Blog: Reflecting on a week at COP28 in Dubai

Tony Wright, chair of UNISON’s policy development and campaign committee, attended the COP28 as part of the International Trade Union Confederation delegation

Portrait of Tony Wright, NEC member and chair of the UNISON policy development and campaign committee

Tony Wright (pictured) is a member of the ITUC delegation attending COP28 in Dubai, and had the opportunity to witness both the achievements and concerns from a trade union perspective during the first week of the conference. Here he reflects on the first week at the conference.

Just transition

One of the significant achievements during the first week of COP28 in Dubai, was the acknowledgment of the importance of a just transition to a low-carbon economy. Recognition of the rights and needs of workers and affected communities in the transition process is crucial. 

In daily negotiations I have advocated for the inclusion of just transition measures in the final agreement. This would ensure that workers are not left behind. We will know more on whether our attempts have been successful at the end of this year’s COP negotiations in a few days’ time.

Engagement with trade unions

COP28 has witnessed a notable level of engagement with trade unions in the decision-making process, though there is definitely room for improvement here in future. 

Trade unionist presence in various working groups and consultations has allowed us to contribute our expertise and ensure that labour issues are given due consideration, and the recognition of the role of trade unions in addressing climate change is a positive step towards a more inclusive and effective response.

Strengthened solidarity

The first week of COP28 saw trade unions from different countries and sectors coming together to share experiences and strategies. Solidarity among unions and their federations from across the globe has grown. This has led to fruitful collaborations and the exchange of best practices. This unity has amplified our voice and enhanced our ability to influence climate policies and actions.

Insufficient funding and ambition

In spite of the positives listed above, I am concerned about a lack of ambition for nationally determined contributions, the measures that individual countries are prepared to take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. 

I’m also concerned that there are insufficient financial resources allocated to support workers and communities in the transition to a sustainable economy. Trade unions at the conference have called for increased funding and investment in reskilling, job creation, and social protection measures to ensure a fair and equitable transition for all workers.

Finally, there appears to be a lack of gendered perspectives and the recognition of the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalised groups. There are also uncertainties around the position of countries that rely upon fossil fuels such as the COP28 host the UAE. 

As we move into the second week of COP28, trade unions have made significant strides in promoting just transition, securing increased engagement, and fostering collaboration. 

With a newly formed policy sub group focusing specifically on this area, UNISON remains fully committed to working towards a climate-resilient world that prioritises workers’ rights and the wellbeing of communities.