The plan says “sustainable and just solutions to the climate crisis must be founded on meaningful and effective social dialogue and participation”, noting that a global transition to low emissions “provides opportunities and challenges for sustainable economic development and poverty eradication”.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said after COP27 that it welcomed the UN plan, but urged countries to commit to respect labour rights and human rights in any just transition, while also involving unions in decision-making.

Eric Manzi, ITUC-Africa’s deputy general secretary, said that on his continent funds “are desperately needed for transition skills training and ensuring informal jobs become formalised decent jobs with social protection”.

“This is the way to deliver for workers in poor and rich countries alike,” he added in a statement.

Donor governments are testing a new approach to providing that support for developing nations through “Just Energy Transition Partnerships” (JETPs), which have so far been launched for South Africa and Indonesia, backed by $8.5 billion and $10 billion of international public finance respectively.

Discussions are underway for similar deals with Vietnam, India and Senegal – although those have progressed more slowly, partly because the three countries are still planning to increase fossil fuel production and use.

The South Africa JETP investment plan, released in the run-up to COP27, includes steps to consult with communities in areas where coal mines and coal-fired power plants will be closed, as well as to put social welfare schemes in place, diversify the economy and provide training for future jobs.


But climate justice advocates are concerned the JETPs will pay little more than lip service to their “just” element.

Mary Robinson, chair of The Elders, a group of independent leaders, warned at a separate COP27 event of the risk that energy transition plans may end up proceeding “without the justice component being clearly rooted in international human rights and labour standards”.

In South Africa’s case, she noted, less than 4% of JETP funding will come as grants, with only 1% dedicated to social projects.

“It’s loaded against the very thing we are supposed to achieve,” said Robinson, a former president of Ireland and UN human rights commissioner, arguing that the “just” part of any green energy transition must be properly resourced.

Nick Mabey, founding director and co-CEO of London-based think-tank E3G, said that even in Europe, where there is significant money available to support the transformation of coal and other fossil-fuel regions, channelling the funding to affected people is “not as easy as you think”.

“How do we make sure allocated money is the right type of money – and actually gets to the people who need it as opposed to the people it’s easier to get (it) to or who can shout the loudest and have the most power?” he asked.

“That’s becoming more and more of a practical issue as we get into delivery,” he told journalists after COP27.

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