Speaking engagements

The Role of Social Dialogue in Just Transition

Speaker: UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary Ovais Sarmad 
Event title: Just Transition in Practice

Topic: The Role of Social Dialogue in Just Transition 

Date: 8 December 2021 

It is a pleasure to contribute to this important event. Just Transition is a subject very close to my heart that I have been following for a long time.

I wish to thank the Polish Ministry of Climate and Environment, in particular Minister Michal Kurtyka, and the National Centre for Climate Change for inviting me to share a few thoughts on the role of social dialogue in Just Transition.

We know that just transition is one of the enabling strategies for realizing mitigation ambition. 

Climate ambition is not only about numbers and we can’t talk about it without acknowledging that what we are really talking about is people and their transition.

There are 3.3 billion workers in the world according to International Labour Organization (ILO). Many are already suffering from the impacts of the climate crisis — whether it’s due to heat stress, drought, flooding, storms or otherwise. These impacts will only grow worse if climate change is left unchecked.

For mitigating these impacts, we need bold, rapid and large-scale action from world leaders in keeping their promises in the intergovernmental climate negotiation process.


Let me reflect on what happened last month in Glasgow. 

At COP 26 we experienced the highest number of registrations since Paris, including 120 Heads of State and Government present during the World Leaders Summit. 

We also saw a very high number of media and observers representatives, all of this making COP 26 one of the largest conferences in the history of UNFCCC. 

At the end of two weeks of arduous negotiations, almost 200 Parties agreed on the way forward by adopting the Glasgow Climate Pact.

As the media reports on the outcomes the of COP 26 many of you might ask – Was this a success or a failure? 

The answer is not “yes” or “no”, but rather moving the needle in the right direction especially to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius target reachable.

Subsequently, a balanced pack of decisions was adopted, focusing on different pillars: finance, adaptation, mitigation, transparency, ambition and others. The final package was not perfect and was clearly adopted in a spirit of compromise. 

Yet, it entails the most significant progress achieved in the past few years, the Paris Agreement rulebook was completed, after six years of negotiations, and is now operational and implementable.

Decisions adopted in Glasgow will make operational the carbon credit trading, carbon market, and a framework for non-market-based approaches. 

This, in itself, is a remarkable achievement whose benefits will multiply over the coming years.  

Another highlight of the cover decision text was the phasing down of unabated coal power, along with the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

On the other hand, we also know that mitigation actions towards a transition out of fossil fuel could also impact many of the 3.3 billion workers that I mentioned earlier.

It is a delicate transition, but it also must be a just transition. 

Government and business leaders must work together to help provide the policies and programs to facilitate a just transition and a green mind shift.

These policies and programs need to consider the impact this has, not only on climate change, but also on people, creation of decent work and economic growth. This is explicitly stated in the Paris Agreement.

At COP 26, in the cover decision, Parties emphasized that just transition needs to promote sustainable development, eradication of poverty and creation of decent work and quality jobs. 

In this decision, Parties further mentioned this will require financial flows towards low greenhouse gas emission, climate-resilient development, technology, and support to developing countries.


Aiming at putting just transition in practice, Parties are also providing specific recommendations through the Katowice Committee on Impacts (KCI) and its Forum.  

Through these recommendations, Parties are encouraged to engage relevant stakeholders in the process of designing and implementing climate mitigation policies, including through social dialogue, when possible and subject to national circumstances.  

The relevant stakeholders include workers, employers, organizations, academia, public and private sectors, women, and civil society.

The COP encourages Parties to explore complementary policies, such as economic policies, social protection, and labour policies, to strengthen the outcomes of the implementation of mitigation strategies, including nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

It is evident from the updated or revised NDCs, that more Parties have considered social and economic consequences of mitigation measures, and of just transition.  

Nations have already recognized the unequal impacts of policies on different groups within the society or the workforce. Some countries mentioned their plans to address such impacts by including the concept of just transition in their overall NDC implementation. However, we still need more ambitious NDCs.


Furthermore, the COP encourages Parties to strengthen international and regional cooperation as it contributes towards planning and implementation of mitigation policies with environmental and socioeconomic benefits. 

That’s why, in the UN Climate Change context, we have incorporated what we call an inclusive multilateralism approach. This means ensuring that State and non-State actors work together in our collective process. And while this may mean greater involvement by private business, it also means greater involvement by regions, cities, states, communities and civil society. And it certainly means more voices are being heard.


Turning to my last thoughts…We should not forget that we are talking about the work-life of billions of people. Transition plans should be inclusive and exhaustive to address the needs of each person. For those who lose their jobs and for those who need skilled transition. 

Our work continues. Despite accomplishments at COP26, we are still far off the trajectory of stabilizing global temperature rise at 1.5-degrees. We must see more climate action this decade to achieve it and to work together to achieve it. That work begins immediately. 

I welcome your comments, questions or thoughts.

Thank you!

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