Massive trade union confederation calls for “Energy sovereignty and democratization”

July 24, 2014
Sean Sweeney




The Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA)  has released a major policy instrument, the Development Platform for the Americas (English version here) or Plataforma de Desarrollo de las Americas (PLADA).  Spanish original is here. The report was released in Santiago, Chile, at a meeting with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet on May 6 in the presence of more than 5,000 trade unionists and friends.

The year-long process of discussion and debate leading to the launch of PLADA reflects growing support among unions and social movements for democratic control of energy and other strategic sectors as well as the need for governments to halt the for-profit exploitation of the commons.

TUCA is the largest regional workers´ organization in the Americas.  It represents more than 50 million workers belonging to 53 national trade union organizations based in 23 countries. TUCA is the regional structure of the International Trade Union Confederation. A number of TUCA affiliates participate in TUED, from Argentina, Canada and the United States.

PLADA calls on the region’s various social and political forces to “work together to build alternatives in the battle for a new hegemony.” The document is structured around four pillars or dimensions – political, economic, social and environmental – which will be geared towards achieving sustainable development.

PLADA’s Powerful Positions on Energy, Environment, and Defense of the Commons

As the Madrid-based Sustainlabour notes, “The PLADA lays out proposals for expanding democracy in the continent’s societies, a thorough economic reform that effectively distributes income and whose scope is regional, and to build societies where decent work is placed at the core.”

According to TUCA’s  Secretary of Economic Policy and Sustainable Development, Rafael Freire, “We are making a radical choice for democracy, in order to move from representative democracy towards participatory democracy, and convert this into a fundamental aspect of development. Overcoming the predatory logic of neoliberal capitalism and thus establishing an economic model where production and labour, income distribution and food security, among other factors, are the focus of this new model.”

The PLADA states that the commons — including energy – should stay in the public sphere. “The commons of humanity -biodiversity, water, seeds, forests, energy and knowledge- should not be subjected to private profit, but instead should be used responsibly for the common good…The State must ensure the public nature of commons and their collective and equitable enjoyment, defense and preservation.”

Important sections of the PLADA’s Environmental Dimension (Part 4) are here:

Environmental Justice

172. No group of people, peoples or nation should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences of the current development model. We demand an environmental policy that addresses asymmetries between nations of the North and South at national level, between social classes, and internationally. All nations are entitled to sustainable development.

173. Recognition that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and different capabilities is the cornerstone of the international climate change regime and to overcome the climate impasse. It is crucial to identify those responsible for major damage and should pay for the costs of
adaptation and mitigation initiatives. It is important to provide clarity in relation to (1) emission reduction targets, (2) adaptation, (3) support (financial, technological and human), strengthening commitment with (4) just transition and development of (5) common standards.

174. Public and equal access of all peoples to the enjoyment of commons, nature and green spaces. This distribution should be equitable across countries and within each country, and should safeguard national sovereignty.

Defense and preservation of commons

175. Commons are natural or socially-constructed elements characterized by their collective and trans-generational nature. Biodiversity,
water, seeds, forests, energy and knowledge are commons.

176. Assurances for the sovereignty and self-determination of peoples over commons. Constitution of bodies for democratic Development Plataform of the Americas participation and decision-making. Environmental care standards should not become excuses for the marketization of commons.

177. The State must ensure the public nature of commons and their collective and equitable enjoyment, defense and preservation.

178. Against open-sky mega-mining.

Water as a human right

179. Water and sanitation are commons essential for life and are a universal human right. Universal access to safe drinking water
and quality sanitation services. We reaffirm our opposition to the privatization of water.

180. The State must ensure effective access to drinking water and sanitation services under public and community management, with the participation of the workers. Regulation and control of water usage for industrial purposes. Promote a new medium and long-term vision for comprehensive management of water.

181. Preservation of basin headwaters, lagoons, wild lands and glaciers by controlling large mining settlements that are intrinsically linked to basin headwaters. Comprehensive treatment of effluents in mega-mining, metallurgical, residual and other projects to protect and safeguard the qualities of the groundwater
resources of inland waters.

182. Preservation of national marine coastal and deep-water areas. Protection of rational fishing activities through sustainable aquaculture development and decent work, for popular consumption. Production with community participation in sustainable projects. Zoning of marine extractive reserves within national coasts.

183. Promote a new vision for comprehensive water management. Raise awareness and support initiatives to foster recognition of the value of water, decreasing its wastage and contamination. Promote the basin vision.

