Introduction

Trade unions bring a worker's perspective to the discussion of human security and climate change. Not only have workers and their communities experienced first hand the death, suffering and physical devastation caused by weather events over the last decade; they have also borne the long-term loss and disruption to jobs and livelihoods.

Whether it was the 2004 tsunami that devastated countries over two continents, killing thousands of people and displacing over 1 million more, the 2003 hurricanes that destroyed the south-eastern coast of the US, or the mudslides in the Philippines and El Salvador, millions of people have lost their livelihoods because of severe weather events and the number will only rise if scientific predictions come true. To workers and their families, these losses are, in many ways, a greater threat than military aggression or terrorism on which dominant concepts of security have been based. For them, energy, human security and climate change are closely interlinked.

However, workers cannot be simply regarded as victims. Because they are at the centre of the industrial activity that is putting so much stress on our planet's ecosystems, they are in a good position to contribute to climate change measures and work for clean energy solutions.

By linking climate change to issues of human security, the April 2007 debate in the United Nations Security Council marked a watershed in international responses to climate change. It also entrenched an earlier UN definition of threat to international security as 'any event or process that leads to large-scale death or lessening of life chances and undermines states as the basic unit of the international system', (Wisner et al, 2006), specifically highlighting economic and social threats. This corresponds to a concept of human security that has been promoted by trade unions and underlined a UN disaster reduction report finding that the number of people affected by natural disasters between 1990 and 1999 was six times more than those affected by armed conflicts (UNISDR, 2003).

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