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Greening economies

Climate change is a world of work issue

Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo, Minister of Labour for Barbados and chair of an ILO expert meeting on transitioning to a sustainable economy, spoke to ILO news about green jobs and decent work.

News | 09 October 2015
GENEVA (ILO News) – Moving the global economy on to an environmentally sustainable footing is going to be a “turbulent” experience according to Esther Byer-Suckoo, chair of an expert level green jobs meeting at the ILO in Geneva. However, properly managed it will have profoundly positive implications both for the future of the globe and the Decent Work Agenda.

Byer-Suckoo, Minister of Labour for Barbados, told ILO News that the need for transition is urgent: “We do have to shift from the old (carbon based) economy (...) Being from a small island state myself we see first-hand the damage that (climate change) has caused to our environment. So I don’t think we have a choice, we have to change.”

The ILO meeting, to revise and adopt “policy guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all” and involving government, worker and employer experts concluded with a package of proposals that will enable actors in the world of work to fully engage in the implementation of the expected outcomes of the Paris 2015 climate change conference (COP21), with appropriate policy tools and instruments.

The group addressed three main challenges arising from the changes they see coming in the global economy and the world of work, namely: Job losses in those sectors of the global economy undergoing transformation; adaptation costs and strategies for those industries, regions and countries affected adversely by climate change; and the socially regressive impact of policies that lead to higher prices for energy.

Byer-Suckoo stressed that achieving environmental sustainability and generating enough decent work opportunities is not an “either/or” proposition. The two must be addressed in tandem.

“When you change from one type of economy to another (...) You will lose some sorts of activities and some sorts of jobs related to those, but new ones will emerge (...) People will have to develop new skills, they will have to be trained for the new jobs that present themselves.”

Byer-Suckoo added that decent work must be a key element of the transition: “We (the ILO), are ensuring that all our policies (…) Skills, enterprise policies, macroeconomic policies (...) In all of these the decent work concept (...) is a cross cutting theme. We are trying to ensure that as you make changes, as you invest (in new businesses), that investment has to be in line with the decent work agenda.”

You can listen to the full interview with Byer Suckoo on the role of the ILO in developing strategies for decent work and environmental sustainability.

The Paris Climate Conference (COP21) takes place in December. How best to manage the transition to sustainable economies and the impacts on jobs will be key elements of discussions at the event.