Rising heat at work imposes a threat

Searing temperatures will cost emerging economies up to 10 per cent in lost daytime working hours, if countries do not cut planet-warming emissions further than they have promised so far, UN agencies and inter­national labour bodies said.

Global temperatures are predicted to rise by at least 2.7ºC if emissions-reduction pledges made by nearly 190 nations for the new global climate change deal are met.

The Paris agreement, however, sets a goal of keeping average temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

If the world continues with its current level of emissions, the impact on working hours – and lost GDP – is likely to be even worse, according to a joint report by the UN Development Programme, International Labour Organisation, Climate Vulnerable Forum and other agencies.

“Excessive heat puts exposed working populations at greater risk from heat-induced stresses and undermines growth by compromising productivity,” Cecilia Rebong, ambassador and permanent representative of the Philippines to the UN, said in a statement.

We have to scale up climate action across the board

Countries likely to be worst affected by rising temperatures include India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cambodia, Pakistan, Burkina Faso and parts of West Africa.

In the 1990s, several developing countries were already losing up to three per cent of daylight working hours to intense heat. Since then, global temperatures have risen.

“Imagine working in a shoe manufacturer in Vietnam or a clothing factory in Bangladesh when it is 35° C,” said Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union.

“Governments and employers have to take this issue of the cauldron of a warming planet seriously and develop some effective policy responses and practical measures to protect workers,” he added.

Countries like Bangladesh stand to lose the most as the planet heats up, said Saleemul Huq, advisor to the Climate Vulnerable Forum and director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development.

“If we are to take sustainable development seriously, we have to scale up climate action across the board and fund real ways of adapting communities to these new everyday extremes,” he said.