The future of our economies, societies, and jobs depend on a stable and healthy environment. Some 1.2 billion jobs, or 40 percent of total world employment mainly in the Global South, are “directly dependent on ecosystem services, and jobs everywhere are dependent on a stable environment.” For a sustainable economy, the decoupling of growth from emissions and resource use must continue; as already seen in 23 countries and in many more sectors and firms.
The ILO‘s World Economic and Social Outlook (WESO) 2018 flagship report highlights how climate change and environmental degradation will impact the labour markets worldwide. “The report demonstrates the urgency of achieving environmental sustainability and shows that the path towards sustainability is compatible with improvements in decent work, much like other drivers of the future of work, such as new technologies, alternative business models and globalization.”
Economic growth and human activities continue to rely heavily on transforming our natural environment. The G20 countries, the world’s most industrialized economies, alone account for over 70 percent of global emissions. Undeniably, the current development model remains coupled with emissions and natural resource use at an unsustainable level as we enter into what some have called a new geological epoch of the ‘Anthropocene.’
The planet we depend on so much is under stress. Three out of the nine planetary boundaries within which humanity need to development and thrive into the future have been recently exceeded, which will produce irreversible and abrupt environmental change on a global scale and at home. Continued environmental degradation caused by human activities is highly likely to destroy jobs and livelihoods, having the largest impact on the most vulnerable. For example, overexploitation of fish stocks could destroy 85.7 million jobs decimating coastal communities and food systems. At the same time, rising temperatures will cause heat stress for workers that will have a significant impact on productivity and occupational safety and health.
Yet, decoupling growth from emissions and resource use is possible. Some 23 countries, such as Denmark, and the energy sectors in Albania, Ethiopia, Iceland, and Paraguay have decoupled economic growth from GHG emissions. To achieve this, they have increased their use of renewable energy, carbon pricing, green product subsidies and encouraged green jobs. The ILO estimates that 18 million new jobs will be created worldwide as a result from countries achieving the Paris Agreement’s 2°C goal.
There is no gain without the right policies. International labour standards (ILS) protect the environment. However, decoupling the economy from emissions does not necessarily the case for human development and well-being. ILS and dialogue between social partners (businesses, workers, governments, and other actors) provide a regulatory framework for the social pillar of the green economy and a valuable tool for advancing towards a just transition. “Environmental sustainability can be compatible with decent work, especially when the institutional and policy tools adopted to promote decent work complement measures to advance a sustainable, low-carbon and resource-efficient economy Environmental sustainability can be achieved alongside the advancement of decent work”.
A healthy planet is a necessary condition to guarantee the future of decent work, productive enterprises, and sustainable livelihoods. To learn more go to ILO’s Green Initiative.