Science and Environment

International cooperation needed to lessen climate’s impact on workers

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has called for stronger international cooperation to ensure the welfare of workers and ensure labor productivity as they face the impacts of climate change.

The call was made during a High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change and Labor, which the Philippines, as president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), led last June 8 on the margins of the 105th Session of the International Labor Conference (ILC) in order to draw attention to the often-overlooked link between climate change and labor.

The Philippines said climate change continued to put vulnerable sectors like those in agriculture and construction at greater risk from heat exposure and threatens overall productivity due to shorter viable working hours.

“The repercussion of climate change on decent work is enormous as we increasingly realize that those most at risk are engaged in the lowest-bracket work and are therefore the most susceptible to extreme poverty,” said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, head of Philippine delegation to the ILC.

Baldoz shared the experience of the Philippines in addressing the impacts of climate change in the labor sector. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was named as an ex-officio member of the Climate Change Commission, ensuring that labor concerns were an integral part of climate change strategies. 

The Philippines was also one of three pilot countries to apply the 2015 guidelines of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies, which aimed to support the development of green enterprises and jobs and identify new occupational and safety health hazards in the shift to green production.

She enumerated other initiatives, such as the Green My Enterprise training program wherein more than 1,800 enterprises had received assistance toward improved workplace safety and lower greenhouse gas emission; the Productivity Olympics that recognized companies promoting green practices; the revision of the advisory on measures to address increasing workplace heat; and the new Labor Law Compliance System that mandated officers not only to monitor compliance but also to provide assistance and advice on labor standards and risks, including those brought about by extreme weather events.

The secretary also expressed support for efforts to review international labor standards in order to take climate change into account, committed to continue exchanging best practices with other stakeholders on climate change, and supported initiatives to help make climate change an agenda in future discussions of the ILO.

Carlos Alvarado, Minister of Labor of Costa Rica, highlighted how the issue on labor and climate change started as a health issue in his country after receiving reports that many workers exposed to extreme heat developed kidney problems. Meanwhile, the representatives from labor unions called for greater protection for workers as many industries became increasingly affected by climate change.

The IOE expressed similar concern as rising sea levels affected the shorelines of small island states whose main industry related to tourism, and as responses continued to evolve in order to address the issue of reduced productivity resulting from extreme heat.

Some 70 participants took part in the event, with representatives from other Permanent Missions to the United Nations in Geneva and from international organizations like the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Organization for Migration, and the UN Development Program.

“Because climate change affects all sectors, the Philippines hopes to help bring the discussion on climate change into other related forums,” said Ambassador Cecilia Rebong, permanent representative of the Philippines to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva.             

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