Reflections | Global Climate Jobs Conference 2023

Alice HaughMel Beeston
ByAlice Haugh andMel Beeston

The Global Climate Jobs Conference 2023 brought together climate and labour rights advocates from across the globe around a shared ambition: the creation of climate jobs.

The movement to accelerate the transition to a climate-positive and inclusive economy can often be so caught up in recognising the problems, that we can forget there is already much collaboration underway.

At the conference climate and labour advocates across sectors and geographies, sharing lived experience ranging from Scotland to South Africa, took the stage to eloquently demonstrate that collaboration between climate and labour advocates is thriving.

Nevertheless, amidst this shared vision, several challenges loom large. The clamour for expedited climate action has sometimes hindered worker engagement and widened socio-economic disparities. Labour unions, scarred by past unmet promises, often doubt governments' commitment to just transitions. Internally, union dynamics can obstruct climate progress, as worker perspectives sometimes outpace perceived conservative leadership.

To overcome these hurdles, innovative unionism appears essential, outlining not just what workers oppose but what they aspire to achieve. In the Laudes built environment programme, we are working with several innovate union partners – such as The Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) – to help workers redefine their own narratives for a just and prosperous transition.

Indeed, the European Federation of BWI has been working with – another of our partners – the International Trade Union Congress Just Transition Centre to study the labour implications of Europe’s renovation wave as a first step towards demystifying what decarbonising buildings means for workers.

Bridging the climate and labour movements, bolstering technical literacy among workers, and fostering international coordination can pave the way for sustained success. Workers are willing to transition if retraining is supported, but disparities between older fossil fuel industries and emerging green sectors must be addressed.

In summary, the 2023 conference offered a glimpse into the collaborative potential of climate and labour advocates who are on the front line. Confronting the pressing challenge of climate jobs while navigating the complex terrain of global activism.

Coalition building across sectors, combining climate advocacy with housing and labour rights, is a promising avenue. The pan-European Build Better Lives and ‘The Movement’ in the Netherlands are just two such examples. The future hinges on bridging these divides, harnessing innovation, and creating equitable transitions for workers across the world.

Inspired by some of the examples we have spoken about here? Watch the recorded sessions first hand.

About the author

By Alice Haugh

Alice is an architect, urban designer and strategist specialised in the future of cities. She is currently based in Amsterdam, where she leads the work on social equity in the built environment at Laudes Foundation.

Mel Beeston

By Mel Beeston

Mel has a background supporting systems change approaches to philanthropy. They are based in Amsterdam and support partnerships across the built environment team's portfolio.

Built Environment