ILO Statement to the Second Committee of the 65th General Assembly

Moves toward sustainability are good for employment, but require sound policy for transition

Greening of the economy will create more jobs than will be lost in other sectors. But these shifts will require coherent policies to assist those bearing the brunt of the transformation.

Statement | New York | 11 October 2010
Mr. Chair,

The financial and economic crisis has reinforced a central element of Agenda 21, that all three dimensions of sustainable development must be equally proportioned and considered to achieve economically, socially and environmentally sound patterns of development. The jobs crisis and the climate crisis have common roots in the fact that to date, the economy has been overemphasized in the development model and the social and environmental dimensions have been undervalued. This has contributed to growing concerns that the current path of globalization is yielding too few decent jobs and at the same time, a recognition that we cannot continue with growth at the expense of environmental quality.

We are in a process of transition searching for a right mix of policies that can put us on a true path to sustainable development. Transitions in employment structures and in workplaces are central in this process. The ILO Global Programme on Green Jobs is actively working to help facilitate a just transition by focusing on the preservation of the environment for present and future generations and at the same time provide new sources of income in an equitable and inclusive way for all people and all countries.
Evidence suggests that measures taken to mitigate climate change have already created millions of green jobs in countries at all stages of development. Many more can be further created by continuing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, producing clean energy with renewable energies, improving energy efficiency in construction, transport and other industries, developing sectors such as waste management and recycling, and reducing biodiversity loss.

Green jobs and the promotion of the green economy have become the key drivers for achieving economic and social development that is also environmentally sustainable – though it should not be assumed that green jobs are a panacea for development or for overcoming the jobs crisis. However, experience does demonstrate that well designed, environment related investments are beneficial for employment overall. The so-called green sectors of the economy can be expected to create more jobs, directly or indirectly, than will be lost in other sectors. That being said, there will be shifts in the labour market structure that leads to job losses in the short term and thus will require coherent policies together with direct investments and benefits to assist those who are bearing the brunt of adaptation to climate change and for those whose jobs may be lost in the transformation phase to a low-carbon economy. This reality underscores the need to ensure that a proper framework for a just transition is erected based upon the four components comprising decent work – rights, employment, social protection and social dialogue, as well as the promotion of sustainable enterprises, economic diversification and capacity building.

Anticipating the economic transformation of a shift to more sustainable patterns of consumption and production and the net effects on the labour market dynamics is a complex process. However, there is large untapped potential for social dialogue and alliances at national, sectoral, company and workplace levels to help arrive at better informed and more integrated policy responses. The inter-dependence between environmental, economic and social policies is strong, but the synergies which can be reaped are not automatic. Coherent policies are critical and will take commitment.

The ILO encourages broader and continued efforts to put the world on track to generate sustainable growth and development and enabling all countries to create productive employment and decent work for all.

I thank you.