New Green Deal in a time of crisis

The positive changes in the environment have been among the few silver linings of the enormous global upheaval caused by the coronavirus.

Cities around the world are reporting unprecedented improvements in air quality and, incredibly, Europe’s carbon emissions have fallen between 40 and 60% in recent weeks — the result of global air traffic being halved in a matter of weeks and road traffic reducing to virtually nothing in most cities.

Poor air quality has caused a crisis for public health and workers’ rights for many years now — exacerbating respiratory illnesses and contributing to early deaths of more than a thousand people per year in Ireland alone.

The important gains we have seen in our environment could prove to be temporary as polluting activities seek to regain their foothold.

But the Just Transition, which places workers and the planet at the centre of the recovery, offers an alternative path forward. These gains benefit the health of all while we rebuild a fairer and more caring economy that truly values the workers and the communities which are so vital to sustaining us through this time.

Trade union action on climate change and for a Just Transition come into much sharper focus as we look toward to the decisions that will be taken in the coming months: about what shape the recovery should take after the greatest global shock of our lifetimes.

The incoming government in co-operation, with other EU member states, must accelerate its work on a comprehensive recovery plan integrating the green transition.

The European Green Deal which constitutes a new growth strategy for the EU must be used to enable it to deliver on the twin benefits of stimulating economies and creating jobs while accelerating the Just Transition in a cost-efficient way.

It is vitally important that the we do not revert to a state of “normality” whereby people and planet are doomed to another inevitable and unfolding crisis.

This article was written by SIPTU Equality Committee member Janet Horner

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