Just transition to a clean construction sector
*BWI and C40 joint statement on the just transition a clean construction industry
In the preamble of the Paris Agreement, the parties acknowledge to consider “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs”. A radical transformation of the construction sector is required to ensure a just transition to a green and just economy that delivers new jobs and opportunities for the most affected workers and communities in the transition to net-zero.
Today, Engineering and Construction industries account for about 6% of global GDP, 23% of GHG emissions and consume between a third to half of the world's extracted resources. For its workers, the sector is often dangerous and insecure with precarious employment, several layers of sub-contracting and exploitation hindering them to organise themselves and protect their rights. A rapidly warming world only worsens their working conditions, which is why we need to meet the 1.5 degree warming temperature target and halve emissions by 2030.
BWI and C40 have joint efforts to transition towards clean construction to answer this challenge, in line with cities and unions' commitment to promote a just transition as pledged 100 days ahead of COP 26 through the ‘Cities and Unions Call to Action: A Climate Decade for Good Quality Jobs’.
Our shared vision is for a regenerative, resilient, inclusive and just construction sector where no one is left behind and everyone can thrive - including those who are most affected by the transition towards net zero and marginalised groups such as low-income groups, women, people of colour, indigenous groups, migrants. Together, we are calling for a transition that addresses job losses, provides all workers with good quality jobs and creates thriving and equitable communities for everyone.
There is no dilemma between environment and jobs. Protecting our planet means protecting workers and communities. Tackling the climate crisis and providing decent jobs for workers through a just transition will bring a green and just economic recovery. Failure to address the intersecting challenges of inequalities and the climate crisis today is likely to create challenges of social degradation of cities and communities tomorrow, with long term effects on people, societies, and the economy.
A Just Transition to a greener and more sustainable construction sector:
1. Relies on social dialogue between governments, employers, and workers' organisations to overcome barriers, realise opportunities, release potential, and deliver innovation.
2. Delivers retraining, green skills development and employment support programmes equitably for workers.
● Studies show that by investing in renovation and retrofitting buildings, green infrastructure projects, housing and healthcare facilities, up to 100 million jobs can be created by 2030. This is conditional on investment in skills development considering the ‘green skills’ shortages across most major and developing economies.
● Over 80% of tomorrow’s workforce is already in the workforce of today. We need targeted efforts to increase access to green and decent jobs in the construction sector, especially for women and youth, as shown by C40 research ‘Creating local green jobs: the United States and Italy’.
3. Guarantees access to social protection as a human right.
● Social protection is needed at the heart of any just transition process and acted upon by employers, national governments as well as cities when powers are available. A sustainable, comprehensive and shock-responsive social protection system is fundamental for cushioning construction workers, their family and communities against climate-related impacts, as well as tackling the pressure exerted by climate change on social risks. It would also help support climate resilience and facilitate the implementation of climate change mitigation responses.
4. Includes macroeconomic, industrial and sectoral policies to support sustainable and innovative enterprises and create green jobs.
● Recovery efforts involve significant infrastructure investments. It can generate the momentum to deliver the change and sectoral transformation we need, yet only if stimulus packages create and deliver an environmental and socially just construction.
● If we don’t act now, it is projected that heat stress alone will reduce total working hours worldwide by 2.2% by 2030, which is equivalent to 80 million FTEs, out of which 15.2 million FTEs is predicted to be lost from the construction sector. We hence need to join forces to create equitably distributed green, inclusive, safe and decent jobs.
5. Promotes social justice and value, whilst striving for poverty eradication and social inclusion.
The clean construction transition needs to be just, inclusive, resilient and regenerative. Together, we can drive real improvements in tackling climate change while increasing the health, well-being, and economic opportunities of urban residents.
We have a once in a generation chance to deliver green skills development, retraining and employment support programmes for construction workers and access to comprehensive social protection through collaboration between cities, industry and trade unions.