ILO/UNITAR Social Talk Highlights Need to Consider Labor and Skills Dimensions of Climate Change Adaptation

A labor approach to climate change adaptation will enable countries to reduce poverty, enhance equity, generate green jobs under decent work conditions and raise resilience to climate change. This was one of the key messages of a social talk on “Green Jobs and Adaptation to Climate Change”  that was jointly organized the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) on 2 December 2011 in the margins of COP17/CMP7 of the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa. The discussion was part of a broader series of social talks sponsored by the UN Task Team on the Social Dimensions of Climate Change formed by 20 UN agencies.

Ms. Ana Sanchez from the ILO Green Jobs Programme who moderated the discussion, presented a recent publication launched by the ILO on the labor dimension of climate change (“Towards an ILO Approach to Adaptation to Climate Change”). Main findings of the report include: 

  • Opportunities to create jobs in adaptation to climate change include employment-intensive approaches to build water management and water storage infrastructures, reforestation programmes and building protective and climate resilient infrastructures that will help communities to create local employment, reduce poverty and enhance resilience.
  • Social security and social protection can play an obvious and powerful role in reducing vulnerability, enhancing adaptive capacity and absorbing the residual impact of climate change not buffered by adaption measures.
  • However, functioning and funding mechanisms of social security and protection systems may have to be adjusted to be able to cope with climate change impacts.

Mr. Aminur Rashid Chowdury Repon from OSHE-Bangladesh explained how the effects of climate change are already being felt by workers in his country and the challenges for them to adapt to these consequences. Farmers and workers in the agriculture sector as well as fishers were among those that are most impacted by climate change effects. The fact that a very high percentage of the Banglashi labour force is part of the informal economy and therefore out of the coverage of social protection systems was highlighted as one of the major challenges workers were facing in the country. Lack of capacity and technical expertise were as well identified as major bottlenecks for effective engagement of workers and trade unions in adaptation to climate change policies. Mr. Rashid Chowdury Repon described the work undertaken by the Bangladeshi trade union movement around climate change, that includes a position paper on the issue, drafted by the National Coordination Committee for Worker’s Education (NCCWE). 

Ms. Gladys Branche from the Sierra Leone Labour Congress explained challenges and opportunities for workers and trade unions to cope with climate change effects. She highlighted as main bottlenecks to cope with climate change effects: the lack of knowledge and information about the issue among workers that prevent them to cope with climate change effects, as well as the lack of integration of labor issues in climate-related policies that prevent the country to develop effective strategies to adapt to climate change and raise resilience to future impacts. Social dialogue and participation in decision making and implementation were fudamental to address this gap.

Ms. Karen Hedeman from the National Council for Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanism of the Dominican Republic shared the experience of her country in addressing climate change impacts. Ms. Hedeman highlighted that the lack of capacity among institutions, businesses and workers were major bottlenecks. To take a strategic and sustainable approach to human resources and skills development to address climate change the Dominican Republic was implementing a UN CC:Learn pilot project over the next 18 months.

Key conclusions from the discussions include:

  • Workers are already witnessing the impacts of climate change effects in their workplaces and daily lives, including impacts on their incomes and employment opportunities.
  • Current policies and measures to address climate change do not fully consider these impacts neither opportunities to create employment, provide social protection and overall reduce poverty.
  • A labor approach to adaptation to climate change will enable countries to reduce poverty, enhance equity, generate green jobs under decent work conditions and raise resilient to climate change.
  • There is an urgent need to enhance capacity, knowledge and awareness of governments and workers, trade unions and other stakeholders on the effects of climate change on labor.
  • A framework to assess in a comprehensive manner capacity development needs of governments and stakeholders at national level is needed and the UN system is supporting to develop it.

For further information about the meeting please contact Ms. Ana Sanchez (sanchezab@ilo.org) or Ms. Amrei Horstbrink (amrei.horstbrink@unitar.org).