The View From Labor: No Jobs On a Dead Planet

An important change is stirring that’s illustrated in this blog excerpt from Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization – an agency of the United Nations.

For a long time, it’s been clear that to make lasting progress on social and environmental issues, these two historically separate movements must come together.

I saw this in the Peoples’ Climate March where there seemed to be an equal number of people calling for climate justice as for renewable energy. Perhaps it’s taken the wide divide between the 1% and 99% for people to wake up to the fact that environmental and social justice go hand in hand.

Guy’s blog title, There Are No Jobs On a Dead Planet, says it all. Unlike some unions who want jobs at any cost, such as those supporting the Keystone pipeline, Ryder understands that it is green jobs that will lead to healthy lives for us all.

Guy Ryder Labor

by Guy Ryder

To mark this year’s World Day for Decent Work, trade unions have chosen the theme of climate change, urging governments to move now to create prosperity for all on a sustainable planet. This focus comes in the wake of the UN Climate Change Summit last month, where again and again, I heard political and business leaders issuing a similar call and making the link between decent jobs and sustainability.

We inhabit a time marked by the highest levels of inequality in living memory. Growing job insecurity is a reality for many, especially the world’s 1.2 billion working poor. Climate change is destroying jobs and livelihoods in every corner of the planet. 

In the face of these grim realities, workers are demanding an ambitious, global agreement which limits climate change and promotes social inclusion and poverty reduction by creating decent jobs.

The economic opportunity that can come from proactive climate policies is the main message of a new report "Better Growth – Better Climate" presented by a high-level panel of distinguished politicians and scientists, including two Nobel prize-winning economists.

The report supports the key conclusions of earlier analysis by the International Labour Organisation, UNEP and others that the world does not have to choose between development with jobs and higher living standards on one hand and stabilizing the global climate on the other. It argues that the investments of $90 trillion in energy, urban development and agriculture can put growth on a sustainable path. It highlights the importance of putting a price on carbon. Significantly, the report also stresses the need for a just transition for workers whose jobs and incomes are negatively affected.

Through our Green Jobs programme and the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), we collaborate with UNEP, UNDP, UNIDO and UNITAR to help member States put sustainable policies in place. Meeting the world of work challenges of climate change is one of our priorities and as the Organization moves toward its second century I have made it one of our centenary initiatives.

Momentum is building. There is a growing consensus that climate change and decent work for all are the two defining challenges of the 21st century. And they should be addressed in tandem. The World Day of Decent Work is an opportunity to galvanize workers, employers and governments. The time is now. We support an ambitious global climate agreement which also fosters the just transition to decent work for women and men everywhere.

Read our article, Environmental Justice Groups Implore Labor to Join on Climate Change.

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