FTURK and  foreign partners develop common approaches to protect workers in the context of climate change

On June 27, the International Conference “Trade Union Action on Climate Change” organized by the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan together with the International Labor Organization started its work in Almaty.

The conference was attended by representatives of trade unions of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, as well as experts of the International Labor Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation.

Opening the meeting, Mr. Sergejus Glovackas, Head of Europe and Central Asia Department of ACTRAV/ILO, noted that this conference was a continuation of the meetings on climate change held last year in Baku and Shymkent.

He also noted that the issue of climate change is one of the main challenges of our time.

“Climate change affects all aspects of human and social life, including the ability of governments and institutions to realize the fundamental right to social security,” the international expert stressed.

In his welcoming speech, Satybaldy Dauletalin, Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, pointed out that the growing recognition of the importance of social protection in combating climate change and climate-induced risks has prompted countries to develop and gradually implement adaptive programs aimed at mitigating the negative social and economic impacts of climate risks through social assistance, social insurance and active labor market interventions.

“In this regard, the ideas of Just Transition become a prerequisite for overcoming direct and indirect negative impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on workers and the labor market. They provide guarantees of preservation of living standards, income and work for all those affected by the transition to a green economy. Kazakhstan, which has been experiencing a significant impact of global warming in recent decades, considers climate change issues as a priority agenda of the state. The leadership of the country at various platforms emphasizes the unconditional need to take timely and effective measures to prevent the negative impact of climate change on the functioning of society and the livelihood of citizens, as evidenced by the adoption of the Concept for the transition of the Republic of Kazakhstan to a “green economy”, as well as amending the Environmental Code in 2023 and updating the nationally determined contribution (NDC), “- said Satybaldy Dauletalin.

As emphasized by the Head of FTURK , Kazakhstan was the first country in the region to ratify the Paris Agreement and adopted the Carbon Neutrality Strategy until 2060. He also reminded that this year Kazakhstan and France will co-chair the first thematic summit One Water on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“It was also announced the intention of Astana to hold the Regional Climate Summit under the auspices of the UN in 2026. As you know, this year it was planned to hold the 2nd Astana International Forum in Kazakhstan, under the motto “Building a Better World Together”, dedicated to discussing measures to join forces to address pressing issues including climate change, food shortages and energy security. This forum has been canceled due to severe flooding in Kazakhstan and the need to eliminate the consequences of large-scale destruction and assistance to the citizens of the country,” – said the Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan.

According to him, the natural disaster was a consequence of global climate change.

“In this difficult period for the whole country is especially important solidarity social responsibility shown by the state and society. The Federation of Trade Unions and its affiliated organizations from all sectors and regions of the country acted as a united front with the state and without delay joined the work to help the victims. Trade union workers personally participated in the work to strengthen water protection structures, transportation of people, food delivery, actively participated in the work of regional public headquarters and volunteer movement in the regions, provide all possible legal assistance to citizens in distress,” said Satybaldy Dauletalin.

Speaking about measures to support the victims, he said that in total to help the victims trade unions have transferred 225 million tenge of material and about 14 million tenge of commodity aid. In addition, the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan has decided to allocate to those in need as temporary housing 269 places in trade union sanatoriums. For the whole period in sanatoriums of FTURK  was placed 179 people, who were given the opportunity to undergo recuperation, as well as to receive psychological and necessary legal assistance.

“In recent years, Kazakhstan has tangibly experienced all manifestations of global climate change. Due to climate change, cases of abnormal temperature in Kazakhstan are recorded more and more often. This leads to negative consequences for humans and biodiversity, as well as for various sectors of the economy. To avoid this, it is necessary to act in two directions: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and to adapt to current and upcoming changes”, – said the Head of the FTURK .

Satybaldy Dauletalin expressed the view that for trade unions, adaptation lies in the need to develop and promote their own policy and action plan on Just Transition to ensure employment and social security for workers in the transition to a low-carbon society.

Furthermore, he believed that trade unions should play an active role in the development, implementation and monitoring of national sustainable development policies and promote participation in social dialogue at all levels.

“In a situation where the climate crisis is clearly exacerbating inequalities at national and global levels, cutting jobs in hard-hit sectors of the economy and threatening the health and well-being of workers, trade unions should harness the potential of all available resources to defend workers’ rights. It is important to note that climate change processes not only pose threats but also accelerate global cooperation, as evidenced by the conference being held today. We need to hold more joint events so that we are all aware of what is happening if we really want to make this topic a priority in the work of trade unions,” added Satybaldy Dauletalin, Chairman of the FTUC.

In turn, the ILO guidelines on climate change and a just transition were presented to the participants by Lene Olsen, ILO/ACTRAV  Senior Program Specialist.

“All aspects of a ‘just transition’ must be socially oriented and international labor standards must apply everywhere, and any change must first and foremost be fair for workers. This requires creative policies at both national and local levels and, of course, ratification of International Labor Organization conventions,” says the ILO expert.

Information about the measures taken by the International Trade Union Confederation was shared by Anton Leppik, Executive Secretary of the ITUC VERS, and Bert de Vell, ITUC Global Climate Policy Coordinator.

The experts noted that the world is undergoing a global transformation of industrial production, and it will continue regardless of the agreement reached at COP29.

ITUC representatives call on unions to build on principles of social justice and become leaders in planning for a bright future for all workers, including in industries that may be affected by measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

“Workers, their families, their communes and their unions must be united on income, social benefits and opportunities. The full costs of environmental protection activities must not be allowed to fall on the shoulders of workers and the world’s most vulnerable people. But if the Just Transition program is not implemented, it is these people who will have to pay for it all,” stressed Anton Leppik.

“Climate change threatens everything the labor movement stands for: equality, social justice, decent work. Any agreement reached at COP29 will not be the last word, it will be a continuation of the path started”, – said Bert de Vell.

According to experts, an agreement on mitigation measures that promotes sustainable industrial policies and integrated Just Transition programs could be one of the best opportunities in the history of the labor movement.

The conference also reviewed projects, initiatives and research conducted in various regions, which were presented to participants by Cristina Martinez, Senior Enterprise Development and Green Jobs Specialist at Just Transition.

Panel discussions explored different climate change scenarios and their impact on different sectors of the economy. Participants noted that climate change could lead to the need for changes in working conditions and skill requirements. It was also noted that trade unions need to be proactive to protect workers’ rights and ensure their safety when working in a changing climate.

Media Center of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan