation and the UN can help workers—and whole economies—make the transition toward a greener world, without giving up a chance at a decent life.

Sound familiar? That’s what the AFL-CIO has been fighting for in Washington for years. 

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