UN: Tackling Climate Change Will Boost - Not Destroy - Jobs

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The Guardian/UK

UN: Tackling Climate Change Will Boost - Not Destroy - Jobs

A UN report is hailed as crucial to overcoming global resistance from the labour movement, which for many years opposed the Kyoto agreement amid fears that members would lose their jobs

by
Juliette Jowit

The latest report has been hailed as crucial to overcoming global resistance from the labour movement, which for many years opposed the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions amid fears that members would lose their jobs.

 

Far from destroying jobs,
tackling climate change will boost employment, claims a major new
report published today by the UN and the international labour movement.

The Green Jobs
study goes even further than the British government's Stern report in
2006, which urged countries to invest money in reducing emissions and
adapting to climate change to avoid much greater costs later.

The
latest report has been hailed as crucial to overcoming global
resistance from the labour movement, which for many years opposed the
Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions amid fears that members
would lose their jobs.

"That was not something I'm particularly
proud of," said Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade
Union Confederation (ITUC), who said the movement had since accepted
the United Nations-recommended emissions cut of 80% by 2050.

"This
is a major turnaround," said Ryder. "It's not perhaps because we have
become wiser, it's because we have managed to integrate the notion of
action against climate change with the green job agenda. And what this
report shows is it's perfectly possible to reconcile those two
interests in a way that doesn't threaten worker interests but actually
promotes them in the long term. The biggest threat to the jobs and
livelihoods of our members in future is to do nothing."

However
Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN environment programme
(UNEP), called on governments to do more to support the emerging
industries - comparing the need for intervention to that offered by the
US and other governments to rescue failing financial institutions. (Watch the press conference here.)

"Imagine
for a moment if some of those stimulus packages 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," said
Steiner. "Millions of jobs, millions of enterprises and above all
millions of opportunities for new entrants in the global economy."

The
ITUC, the International Labour Office (ILO), the International
Organisation of Empoyers, and UNEP commissioned the Worldwatch
Institute and Cornell University to conduct a study into how many jobs
would be created in the "green economy".

The report focused on
the key areas considered to have the most potential to make
improvements: energy supply, energy efficiency, transport, "basic"
industries (such as iron and steel, aluminium, cement, paper and pulp),
along with recycling, agriculture and forestry.

The report said
"millions" of new jobs would be created, based on other studies
forecasting that the global market for environmental services and
products would double by 2020, and reports that "clean technology" was
booming.

"New jobs will be created, others will be adapted, and some will fade out," said Juan Somavia, the ILO director general.

Jobs
would be lost in some fossil fuel-intensive industries like steel and
cement, but more jobs would be created than lost in switching from
fossil fuel to renewable energy generation and from mass car use to
more public transport, said Stephen Pursey, the ILO policy director.

The
report did not estimate a total figure because all jobs would have to
become "greener", but "on current performance it looks like there will
be more opportunities than losses," said Pursey.

Critics have
warned that more labour-intensive "green" industries could be a less
efficient way of producing goods and services than those they replaced.
But such measures of wealth did not take account of the harm caused by
pollution and other impacts such as climate change, said Pursey. "Can
we shift to a way of capturing more accurately the things we aspire to,
[such as] cleaner, less polluted cities to live in," he added.

The
most important condition for benefiting from the green economy was
clear public policies and incentives, said the report, which cited the
examples of government support for energy efficiency in Germany and a
scheme to install 1m solar panels in rural villages in Bangladesh,
supported by the not-for-profit organisation Grameen Bank.

However
the report also called for better working conditions for people in some
sectors of the green economy, such as waste disposal and recycling. To
help the poorest countries and most vulnerable workers benefit,
governments needed to diversify economies, ensure social protection and
train workers for new skills, said Somavia.

"Building a low
carbon economy is not only about technologies or finances, it's about
peoples and societies, it's about a cultural change to greater
environmental consciousness and opportunities for decent work, so
essentially it's about leadership - in government, in business, in
trade unions, in local authorities, in international organisations, in
NGOs [non governmental organisations], but particularly in the
political world," said Somavia.

 

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