Combating climate change could create millions of jobs, says UN-backed study

24 September 2008

Tackling climate change could potentially generate millions of new employment opportunities, according to a new United Nations-backed study – the first of its kind on the emergence of a “green economy” and its impact on labour – released today.

Entitled “Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World,” the publication shows how efforts to address global warming and slash greenhouse gas emissions are leading to new “green” jobs in many sectors. This, in turn, has resulted increased investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The report – a joint effort by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Organization of Employers – includes recommendations in the run-up to next year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which seeks to create a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, whose first-round commitments end in 2012.

“What this report is about from the perspective of sustainability is to show the policymakers that with the right incentives, the right research and development support programmes, there is massive potential here for new economic sectors to emerge,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said at a news conference in New York.

He noted that amid the current financial turmoil seen in different parts of the world, countries will spend hundreds of billions of dollars in coming months to stabilize the global economy.

“Imagine for a moment if some of the stimulus packages that are now being developed could be targeted towards not maintaining and sustaining the old economy of the 20th century but investing in the new economy of the 21st century,” he stated.

The report highlights the importance of boosting investment access for developing countries and increasing energy efficiency in buildings and industry, among other things.

But it also points to how climate change is adversely affecting workers and their families who depend on agriculture and tourism for their livelihoods.

Too few green jobs are being created for the most vulnerable, the study warns, with 1.3 billion of the world’s working poor – or 43 per cent of the global workforce – earning less than $2 a day.

It also stresses the need for “just transitions” for those affected by the switch to a more green economy with access to new employment opportunities, noting the importance of dialogue among governments, workers and employers to ease potential tensions and to ensure that all sectors are involved in developing more coherent environmental, economic and social policies.

“We need to make sure that green jobs are decent jobs,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. “As the report makes clear, building a low-carbon economy is not only about technology or finances, it’s about peoples and societies. It’s about a cultural change to a greater environmental consciousness and opportunities for decent work.

“New jobs will be created, others adapted and some will fade out. In order to keep the political will and the public support, we will have to put policies in place that have to focus from the beginning on those at the receiving end of this transition,” he stated.

 

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