Climate and Employment Proof our Future — a vision for a post-pandemic world

Sharan Burrow
Mar 19 · 3 min read

Climate change and the deteriorating capacity of our planet to sustain life cannot be ignored, and pandemics represent a threat to our health and economies — a threat that is now too big to ignore.

Yet governments have largely looked the other way while scientists have called for action on both fronts. This is a failure of leadership, and the urgency to reverse the economic, social and environmental consequences requires more courageous leaders than we have seen to date.

We know that the devastation from COVID-19 will require new levels of care, of social protection and of economic stimulus in all countries. We know the same is true of the climate crisis, with just ten years to stabilise the planet and see a global reduction of 45% of emissions.

2020 is the year for government to submit NDCs (nationally determined contributions), but now equally we need action to secure jobs and livelihoods in the short and medium-term in the face of both global crises.

The post-pandemic world will need Just Transition measures if people are to have hope and to trust governments can manage a future with:

· secure pensions;

· income support and skills training in the face of jobs transition or displacement;

· prevailing wage rates in new jobs; and

· investment and renewal in affected communities to secure vital jobs.

These measures will be trusted where governments involve workers through their unions in social dialogue.

Every workplace will be on the front lines of the climate emergency. Energy and technological transitions and health and safety measures are vital to reducing emissions to keep workers and communities safe.

June is a key moment as governments have to come up with new NDCs well in advance of COP26 at the end of the year and hopefully the milestone where we see the end of the worst of COVID-19.

On 24 June, workers and employers can join forces for a face to face or virtual conversation on how to CEPOW — Climate and Employment Proof Our Workplaces! What will it take?

Workers in workplaces around the world will invite their employers to share a conversation to discuss the plans for resilience and sustainable business — safety, jobs, emissions, a secure pathway for the future. That’s the strength of leadership needed from all of us, and it will take a new social contract.

A new social contact is vital to set the world back on a sustainable and just path. The terms of this contract must — in addition to vital public services and environmental and safety measures — include a labour protection floor for all workers with:

  • protection of fundamental labour rights;
  • adequate minimum wage;
  • maximum working hours; and
  • health and safety.

In a post-pandemic world, we can repair the environment with a more sustainable economic and social model for all. Doing so will require determined leadership, funding and collaboration. We must seize this opportunity to make the world safer, more resilient and more secure and sustainable.

Just Transition for climate and employment ambition will prepare us for a future that leaves no one behind.

Sharan Burrow

Written by

General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. Representing the world's working people.

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