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(Brussels, 25 February 2021) Yesterday, the European Commission published a new strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change intended to build ‘just resilience’ to the unavoidable effects of climate change. However, with only weak references to workers’ rights and universal access to essential services, it begs the question – just for who?

The European Federation of Public Service Unions welcomes the Commission’s commitment to strengthen the EU Adaptation Strategy, but the one which was adopted today falls short of what is needed.

One of the most critical consequence of climate change in both the immediate and long-term future will be more frequent and more severe natural emergencies, such as floods and wildfires. Public service workers on the frontline of emergencies, including firefighters, nurses, and civil protection officers, will be faced with increasingly more difficult and challenging situations at work. Strengthening health and safety measures for emergency workers is therefore an imperative element of resilience to climate change, yet in the strategy published by the Commission today, there is no mention of emergency workers.

The strategy includes only weak references to public sector and makes no clear recommendation for Member States to invest in public services, infrastructure and social protection systems which will be the backbone of climate change resilience. The vital role of healthcare systems, utilities networks, social security systems, national and local administrations, must not be neglected in National Adaptation Strategies.

While the Commission’s strategy does mention social partners, it makes no concrete proposals for their involvement. However, social partners have a crucial role to play in ensuring that national adaptation plans and strategies are fair for workers and local communities. All plans should be developed with the full involvement of trade unions, and the use of collective bargaining and social dialogue.

Finally, as global temperatures rise and natural resources are depleted, access to essential services such as water and energy will become increasingly difficult. This will disproportionally affect low-income households, vulnerable communities, and women. It is therefore regrettable that the Commission’s strategy fails to include provisions on the right to energy and the right to water.

General Secretary of EPSU, Jan Willem Goudriaan commented, “As it is, ‘just resilience’ is vague and evasive. Rather than introducing a new ‘just’ concept, the Commission should focus on outlining concrete ways to ensure the Adaptation Strategy is just for workers and vulnerable communities. The strategy should be revised in order to put more emphasis on public services, the workers who deliver them and the communities which depend on them.”