Rudiments of COP and OSHE's journey in Just Transition Action

The year was 1992, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted during the ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro, is an international treaty which acknowledges the existence of anthropogenic climate change and provides the framework for climate change negotiations.

The treaty was entering into force in 1994 and 196 countries ratifying it. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC and is made up of representatives from all parties.

The COP has met each year since 1995 to review the implementation of the Convention. Each COP elaborates and builds on the decisions and resolutions of previous COPs, with the Kyoto Protocol adopted at COP3 in 1997 being one of the better known agreements.

At COP21 was in Paris, the “Paris Agreement" was reached and has been widely proclaimed as a historic deal and one that will inevitably lead to decarburization. The implementation of the Paris Agreement will be at the center of negotiations for COP22 in Marrakech.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement committing 37 developed countries and the European Union to cut the billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere every year. The Kyoto Protocol, an offshoot of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was first agreed in 1997. The new treaty runs from January 2013 to December 2020. It was renewed in December 2012 at the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Qutar.

The Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 stated that "Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities".

In the beginning, the general public of the country, especially the working class people was not informed about climate change and its impacts on their lives and livelihoods. No significant initiatives have been taken at the government level in this regard at that time. There was no adequate information about the impact of climate change on the lives and work of the working people, so they were not aware of how they can overcome the harmful effects of climate change or what the possible solutions are. They had no idea about Just Transition and how it worked for the workers.

In this backdrop, OSHE realized strive to work on this issue to aware and capacitate trade unions and CSOs at national and sectoral level through strengthening advocacy, skill and dialogue among trade union actors and grassroots workers.

OSHE began its journey by participating in the Climate Change Conference and initiating a primary project on climate change and labour issue in between period 2008 - 2012 for raising awareness and building capacity for trade unions and CBOs in Bangladesh on Climate Change, Just Transition and Green Job issues. In 2010-2011, OSHE worked closely with international trade union organizations through a joint project on “Capacity building of trade unions on climate change” partnership with Sustainlabour and TUC (UK). The implemented project made an important contribution to introducing the climate change and green job issues with building effective responses and collective actions to the national labour movement in Bangladesh.

As an impact of these actions, the major trade union in Bangladesh were able to develop a national common trade union position paper on climate change named “A National Green Paper of Trade Unions” in 2011.  In this paper, the trade unions placed their demands for including “Just Transition” and “Green Job” issues in the Government plan and strategies which includes:

  • The National Adaptation Programme of action (NAPA) and
  • The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2009.

A good number of national level trade union leaders were sensitized through advocacy and campaign actions.  The project also published some education and campaign materials which includes a booklet on Green Jobs focusing a just transition to low carbon economy with the support of Trade Union Congress-TUC (United Kingdom) and some flyers.

Furthermore in 2022, OSHE implemented a short-term action project with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Bureau of Workers Activities to revitalize OSHE’s work on Just Transition among the major six national workers organizations at the national level. The outcomes of these actions were 25-second tire leaders (13 were female) from BC member organizations trained with updated knowledge, social dialogue and advocacy skills on climate change and just transition for workers.

The term "just transition" is still not very familiar to many groups in Bangladesh. Therefore, FES Bangladesh and OSHE have started a mass awareness campaign on these concepts to get the trade unionists ready for the challenge of climate change.In this context, OSHE recently on 2022, started a partnership with FES Bangladesh to implement a pilot project named “Initiatives for Just Transition and Social Justice in Bangladesh 2023’ and has continuation of the project with the awareness raising actions, capacity building training, research and studies, social dialogue and policy advocacy, development of campaign tools, knowledge products and building network and alliance with trade unions and other stakeholders working in climate change issues.

The project sets a target to accelerate efforts towards upholding just transition commitment by Bangladesh under the Paris Climate Agreement through active policy reforms, promote effective social dialogue at tripartite level; climate-proof work, green job and transformative social protection; generate better collaboration and agreement between employer and trade union at the enterprise level;  foster effective interaction and alliance between trade unions, environmental rights groups and CSOs on the issue of justice for venerable climate worker.

The Eighth Five Year Plan of the government has included three themes; climate change adaptation, implementation strategy on climate change resilience and climate change mitigation under addressing climate change. The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) communicates Bangladesh's overall approach to climate change action on mitigation and adaptation to the international community. Countries' NDCs were central to the Paris Agreement in December 2015.  

NDC Action plan covers all industrial sub-sectors. The focus of efforts will be on the industrial sectors such as readymade garments, textile, leather, chemicals, steel re-rolling, Brick manufacturing, cement, food and beverage, paper, tobacco, sanitary ware, insulation factories, plastics, etc. 

The OSHE foundation's analysis showed that the government does not address the issue of Just Transition and decent work at the NDC document and action plan. The engagement of the ministry of labour, the employer's organisations, and the trade union was not addressed at the NDC Sectoral mitigation plan. It also found a need to manage and minimise the gap between existing labour and environmental movement needs on various ecological issues.