Climate change
The effects of climate change are already being felt in many parts of the word []

Cold, grey, hazy skies were sadly a fitting backdrop for the dismal global leadership on display during COP 19 in Warsaw.

For unions, employment and decent work is core business and climate change is not employment friendly.

Science is telling us that all sectors of the economy will be heavily impacted by climate change if we do not succeed in maintaining a temperature increase below 2C. Our governments have a small window of opportunity to show they have a political commitment to workers and their children.

The time for transitioning peacefully and fairly to sustainability is starting to run out. The last decade was the warmest on record. August tied with 2005 as the fourth warmest August on record globally. Arctic sea ice has shrunk to its sixth lowest level on record.

We are in unchartered waters for humanity as we are emitting 50 billion tonnes of carbon gases every year. Even if we maintain today's levels, we will use up our entire planetary budget in 15-25 years. The 2013 IPCC report confirms that we've already exceeded half of the carbon budget available before we reach the point of emergency.


Yet despite the overwhelming evidence from the IPCC report, the evidence about the carbon budget, the increasing number of climate-related disasters and the knowledge that the broader impact of climate change will be felt within 15 years, no urgency or increased ambition was on display at COP 19. On the contrary, the Polish presidency demonstrated disdain from the outset.

More than 60% of historical carbon emissions can be traced to just 90 companies yet a number these very companies were given privileged access to a process supposedly responsible for regulating their extreme behaviour.

Access to governments in a pre-COP forum was in a venue wrapped in corporate sponsorship and the provocation of a 'coal summit' took place in the middle of negotiations. Not satisfied with these statements, the Polish government dumped the minister leading the conference from his position.

Tragically, Poland was not alone. Japan followed Canada by reducing targets for carbon emissions and Australia's behaviour, from questioning finance obligations to its insulting dress standards, simply demonstrated a lack of responsibility for global action. The US was similarly unhelpful as it seemed preoccupied in its quest to see no advance on the Durban commitments.

Alongside the apathy towards climate change, the other alarming deficit was industry transformation and jobs. Unions accept there are no jobs on a dead planet, and it is clear that sustainable jobs require the transformation of all industry sectors. Front and centre to this ambition are new models of technology sharing, investment in R&D and the foundation stone of just transition measures.

Yet some governments even questioned the need for the 'just transition' guarantees essential to protect people.

The ITUC Global Poll 2013 demonstrates that 88% of people support investment in clean energy and environment-related industries. Yet from leaders we find urgency - absent; ambition - absent; responsibility - absent.

Rather, the UN Secretary General, despite his commitment to a one-day global summit in 2014, appears to believe corporate partnerships are the answer; partnerships with the same corporations spending billions to lobby against the very regulations that are required; the corporations that exploit workers' rights either directly or through their supply chains.

Corporations are not the answer but democratic courage and leadership is. That leadership was simply not on display in Warsaw. That is why the ITUC and the climate and development group said 'enough is enough' and walked out in protest.

Our commitment is now to work within our democracies to hold governments to account. With a 2015 deadline in Paris for an ambitious global agreement, Lima 2014 must settle the foundations for ambition, financing, technology sharing and just transition at a minimum.

Strong mandates are required from every government. We will be mobilising to ensure just that. There is no planet B.

Sharan Burrow is general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, which takes a lead role in the campaign for workers' and environmental rights in a variety of areas. Visit the ITUC website for further details.