The transport sector requires investment of USD $32 trillion by 2050 to decarbonise. In responding to this crisis, transport unions demand that workers have a say. We must ensure that we see a just transition to a carbon-neutral world, particularly in the Global South.
Stephen Cotton, the International Transport Workers’Federation (ITF) General Secretary, stated when ITF and a delegation of affiliated union leaders from around the world met the Pope’s advisers to discuss issues impacting transport workers and the wider society on Wednesday.
The delegation was received by Pope Francis, who opened the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences specifically for the meeting.
Speaking at the meeting, Cotton told the Pope’s advisers that achieving progress on workers’ rights remains a struggle as humanity faces crisis after crisis, saying this only redoubles the determination of working people and their representatives to see justice prevail.
“The impact of climate change on transport workers, the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the wars in South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, and the threat of world-wide recession were all discussed.
“Climate change and the need for a just transition to zero-carbon transport systems were major points. Transport represents 25% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, 15% of all emissions, and is the fasted growing sector for emissions – they are set to double by 2050.
“Since aircraft, as currently built, are the most polluting means of transport, national and private airlines need to upgrade their fleets so that they use fuel that pollutes less; if necessary, the rich states need to help airlines to that end.
“We are in a race against time to stabilise the planet and mitigate the impacts of climate change. But social and economic justice must go hand-in-hand with technological advances, so that we emerge with a better world for everyone and not just another crisis averted.”
Earlier, the ITF President Paddy Crumlin told the Pope’s advisers that capitalists who are motivated by profit have increasingly hijacked transport sector globally.
Crumlin said “Companies and governments must take responsibility for what is happening in supply chains. Their blinkered approach amounts to corporate greed and ignores the greater good. The existing system promotes human suffering. That must end.”
Transport systems are crucial to societies, Crumlin said, whether we are talking about buses that get people to work, or the vast shipping networks that underpin global commerce.
“Over the last few decades, these have increasingly been hijacked by capitalists motivated simply by profit, often to the detriment of the people who work in transport – and the people who rely on it,” said Crumlin.
The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few is increasing year by year – at the same time people are losing faith in democracy. Global GDP has trebled since 1980, yet labour income share has declined, and we have exploding levels of unemployment. Inequality is now widely recognised as a global risk.
“Energy companies, the Goliaths of e-commerce, and shipping giants are all making record profits,” said Crumlin. “The resources exist to fix problems facing workers today and working people from suffering. We must hold those in power to account for the decisions they make.”
The ITF is developing the infrastructure to become the world’s authority on supply chain accountability, Crumlin explained. Workers and their unions are at the forefront of re-designing the corporate model so that companies abusing workers’ rights come under the spotlight.
With a trillion dollars of deferred wages under union-managed pension funds, workers are in a unique position to influence stakeholders and encourage investors to move capital to where it can do most good, underpinned by environmental, social and governance principles.