The European Commission published today its new Adaptation Strategy designed to increase the resilience of the EU against climate change consequences.
While the European Trade Union Confederation strongly welcomes the idea of developing a new EU Adaptation Strategy, we regret to see that the one proposed by the Commission today fails to protect European workers against climate change consequences.
Despite the many concrete recommendations put forward by trade unions, the new Strategy does not properly address the effects of climate change on the world of work and does not sufficiently consider the social and gender dimension of adaptation. It also fails to provide a mandatory framework to oblige Member States to take adequate policy measures to protect the most vulnerable.
In its Strategy, the Commission interestingly introduces the concept of “just resilience”. The ETUC welcomes this idea but regrets the fact that it is not clearly defined and is not materialized into concrete proposals. Indeed, even though the Strategy rightly acknowledges that climate change will have an impact on jobs and working conditions, it fails to propose concrete actions to address these problems. The ETUC therefore asks the Commission to revise it to include more concrete policy proposals to better address the social dimension of adaptation and to protect workers.
Reacting to the EU Climate Adaptation Strategy, Ludovic Voet, ETUC Confederal Secretary said:
“Consequences of climate change are already visible and are worsening the lives of working people, both through health and safety dangers like heatwaves and new risks to employment. The Commission’s new Climate Adaptation Strategy does not properly address these challenges and therefore fails to protect European workers. Workers can’t wait until the next deadly heatwave or wildfires for action. They need protection now.
“The strategy does not include new protections for workers from exposure to high temperatures or concrete proposals for active labour market policies needed to prevent job losses in the most affected sectors. Neither is there a clear recommendation for member states to invest in public services and social protection needed to increase the resilience of our societies against climate change consequences.
“The strategy mentions social partners but does not foresee any specific role for them in the various action proposed. To ensure a just resilience, the Strategy should make sure that trade unions are involved in the design and implementation of the National adaptation plans and strategies. It should also encourage the use of collective bargaining and social dialogue to address problems caused by climate change impacts at national, regional, sectoral and company level.
“We all know that climate change will affect proportionally more low-income households, most vulnerable communities and women. The new Climate Adaptation Strategy should therefore put much more focus on the social and gender dimension. The concept of ‘just resilience’ is interesting but needs to be translated into concrete policies to protect workers, low-income households and prevent water and energy poverty across Europe.”
Consequences of climate change for workers:
- The health and safety of outdoor workers in agriculture or construction will be particularly affected by rise in temperature and heatwaves.
- Public service workers such as firefighter, nurses or civil protection will see their stress and workload increase as extreme weather events become more frequent and more intense over time.
- Workers in the transport sector will be severely affected due to potential damages to infrastructures and harsher working conditions.
- Climate change will also cause significant challenges for water management and in the power sector which could in turn affect the entire supply chain and related jobs as well as energy poverty.
- Climate change will also impact employment in Europe. Besides new needs in terms of skills, a study from DG CLIMA shows that if no adaptation measure is taken to protect employment, 410 000 jobs could be at risk by 2050.
ETUC calls for the inclusion of the following elements to the strategy:
- A strong and inclusive governance approach where workers and trade unions are involved. The strategy mentions social partners but does not foresee any specific role for them in the various action proposed. ETUC believes that the Strategy should encourage the use of collective bargaining and social dialogue to address problems caused by adaptation at national, regional, sectoral and company level. The Strategy should also make sure that trade unions are involved in the design and implementation of the National adaptation plans and strategies.
- A proposal for new legislative initiative and policy framework to protect workers from exposure to high temperature, natural UV radiations and other health and safety hazard brought by climate change. The strategy indeed mentions health and safety risks but lacks concrete measures to address the problem. There should be a clear link with EU Strategy on Health and Safety at Work. The strategy should make sure Occupational Health and Safety regulations are properly enforced.
- More concrete proposals for active labour market policies as well as reskilling and trainings to prevent job losses in those sectors affected by the changes ahead.
- Clear guidance and objectives for Member States to invest in public services (e.g. emergency services and health systems), infrastructures and social protection to increase the resilience of our societies to future climate events.
Link to ETUC resolution A new EU adaptation to climate change strategy for the world of work
Link to ETUC guide on Adaptation and the world of work