BWI: Climate crisis calls for real action, COP27 leaders must deliver

Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, 8 November 2022 - For most workers in the construction, wood and forestry, and building materials sectors, the dangers of climate change are a stark reality. With the increase in extreme climate events, from droughts and forest fires to tornados, hurricanes, flooding, and extreme heat, risks have become visible, widespread, and tangible, jeopardising health and safety in workplaces and communities.

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) General Secretary Ambet E. Yuson said:

"Workers in BWI sectors from various regions are experiencing the direct impacts of climate change, which will increase in number and severity. Workers have already started to take the matter into their hands. They need to be a part of the conversation at COP27. As BWI, we are ready to put forward proposals and innovations that place workers' rights and interests at the centre. Climate justice can be obtained only if it goes hand in hand with social justice. The market alone and its corporate actors during globalisation have not and will not bring either." 

A growing number of workers in BWI sectors have been displaced because of the impacts of climate change, or have migrated to support family members whose lives have been upturned by the effects of the climate crisis. In the quest for climate justice, they must not be forgotten as their labour and human rights are fundamental to uphold and remediate when climate change adversely impacts them. All workers must be brought under full labour protections in line with international core labour standards. Fundamental labour rights like the right to organise, to associate freely and to bargain collectively are crucial for all workers regardless of their status, as they seek access to decent work in the face of extreme climate impacts.

With the issue of loss and damage at the centre of the COP27 debate, high priority needs to be placed on the economic and non-economic detrimental effects of the climate crisis on workers' livelihoods and their communities. Governments must reach an agreement that includes a financing mechanism for loss and damage while scaling up mitigation ambition and social protection in adaptation. 

BWI General Secretary Ambet E. Yuson continued:

"Workers need to be part of the solutions. Hence, as they address climate change, leaders at COP27 must ensure justice, respect and dialogue with trade unions in BWI sectors today and in the future, and promote policies that effectively address both climate change, social and economic justice.”

In October, BWI published a report on 100 union actions for climate justice, highlighting the critical role workers play in the shift towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient world and presenting a series of recommendations for policymakers and the industry.

At COP27, BWI is calling Governments to:

  • Foster social dialogue and ensure workers in BWI sectors and their unions are at the table for developing Nationally-Determined Contributions and other national and regional plans on climate change 

  • Advance bold policies for climate change and economic justice that guarantee human and labour rights, and inclusive participation

  • Monitor, supervise, inspect and enforce labour standards for climate-related sectors and projects and ensure accountability for violations

  • Harness responsible procurement for national and local climate-related projects, including green building, retrofits, renewable energy infrastructure and green transit 

  • Invest in workers’ skills, and develop new economic opportunities in affected regions 

BWI joins the global labour movement in demanding Governments to:

  • Raise mitigation ambition and create quality jobs with just transition

  • Include social protection plans and funding in adaptation

  • Deliver on a Loss and Damage facility

  • Provide the urgently needed climate finance to invest in just transition