The inauguration of Joe Biden as the new American president has given the world reason to hope that the US will re-join the global effort to tackle climate change. And indeed, in his very first days of office he approved a series of measures that should bring climate concerns back onto the US political agenda. Among other measures, the Biden administration wants to review all oil and gas drilling on federal land, put a stop to fossil fuel subsidies, and transform the government’s fleet of cars and trucks into electric vehicles. He also appointed John Kerry as the US special climate envoy. Kerry has already announced his ambition to set a target for reducing US greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 under the Paris Agreement and to host an international climate summit in the spring.
Most importantly, though, the new discourse that we are hearing from the other side of the Atlantic directly counteracts the “false narrative” preached by Trump that climate action comes at the expense of jobs and workers. On the contrary, the new administration rightly argues that the fight against climate change should and can lead to the creation of “good-paying union jobs”, thus also remedying the problem of pandemic-driven unemployment. It is not surprising that with such an agenda, US trade unions are very keen to work with the new administration “every day that follows. To heal our country. To empower working people. And to build a sustainable economy and a stronger democracy for generations to come.”
The integration of the three dimensions of sustainability – economic, social and environmental – is also the topic of our upcoming joint ETUI-ETUC conference ‘Towards a new socio-economic contract’, with which we would like to provide an open platform for trade unions, institutional stakeholders, political actors and academics to discuss the challenges, problems and risks that we must tackle in order to establish a new sustainability paradigm. The aim this time is not only to understand what is lying ahead of us but also to identify what steps we can already be taking today and tomorrow. That is why it is very important not to lose sight of various aspects of the interplay between global warming and human economic activity, such as biodiversity, trade, alternative prosperity indicators, working time, the re-invented automobile industry and digital platforms, to name a few.
This conference also marks a turning point for the ETUI, as we will be scaling up our work on the socio-ecological transition with several new research projects in the coming months. Our goal is to develop our expertise so as to become a reference point on the many issues related to climate change and the world of work in the years to come.