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Study: Working fewer hours, to face the climate crisis

Study: Working fewer hours, to face the climate crisis

According to a study, people across Europe will have to work drastically fewer hours to avoid disastrous warming of the climate, unless there is a radical decarbonization of the economy.

Research, from Thinktank Autonomy, shows that workers in the UK would have to spend nine-hour weeks to keep the country on track to avoid more than 2C of warming at current levels of carbon intensity. Similar reductions were found in Sweden and Germany.

The findings are based on OECD and UN data on greenhouse gas emissions by industry in the three countries. It found that at current carbon levels, all three would require a drastic reduction in working hours, as well as urgent measures to decarbonize the economy to prevent climate degradation.

Will Stronge, director of Autonomy, said the research highlighted the need to include reductions in working hours as part of efforts to address the climate emergency.

"Becoming a green and sustainable society will require a number of strategies - a shorter work week is just one of them," he said. "This paper and other nascent research in the field should give us a lot of information to think about when we consider the urgency of the Green New Deal and what it looks like."

The document focuses on the emissions produced by industry in each economy, but does not take into account other environmental benefits of reducing working hours, from fewer trips to fewer goods produced and resources used.

There is growing support in the US and Europe for the so-called Green New Deal, which aims for a rapid decarbonization of the economy, creating safe and well-paying sustainable jobs. The acceleration of automation has also led to an increase in requests for reducing the work week.

Emma Williams, a spokeswoman for the 4-day-a-week campaign, said Wednesday's report highlighted the link between automation, reduced working hours and the climate emergency.

"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to deal with the very real changes that society will have to make to live within the limits of the planet," he said.

"In addition to improving well-being, improving gender equality and increasing productivity, tackling climate change is another compelling reason why we should all work less."

Stronge said that technological advances and the climate emergency meant that working fewer hours a week was now not only feasible but essential.

"The rapid pace of labor-saving technology highlights the possibility of a shorter work week for everyone, if implemented correctly," he said. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that it is indeed necessary to reduce the working week."

Video: Climate Emergency (October 2020).