Sustainable development for Small Island States

Green ambitions in Mauritius

The ILO is partnering with Mauritius as it rolls out its green economy action plan ahead of the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa.

Comment | 26 August 2014
By Kees Van der Ree, Coordinator, Green Jobs Programme

Kees Van der Ree
As the world scrambles to deal with the devastating effects of climate change, extreme weather events continue to destroy infrastructure, jobs and lives. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are especially vulnerable, since they are prone to tropical storms and their sweet water resources are threatened by salt water infiltration.

As most of them depend on long-distance imports, their economies are highly sensitive to transport costs and the rising price of fuel. In addition, their small size often inhibits their ability to invest in and implement vital changes.

In response, curbing climate change by reducing CO2 emissions and greening economies has become a top priority for the very survival of life on our planet. And as heads of state gather at the United Nations SIDS Conference in Samoa on 1-4 September, one nation they’ll be looking to for leadership is the Republic of Mauritius in the south west of the Indian Ocean.

An early front-runner in greening its economy, Mauritius framed its vision for sustainability, called Maurice Ile Durable (MID) in 2008. Employment must be at the core of this transition. After society-wide consultations, a comprehensive national action plan was adopted in 2013, with targets set for energy, environment, employment/economy, education and equity.

Since 2011, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been supporting the Mauritian government and social partners in the creation of green jobs. This collaboration helped make operational the links between the green economy and jobs, needed skills, enterprise development and the role of employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Cleaner and greener

MID includes an ambitious action plan, with one of its targets to increase the share of green jobs from 6.3 per cent in 2010 to10 per cent of the workforce by 2020. During the first phase of 2014-2017, four action plans, comprised of about 130 projects, are set to be implemented in energy, environment, green economy and ocean economy.

Through its Green Jobs Programme for Mauritius, the ILO continues to assist the transition with research, awareness-raising and capacity building for green jobs promotion, effective skills development systems and greening enterprises.

ILO’s support is now embedded in the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), a global initiative with UNEP, UNDP, UNIDO and UNITAR, which was launched in Mauritius in July 2014.

In order for a green economy to grow and succeed, it must generate productive and decent jobs for all. But what exactly defines a green job?

Jobs are green when they are decent, help reduce negative environmental impact and which ultimately lead to environmentally, economically and socially sustainable enterprises and economies. They are jobs in any occupation and at any level that:

  • reduce consumption of energy and raw materials
  • limit greenhouse gas emissions
  • minimize waste and pollution
  • protect and restore ecosystems
  • and/or contribute to adaptation to climate change

Sustainability in action

Mauritius can showcase a growing number of practical examples of greening businesses in key sectors of its economy like manufacturing, tourism and energy. These are in textile firms that have been greening production processes with solar water heating systems, recycled waste water, recycling and natural air-cooling practices. Not only do these investments create jobs, they can reduce energy use by up to 30 per cent.

Tourism in Mauritius has been going green for some time now. A family-owned cottage business at Cap Malheureux, for example, uses natural and recycled construction material, produces electricity through renewable sources, composts waste and recycles batteries, plastic, paper and mobile phones. Going green has translated into a surplus of electricity which it can sell to the Central Electricity Board (CEB). Beside cost savings, one could argue the biggest benefit is an improved company image.

The role of training and education

A green economy entails a number of benefits for enterprises and yet ILO research in Mauritius and elsewhere has shown that many companies still need information and supportive public policies.

The ILO conducted an action-oriented tripartite workshop in 2012 in Mauritius with the goal of agreeing on concrete measures for green jobs promotion, greening enterprises, skills enhancement and the strengthening of the role of employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Recommendations from the 2012 workshop included tax and loan incentives, access to training (including on eco-labels and certification), technology and equipment. Training should also ensure that employees can join other sectors, especially if they are laid off. And a just transition to a green workplace would supply facilities and logistics to promote employees’ wellbeing – for example, with access to clean water and showers after handling pesticides.

As we look ahead to the SIDS conference, it is important to stress that if managed well, transitions to environmentally and socially sustainable economies can become a strong driver of job creation, job upgrading, social justice and poverty eradication.

The greening of economies, enterprises and jobs can enhance the resilience of vulnerable countries and communities – especially those in SIDS. And it will contribute to the fight against climate change.