Nearly three-quarters of the world’s poorest citizens – those living on less than US $2 per day – are dependent on the environment for a significant part of their daily livelihood. Failure to respond to the challenges posed by climate change could have a severe impact on their livelihoods. Furthermore, climate change is endangering efforts to realize the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The current global economic and financial crisis also presents challenges, including growing concern that previous commitments to cap green house gas (GHG) emissions or phasing out polluting factories may be replaced by what one political leader has called "cheap and dirty" economic stimuli.
Women and men working in sectors most dependent on the weather, such as agriculture and tourism, are likely to be most affected. Climate change, moreover, is not gender neutral. Women are increasingly being seen as more vulnerable than men to the effects of climate change because they represent the majority of the world’s poor and are proportionally more dependent on threatened natural resources. What is more, women tend to play a greater role than men in natural resource management – farming, planting, protecting and caring for seedlings and small trees – and in ensuring nutrition and as care providers for their families. Yet, in the long run, no one – women or men, rich or poor – can remain immune from the challenges and dangers brought on by climate change.
The ILO’s Decent Work Agenda provides for green growth including the promotion of green enterprises and green jobs; active labour market policies which combine social security for displaced workers with skills development to help enterprises and workers to adapt and seize opportunities; work that is clean and safe for workers and the environment; and respect for workers’ rights that give freedom including to engage in social dialogue which is key to shaping effective responses. Decent green jobs effectively link MDG 1 (End Poverty and Hunger) to MDG 7 (Ensure Environmental Sustainability), making them mutually supportive.