For more than 15 years within the international labor movement, I focused on environmentalism. I am now a program director at Greenpeace International. During my journey, with one foot in each of these two movements, we have seen huge changes.
We have all seen workers fight against them, challenging their hypocritical employers, forming unions and, with renewed energy, asserting their right to decent work, protection and a voice in their workplace, their sector and their countries. But what I’ve had the privilege of seeing and working on is just as exciting.
When I became involved in environmental talks, there was a deep-rooted perception among unions that unless certain social conditions were met, climate action would have to be delayed, as if the fight against climate change were a bit more for a rich and pacified society.
At the same time, the environmental movement tends to think that trying to address social inequalities or address job losses would be a waste of precious time. Instead, a dripping idea prevailed that climate ambition could be driven exclusively by governments if they followed science.
But times change.
Now there is hardly any union on this planet that thinks we can delay action against climate change. And there are good reasons for this change in thinking.
First, climate change is already affecting income and livelihoods. Supply chains are already vulnerable. Workers in sectors such as agriculture, health and construction are in increasingly precarious situations, aggravated by climate impacts.
Second, young people have mobilized on the climate, adopted it as their generational struggle and demanded that the unions accompany them.
And third, there is now a much stronger set of proposals for a fair transition, including policies to support regions and workers, strong social protections, and a much higher level of ambition for industrial policy. green.
The green movement has also changed. There is a growing recognition that there can be no environmental justice without social justice. The challenges we face are complex, as they involve multiple crises and forms of oppression that intersect. The better equipped we are to deal with the underlying power systems, the more likely we are to win.
As part of that, we need to take power away from those who want to stop positive change. That means taking on some of the richest people and companies in the world. Let us not be naive, our opponents will not hesitate to manipulate workers and people in more vulnerable situations to protect their own privileges.
We know that there is no way to reach the levels of climate ambition we need without massive public support. We need to connect with hearts and minds. That means a commitment to listening to people, even when it’s hard. This challenge is even more essential when people’s livelihoods depend on grossly declining gross industries.
Thus, there has been a change in binary and artificial opposition between protecting jobs and protecting the environment, towards a dialogue on how we overcome tensions and the dynamism generated by a transformation of this magnitude. . Together we can forge a future with fulfilling lives and a habitable planet.
At Greenpeace, we see the struggle for this future as one more chapter in the history these workers have written for decades. We all dream of a more sustainable future, so we organize and maintain the level of stubborn resistance and optimism. This is the spirit of the historical workers’ struggle: never give up.
Returning to the awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need this spirit more than ever.
Together, we must leave behind this absurd inertia that prioritizes greed, profit, and competition to the detriment of all of us. That is why those who are convinced of the need to protect our global home must join the workers in their call for the just transition we all need, where people and the planet are at the center of decisions.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.