Ahead of COP 28, Asia Pacific holds climate week

(Photo: Philstar.com/Gaea Katreena Cabico)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held its Asia Pacific Climate Week (APCW) 2023 in Johor Bahru, Malaysia from November 13 to 17, 2023, with the goal of discussing climate solutions ahead of the COP 28 in Dubai.  It is reported to be the last regional climate conference before the UN Global Climate Change Conference. According to the Building and Wood Workers' International’s (BWI) Asia Pacific affiliates, workers in the region suffer from the impacts of the global climate crisis. 

Climate change, according to BWI, poses substantial obstacles for Pakistani construction and forestry workers. Severe heatwaves, floods, and storms are increasingly causing health concerns and project interruptions in the construction industry. Rising temperatures exacerbate heat stress in construction workers. Climate change affects critical water supplies for ecosystems, affecting workers' livelihoods through changes in vegetation and increasing vulnerability to pests and illnesses. Deforestation and land degradation exacerbate these issues by reducing biodiversity and ecological services. To limit the impact of climate change on workers' well-being and livelihoods, addressing these concerns requires adaptive solutions, policy interventions, and sustainable practices in both sectors.

Meanwhile, India holds the unfortunate distinction of being the world's second most polluted country, with 39 of its cities ranking among the world's top 50 most polluted, according to the 2023 World Air Quality Report. The alarming levels of air pollution pose a significant concern for trade unions, as elevated pollution triggers construction bans, adversely impacting the livelihoods and health of hundreds of thousands of construction workers. Trade unions in New Delhi are grappling with the consequences, providing financial relief to affected workers. In a positive development, a coalition led by a BWI affiliate, TKTMS, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) in July 2023. The MoU focuses on fostering cooperation, facilitating information exchange, conducting joint trainings, and advocating for government policies promoting green and sustainable buildings. Ponkumar Ponnuswamy, President of TKTMS, is set to participate in the IGBC - Green Building Congress in November 2023.

Trade union affiliates in the Philippines share the same sentiment. Workers in the Philippines, an archipelagic country especially vulnerable to climate change, face higher risks of extreme weather events such as intense flash floods, torrential monsoon rain, and heat stress. Many Filipino construction workers, who are already working in hazardous settings, are at increased risk of health problems, work-related accidents, and displacement as a result of climate-related calamities. 

To address the global climate crisis, BWI's regional affiliates are continuously pushing for policies at the national and regional levels that prioritise increased worker health and safety protection in the face of climate-related issues. Trade unionists are also asking for the implementation of sustainable practices in industries to limit the impact of climate change on workers' livelihoods and to oversee a just transition to a low-carbon economy in collaboration with governments and employers.

For BWI's climate campaign, click here.