COP27: Breakthrough on loss and damage, attempts to sideline labor standards

The global climate summit, COP27, concluded November 20 with a breakthrough on the Global South’s decades-long call for a fund to pay for climate-related loss and damage.

Delivering the closing statement for trade unions, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) welcomed this step, as well as the recognition of social protection and social dialogue. However, it called out the wider backtracking of commitments to workers within the climate policy process.

A new fund on loss and damage

COP27 agreed a breakthrough on loss and damage, finally recognizing a long-term demand of Global South countries. Importantly, a dedicated fund will now be established which must involve new financing commitments, and not the reallocation of existing pledges.

“Funding for loss and damage is a fundamental issue for global social justice, and it is a workers’ issue. This is an important first step,” said ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton. “The developing world is paying a horrific price for a climate crisis driven by wealthy countries. And transport workers are on the front line, losing their lives, their livelihoods and their working conditions.”

Over the last two weeks, Pakistan led the push during the negotiations to move beyond talk and agree on a funding facility. The devastating floods that Pakistan suffered have been a stark reminder of the urgent need for action on loss and damage. 

Over 1,700 people were killed and 9 million people could be driven into poverty. The catastrophic floods inflicted more than US$30 billion in damages and economic losses to the country, including damage to 40 percent of its rail network.

The agreement does not contain any detail on how much will be contributed, or how funds will be allocated. The next 12 months will be critical to deliver on the initial promise. 

A mixed result for transport workers

On workers, COP27 delivered mixed results. Importantly, social dialogue and social protection are recognized for the first time. However, this progress was undermined by the dilution of commitments to workers and the increasing exclusion of workers.

Time and time again, final decisions omitted references to labor standards and workers’ rights, including crucial decisions in the areas of mitigation, adaptation, climate finance, loss and damage, and carbon markets.

“Negotiations over the climate finance target – the New Collective Quantified Goal – demonstrated the side-lining of labor rights,” said Cotton. 

“Due to come into force in 2025, the new goal will establish the level and form of future climate financing, shaping the future of climate action. It is critical that a just transition of the workforce, in line with the Paris Agreement, is embedded within this process so that the needs of workers, and the needs of the Global South more broadly are fully addressed.” 

John Mark Mwanika, ITF Urban Transport Chair and ITF Sustainable Transport Working Group Co-Chair, said “It is a huge concern that just transition was removed from the final text on the new finance goal. Lessons must be learned from past failures. Identifying actual finance needs and effective mechanisms will only happen with a structural role for workers and trade unions.”

Photo credit: iStock/ Chatchawal

The best maritime news and insights delivered to you.

subscribe maritime fairtrade

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • Event offers and discounts
  • News & key insights of the maritime industry
  • Expert analysis and opinions on corruption and more