Social effects of climate change Livelihood contraction and job loss

Trade unions have focused on the social dimension ever since they joined international deliberations on sustainable development in the 1980s, led by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) - now the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) - the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and certain Global Union federations. It is from this perspective that they address human security issues related to the growing crises in energy, climate change and human security, and why they support the multidisciplinary concept underlying the UN Secretary General's 2005 report Larger Freedom (Annan, 2005), according to which people can only be secure if they are protected from possible threats and able to act on their social, economic and environmental rights (UNDP, 1994).

Jon Barnet and Neil Adger have added a useful perspective in a paper for a 2005 workshop on Human Security and Climate Change in Oslo, Norway. Climate change threatens human security, they said, 'principally through its potentially negative effects on people's livelihoods' (Barnet and Adger, 2005). Such 'livelihood contraction', often related to declining access to natural capital caused by, for example, deforestation, land degradation, drought, agricultural expansion or population displacement by dams, etc. usually implies a loss of gainful employment (Barnet and Adger, 2005, p6).

From the earliest days of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, trade unions have focused on the employment and the insecurity created by current patterns of energy use, as well as by proposed climate change measures. While most studies suggest some positive net growth in world employment in the long term, when job losses are measured against job gains, sectoral and regional analyses of climate change effects show that large numbers of workers will lose jobs and livelihoods in the short term, with little access to new jobs. Unfortunately, even though this source of insecurity is likely to be significant, it has been largely absent from international research and debate. Even Stern did not specifically refer to employment impacts in his list of 'highlights of possible climate impacts' (Stern et al, 2006).

After a decade of asking for cooperation from such intergovernmental organizations as the OECD, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Union (EU) to study these linkages,1 a study was undertaken by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Syndex, the German Wuppertal Institute and the Spanish institute ISTAS (Instituto Sindical de

Trabajo, Ambiente y Salud), and financed by the European Commission and Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Spain and the UK. The report European Governments and Unions Assess Employment and Climate Change Synergies (ETUC et al, 2005) examined the potential impact upon employment of the carbon dioxide reduction targets of 30 to 50 per cent by 2030 proposed by the European Union on four key industrial sectors: energy production (electricity production and oil), energy-intensive industries (steel and cement), transport and building/construction, and concluded that there could be an overall net gain in employment in the order of 1.5 per cent in sectors identified with transfers to environmentally friendly forms of energy production and use. It warned, however, that jobs will only be created where companies take advantage of opportunities created by climate policies and lost where companies cannot adapt (ETUC et al, 2005).

At the latest Conference of the Parties (COP) in Nairobi in 2006, the ITUC renewed its call for more research to establish climate change linkages to employment, as well as to sustainable development, bringing into the UNFCCC the discussion of social issues related to adaptation, mitigation and the various Kyoto mechanisms (Global Unions, 2006a). The ILO Labour Conference that followed in June 2007 concluded that 'it is essential that the employment and income dimensions are taken into account in the post-Kyoto agreements and in the implementation of programmes. This requires a much better understanding of the links and that employers and workers participate in making decisions and in building transitions to the low carbon economies of the future'(ILO, 2007).

Far-reaching as they may be, the reality is that climate change would only add to the insecurity of precarious employment under which millions of the world's poor already work. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of decent, sustainable employment is today a fiction for one third of the world's workers who are unemployed or relegated to short-term, part-time, unsafe jobs with low wages and long hours, or work in the informal economy with no rights or social protection. In recent decades, a dramatic increase in this type of employment in both developing and industrialized countries has accompanied a shift from manufacturing to service industries, a spread of new information and communications technologies, and labour processes that emphasize flexible employment relations (Fudge and Owens, 2009, p401). Women bear the brunt of this insecurity, as do millions of children who are condemned to child labour (ILO, 1995).

Poverty is at the root of this insecurity, of course; but in some countries and industries, it is actively fostered by economic and social policies of the government and the inattention of governmental regulatory agencies (Warshaw, 2007). The International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) is one of a several trade union federations to note an increase in the number and types of precarious employment situations - specifically, direct hire of temporary labour contracts, hiring by employment agencies or brokers, contracting out, personal labour contracts as bogus 'self-employed' workers, disguised employment training contracts, and home working (IMF, 2007).

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