by Nalini Shekar and Ina Bahuguna
26 January, 2023
Introduction: Just Transition
Sustainable living has taken a huge centre stage in global discourse, especially in the context of climate change. While reducing individual consumption is the key, the focus is more on systemic change to achieve a faster result.
Tony Mazzocchi, a labour and environmental activist from the United States, created the phrase “just transition” while advocating for a superfund that would reimburse employees who were exposed to hazardous substances during their employment. American environmental and organised labour organisations started promoting government policies that safeguarded both the environment and workers in the 1980s. Following the interplay between labour and environmental justice groups in the late 1990s, the new phrase “just transition” came to represent this stance (Energy and Climate Change Directorate, 2020).
Who is demanding Just Transition?
Numerous organisations, social justice and environmental movements have adopted the Just Transition slogan in recent years. These organisations have the same goal of ensuring justice during the transition to a greener economy, but they view the people who should be involved in the Just Transition discussion in a broader sense. For instance, Indigenous Climate Action advocates for a Just Transition that extends past the basic rights of workers to include a plan for inclusive social and economic development in Indigenous communities.
What will a Just transition look like?
According to an ILO document published in 2015 highlight several points which focus on the life of labour and how it will look like (Olsen & Hovary, 2015). ILO has published several articles and blogs to keep adding more and more information according to the fact that more people from different spheres of work are joining this movement. In a recent workshop led by Hasiru Dala, fifty waste pickers from around Karnataka gathered to learn, comprehend, and explain just transition. So that the waste pickers could become climate champions to represent themselves.
The programme gave participants the chance to talk to one another and bring up topics that would reflect their condition in Karnataka’s major, second-tier cities, which is similar to that of other states. They gained knowledge of the phenomenon of climate change, related their experiences with it, including high heat and flooding, and contributed to its mitigation by gathering raw materials for the recycling sector and learning how to battle inflation if they don’t have a living wage.
Just Transition and Hasiru Dala
We as a waste picker organisation must take the initiative and sit at the table to determine what is just transition for waste pickers. When the government and the international community suggested closing landfills and outlawing plastics. All our waste pickers brothers and sisters must join us as we stand in solidarity with those employed by the plastics industry.
Just transition has been discussed as a crucial component of the plastic treaty by the worldwide garbage picker coalition, which is now backed by Kenya and South Africa(Brandt, 2022). It has yet to specify what a Just Transition is that we seek. In several training sessions held in India, KKPKP Pune and Hasiru Dala defined the terms “just transition” and “climate champions.”
Just Transition and Waste pickers?
During our Climate Champions training, waste pickers gained knowledge of the worldwide debate on the green economy, circular economy, and environmental sustainability. They think that sustainable living is necessary, and from their perspective, closing landfill waste and plastic use will help create a more sustainable society. There should be a time for just transition, though. There were 6 Day workshops where 1 day was given for just transition and green jobs. During the sessions with activities and games, they understood the meaning of the term just transition. By the end of the session, our climate champions came up with 11 suggestions out of which 8 were already mentioned in the 2015 ILO user manual on Just Transition. The other three have also been included in several articles and blogs published by ILO. There will be more focus points in future as more spheres of work, jobs and material to save the climate comes up.
Pic1.1 Just transition according to ILO.
Waste Pickers suggested Three points for a smooth transition:
- Time to Change: Any major policy change or ban on any material which is a waste picker’s source of Income cannot be a sudden decision but should come gradually into their system. They should also mention how much time they need for material transition.
- They want to be part of the climate change discourse which affects their livelihoods. They need training, and workshops to understand the global phenomena of this change. They need the training to manage new material, and new working conditions.
- They want to learn new technology, techniques and tools to understand the transition and reach out to waste pickers or labourers across the globe.
Waste in climate change dialogue has gained attention as a cause of climate change but an essential component of the solution, waste pickers, are ignored in conversations about climate policy.
Indhumathi says, “the environmental organisations are talking about closing landfills, reducing hazardous chemicals used in plastic, we support it, we don’t want to continue working in landfill nor breathe poisonous chemicals, it’s not good for us or citizens or for mother earth. However when such a large paradigm shift is made, think about all the workers who engaged in the production of consumer goods to workers in the informal sector in post-consumer goods”. Further she says “Government should ban the non-recyclable, single-use plastic in packaging immediately and phaseout the rest, bring in more eco-friendly recyclable in packaging”
Brandt, S. (2022, November 16). Without a Just Transition, Kenya’s response to climate change risks leaving millions behind. Climate Strategies. https://climatestrategies.org/without-a-just-transition-kenyas-response-to-climate-change-risks-leaving-millions-behind/
Energy and Climate Change Directorate. (2020). Just Transitions: A comparative perspective (Independent Report No. 9781839609299). Scottish Government. http://www.gov.scot/publications/transitions-comparative-perspective/pages/3/
Olsen, L., & Hovary, C. L. (2015). User’s manual to the ILO’s Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. International Labour Organization. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/—emp_ent/documents/publication/wcms_432859.pdf