Energy sovereignty and democratization with a sustainable matrix

184. Overcoming the energy crisis is a core issue in the construction of an alternative model for the region. It requires a different energy matrix for the economic dynamics of our countries. The construction of a sustainable energy matrix requires consideration of environmental matters, both global: climate change,
depletion of energy resources, etc.; and local: contamination, loss of biodiversity, among others.

185. Universalization of the access to energy in all regions.

186. Reformulation and diversification of the energy matrix so that it is based on clean, renewable technology with low emission of greenhouse gases.

187. Development of an inventory that enables the examination and evaluation of the features of each country’s energy matrix, its uses and dependencies, discouraging waste.

188. The demand for oil should not be an excuse for the exploitation of non-conventional resources using polluting techniques that negatively impact the local population. In turn, the use of these techniques via agreements with foreign companies should not jeopardize energy sovereignty and democratic control over hydrocarbon resources.

189. The reformulation of energy matrices should be based on assessments and precautionary tests on eventual environmental, social and cultural impacts.

190. Decent high performance housing and buildings, which minimize energy loss.

191. Stricter restrictions on concession-granting for energy projects, ensuring social dialogue and previous consultations with the affected population.

192. Gradual reduction of the dependence on fossil fuels through the transformation of each economic activity.

193. Larger investments in alternative and clean fuel models, such as biofuels. These may be considered as another alternative for energy which fosters greater diversification, as long as their development does not displace food production.

A just transition

194. A just transition is the priority proposal of the trade union movement in face of the negative consequences of climate change on people. It is defined as a set of policies to ensure that the transition and the path toward production with low emission of greenhouse gases also offers opportunities to workers and the communities involved. For workers and the communities not to bear the highest costs of the negative consequences caused by changes they are not responsible for.

195. Urgent and consistent investments for long-term development of sustainable and low emission sectors of the economy in order to generate decent work, social dialogue and democratic consultation with stakeholders.

196. Early research and assessment of the social impacts and effects on employment. Training and capacity-building for workers and communities, prior and informed consultation that are not merely a formality.

197. Create agendas for just transition at the global, regional and national level. Establish social protection contents in just transition programs for all workers, ensuring decent work for the region.

198. We stand for the real transfer of technology with impact on climate change. This transfer of technology should be effective for the sustainable development of host countries. Patents cannot be an impediment to the transfer of technology and, in turn, transferred technology cannot generate dependency and
foreign debt.

199. Governments should consult, plan and implement a just transition strategy that protects the most vulnerable population and those at risk due to the effects of climate change, and includes mitigation and adaptation measures to combat it. They should also ensure the participation of social and trade union
movements in the design, monitoring and verification of said strategy.

200. We propose that all countries of the region draw a national strategy on climate change consistent with their responsibility, including budget guarantees for its financing and implementation with participation of trade unions in policymaking for adaptation and mitigation.

201. States with greater historical responsibility for environmental degradation and emission of greenhouse gases must pay higher costs of adaptation and mitigation.

202. Promote conversion and transition actions for the most polluting sectors of the economy, and ensure protection systems for workers’ rights during the change.

203. Establishment of land management policies regulating investments based on sustainability and environmental restrictions. Promotion of industrialization with sustainable technologies.

204. Tax incentives for companies investing in conversion to cleaner technologies. New production, distribution and consumption paradigm with present
and future environmental sustainability

205. Strengthen economic and social relations promoting socio-environmental balance with involvement and participation of workers, rural subsistence workers, indigenous peoples and native communities. Develop technologies that do not use inputs and production techniques that generate climate change and desertification and which, instead, contribute to the production of a new paradigm of sustainability.

206. Comprehensively rethink the transportation of passengers and goods. Decentralize production to reduce the distances between production and consumption centers, minimizing energy expenditure. Quality public transportation with clean technology to reduce the use of individual means of transport, overcoming dependence on motorized transport with low passenger-fuel consumption ratio. Develop plans for collective transportation with
union participation.

207. Interculturality, recognition of environmental knowhow and practices, protection of our genetic resources protection against biopiracy.

208. Promote legislation to incorporate precautionary principles so that certain products are not massively used until strong evidence is available that they do not harm the environment or human and animal health.

209. For a new paradigm to manage materials, emphasizing the recycling and reutilization of products, that does not endanger the environment or the generation of decent work. Demand restrictions on the scheduled obsolescence of products, goods and services, bearing in mind the impacts, dematerialization and treatment of the waste generated

Originally published on June 3rd, 2014