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As COP25 proceeds in Madrid, EFFAT is concerned by the remarks of Johan Rockström, Joint Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who told The Guardian that “we are at risk of getting so bogged down in incremental technicalities at these negotiations that we forget to see the forest for the trees.”

Greta Thunberg and the thousands of other protestors in the streets of Madrid are right – this is a climate emergency. It is not a problem for the future.

EFFAT has for decades recognised the special importance of climate change for its work: Agriculture, Food and Tourism are big contributors in terms of emissions and EFFAT acknowledges that many current modes of production and distribution are environmentally unsustainable. Nevertheless, we must not forget among the justifiable clamour for change that there are millions of decent, working people who rely on these sectors for their livelihoods. We cannot just cast them aside.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights the indispensability of a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies with decent work for all. Workers must have a seat on the journey to net-zero emissions, not least because only by incorporating workers into the process can Europe realise its goals.

Key to the just transition is lifelong worker education and training, ensuring workers in vulnerable situations are equipped with the skills to find work elsewhere in the evolving food supply chain, or in alternative sectors. Moreover, to maintain agriculture jobs in the future and prevent the destruction of rural areas, public funding will need to be directed towards sustainable developments in the sector; the EU Sustainable Finance initiative is a positive step, but we need to go further.

It is also up to employers to adapt their processes, harnessing new technological developments and taking advantage of EU umbrella frameworks to increase the effectiveness and speed of climate mitigation and adaptation techniques.

EFFAT will continue to champion ambitious measures to combat the climate crisis, all the while ensuring a just transition that respects the rights of workers to be involved in decision-making. EFFAT recognises, as do workers and our affiliates, that the status quo is not sustainable – the same climate breakdown that threatens the conditions necessary for agriculture to flourish in parts of Europe is already taking lives in the Global South. If the projections are accurate, no part of Europe will escape unscathed unless we radically change course. This is why climate action is one of EFFAT’s Six Demands for the next mandate; Congress also passed motions committing EFFAT to prioritise climate measures in the social dialogue, push for a comprehensive sustainable food policy in Europe, and advocate for a green new deal that protects at-risk communities and the environment, paving the way for the green jobs of the future.

Addressing the need for urgent action, EFFAT General Secretary, Kristjan Bragason, commented: “Trade Unions must be at the forefront of this fight to save the planet, ensuring a swift and just transition towards an environmentally sustainable food supply chain from farm to fork. For us at EFFAT, climate action is a central part of our programme for the future of our sectors, and we remain hopeful that COP25, despite a slow start, will deliver on the promise of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and agree a clear way forward.”