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Thursday, 5 June 2014

How Does Climate Change Affect Jobs?

Traditionally, trade unions have not been the biggest climate policy supporters and climate change impacts on the labour market are not always obvious.  However, global warming affects poor people in both urban and rural areas disproportionately, increasing inequality.  This is just one finding from the European Trade Union Institute’s (ETUI) new report ‘Climate Change: Implications For Employment’, created with the European Climate Foundation (ECF). 

Outlining key findings on workers and employment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the latest ETUI report affirms that society needs to change to a more resource and energy-efficient production mode.

Climate policy does not affect competitiveness
The report launched at ETUI’s monthly forum, where senior researcher Béla Galgóczi said employment effects of climate change need more attention – not just the effects of climate change mitigation on jobs and green jobs. 

Tom Van Ierland from the European Commission’s DG Clima confirmed that recent internal research found that climate change was already affecting job creation, with the agriculture, fishery and forestry sectors being the most impacted. 

Benjamin Denis from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) believes the main hurdle to an ambitious climate policy framework is the absence of a strong narrative to counter the “climate policy affects competitiveness and jobs” claim being bandied around Brussels – inaction has a cost.  Van Ierland added that developing a low-carbon economy would actually help Europe become more competitive as it becomes more resource-efficient.

With 6.5 million jobs in renewable energy worldwide, doubling renewable energy to 2020 could create 17 million jobs worldwide, said Bert Metz from ECF.  On climate policy, Metz believes that trade unions should focus on the impact they can make regionally, nationally and at EU level rather than internationally.

“There are no jobs on a dead planet”
The ETUI report comes shortly after the launch of the Unions4Climate movement, where 50 unions came together to mobilise support for an ambitious climate deal at the Paris COP21 in 2015. 

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary ITUC
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), memorably said, “Threats to jobs and livelihoods include the threat of climate change.  For unions, it is simple.  There are no jobs on a dead planet”.  ITUC’s own research finds that strong climate action could create 48 million new jobs in just 12 countries.

It is refreshing to see large, international and influential organisations come together to help shape a sustainable industrial policy.  With so many members and so much potential reach, hopefully they can also inspire a wide range of people to pressurise governments and business to really change the way they operate.  This positioning will definitely help change trade unions’ reputation as climate policy blockers.

Blog by Bárbara Mendes-Jorge, Junior Consultant at Brussels-based sustainability communications and PR agency Sustainability Consult.

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