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BARCELONA: From installing solar energy in villages in Sierra Leone to making electric buses for American schools, the clean energy revolution the world needs for a safer future can also bring secure jobs with good wages, a US-led summit heard on Friday.

Hosted by US President Joe Biden, the second day of the international climate summit looked at how to develop clean technologies and industries to replace planet-heating fossil fuels, while ensuring prosperity for workers.

“If we can keep the focus on the jobs we’re going to create, the economic opportunity, the growth - and in my country, at least, on union jobs - to provide the ability to raise the economy, raise the GDP, raise every part of who we are - I think this is just an incredible opportunity,” the president said.

One of the first people Biden spoke to on environmental issues as he took office was Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, he said.

That was “because I am so sick and tired of people talking about how we get this (transition) done and (they) don’t care about jobs”.

Biden has sought to connect efforts to fight climate change with opportunities to create jobs in growth industries like green energy as part of his $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure package, which requires approval by Congress. Stephenson, who heads the largest energy union in North America, told the event that so far not enough employers in renewable power, including wind and solar energy, allowed workers to join trade unions and secure their labour rights.

He noted there would be new jobs in boosting electricity transmission capacity, building smart neighbourhood grids and laying fibre optic cables, as well as in adding nuclear and hydrogen power and working on carbon capture. “The current energy transition can be a win for the climate and a win for jobs as long as lawmakers commit to implementing labour protections that ensure new energy jobs are good, union jobs,” Stephenson said.

Roxanne Brown, international vice president at large of the United Steelworkers, a union with about 850,000 members, said governments around the world could put workers at the centre of building a clean energy infrastructure by “simply making room for us at the table, like you did today”. “Oftentimes, policymakers form ideas about what they think is essential for workers in a particular state, industry, region, province or country. But, really, only workers can best answer the question of how a net-zero economy includes us,” she said.

Workers can and should be key allies in shaping green economy policies and “not an after-thought”, she added. Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, warned against repeating the unfair transitions of the past that left some communities stranded.

Starting in the 1980s, for instance, northern US states lost heavy industry jobs to automation and factory moves overseas, while in Britain many workers were left jobless as the country’s coal mines closed.

To curb climate change, clean technologies will be needed not just for energy production but also in agriculture, construction, transport, services and their supply chains in both cities and rural areas, affecting a wide range of workers, Burrow noted.

As the need for a socially and economically “just transition” to a low-carbon future becomes clearer, countries from Germany to New Zealand and Ghana to Canada have put in place agreements to consult workers on the changes, she noted.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez spoke about how his left-wing government has negotiated pacts with workers, businesses and local authorities in coal-mining areas to support the move from dirty to clean industries, with the aim of leaving no one behind.

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