Wed. Dec 12th, 2018

climate change and the "yellow vests"

climate change and the "yellow vests"



The concept of "just transition" has broken into the Climate Summit (COP24) of Katowice (Poland) as the fetish formula for achieving sustainability while minimizing social and economic costs, an ideal difficult to implement as evidenced by the protests of the "yellow vests" in Paris.

A week after the biggest riots in years in the French capital, and with a new massive protest announced for today, the often abstract disquisitions of the negotiators of the Climate Summit are intermingled these days with the harsh reality at street level.

The protests for a new rise in taxes on fuel, which a week ago ended in a pitched battle in Paris with one death, 263 wounded and 412 detainees, have turned back the French president, Emmanuel Macron, one of the champions of the fight against climate change.

The manifestations of the "yellow jackets" are a tangible sign that moving towards a decarbonised and sustainable economy has an obvious economic and social cost, a problem that must be addressed and included in the climate debate.

The term "just transition", which was already included in the 2015 Paris Agreement and which has been used for many years in these debates, has become an unprecedented event in Katowice.

The president of the COP24, Michal Kurtyka, assured that it is the task of governments "to ensure a just structural change" that allows "to protect the climate while maintaining economic development and employment".

This means taking into special account the vulnerable groups and those affected by the environmental need to cut emissions and the subsequent industrial reconversion.

There are millions of jobs and entire regions in danger if mines and power plants are closed, or if the global car industry operates a radical reconversion to abandon cars with engines to blast by electrical systems.

The person in charge of the Climate and Energy program of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, considered "inevitable", in statements to Efe, to abandon fossil fuels, but added that governments should include "social considerations and just transition mechanisms. "

"If not, we will have this kind of reactions from society," he said, referring to the protests of the "yellow vests".

In his opinion, the climate is a debate not only of politics, but also of citizens and citizens must press, but also assume their commitment.

Nonetheless, the Peruvian environment minister points out that balance and proportionality are needed: "Obviously citizens can not bear the brunt of the change", the costs of the transition "have to be shared".

The issue, as very often happens in the negotiations on climate change, is in the nuances, in how a widely accepted concept is articulated so that its implementation continues to generate consensus.

In Katowice different sensitivities are perceived in this regard, with the environmental groups and some advanced economies on one side and many developing countries on the other.

The former consider that rapid progress can be made in the transformation, optimists because they believe that the jobs eliminated in polluting sectors will be replaced by other "green jobs" of high added value in emerging sectors such as renewable energy.

The second block, with Poland at the forefront, advocates for economic growth and employment by advancing the ecological transition, which obviously slows down a change that recent scientific studies require to be immediate and large-scale.

In this context, 45 countries of the second group adopted this week at COP24 the Silesian Declaration on Solidarity and Just Transition, promoted by Poland, whose important coal sector covers 80% of its energy needs.

The text emphasizes that climate change is one of the greatest challenges, but stresses that "in the first place it is necessary to ensure the social security of workers whose jobs are going to be eliminated or transformed."

Juan Palop

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