Human beings live, love and work on the planet Earth. We do not have anywhere else to do it. But sadly, our economic activity and rampant consumption are driving a deadly shift in the Earth’s climate. Without immediate and drastic cuts in our greenhouse gas emissions, we will face catastrophic increases in average temperatures, rapidly rising sea levels and ever more frequent extreme weather.
Thankfully, young people around the world are standing up to say we must act now to stop this. On 15 March 2019, their #ClimateStrike movement will spark a global wave of protests. And the European Transport Workers’ Federation is proud to stand behind them.
Well, yes and no. Of course, transport sectors like aviation and road transport are among the industrial faces of climate change, but rail and urban public transport offer efficient and sustainable ways to move people and goods. That’s why our ongoing campaign for Fair Transport in Europe calls for all citizens to have access to affordable and sustainable publicly-owned transport.
In fact, technological change offers the chance to make all transport modes greener, as long as governments and businesses really prioritise the development and implementation of low-carbon mobility. A climate-friendly economy does not mean the end of transport jobs and transport workers.
Urgent action means doing whatever it takes to reduce our carbon emissions. This may bring a reduction in total demand for transport services, but individual transport workers should not pay the price. The ETF has a trade union vision on sustainable transport with one key message: ecological sustainability and social sustainability are two sides of the same coin. Transport is too cheap, and this drives the excessive demand for environmentally-damaging transport services. To a large extent, transport is too cheap because of the downward pressure on working conditions and pay caused by social dumping.
Just like with automation, we must respond to climate change with a Just Transition. Workers and their unions should be involved in redesigning industries to meet the challenge of climate change. Shorter hours for all workers, retraining, and financial support for workers who need to change jobs will be among the solutions. Meanwhile, an end to social dumping and wage exploitation in transport would stop employers paying such low wages and offering transport services at unsustainably low prices.
But the most important step right now is to listen to the young protesters across Europe and the world. Let’s hear their call and work together to build a truly sustainable transport system, offering quality jobs and safe, affordable service to all!