As the world grapples with the devastating economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, the UN’s labour agency launched ILO Green Week to explore what a green future of work could look like, and how we can get there.
The International Labour Organization event highlighted how a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies can take place while also addressing the imperatives of decent work.
For a sustainable future, the UN agency stressed the need for a “strong social consensus” on the goals and pathways to move forward, maintaining that social dialogue must be an integral part of institutional frameworks for policymakers, with the inclusion of workers and employers being critical for an equitable transition at all levels.
If we want to advocate for people and planet, #GreenJobs are key. For @ilo‘s #ILOGreenWeek join innovators, experts and environmental leaders from around the globe to explore what a green future of work could look like, and how we can get there🌱
— UNDP Geneva (@UNDPGeneva) April 21, 2021
“Working together, Governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations can jump-start a just transition to a sustainable future, today”, said ILO.
Africa’s Sustainable revolution
Although Africa generates a low share of global carbon emissions, the continent is highly vulnerable to climate change.
According to ILO, global warming and heat stress will lead to the loss of nearly five per cent of total working hours in western Africa alone – equivalent to losing nine million full-time jobs.
Climate vulnerability could also reduce yields from rain-fed agriculture, affecting millions of jobs and livelihoods.
Rich in minerals, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron – needed for electric vehicles and machinery, the continent has all the elements needed to “win the battle against climate change”, along with the potential to generate some two million additional jobs, ILO said.
Africa is home to the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest rain forest, which absorbs significant amounts of global carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activity and possess 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, which, the UN agency pointed out “could drive a new green, sustainable agricultural revolution”.
Moreover, it is home to the Great Green Wall – the world’s largest solar power station, located in the Moroccan desert – and has the potential to use its ocean resources for sustainable economic development.
“With assets like these, Africa can have a more sustainable future, with more and better jobs”, ILO said, while also cautioning that as a leading producer of oil, coal and natural gas, it must end its dependence on fossil fuels, which could lead to the loss of some two million jobs.
In the context of Green Week and this year’s Earth Day, ILO and its partners hosted a regional launch of the Climate Action for Jobs Initiative to showcase how jobs feature at the heart of global action to protect the environment and promote climate-neutral and climate-resilient economies and societies.
Countries need to adopt clear and comprehensive policies that address income and job losses, skills and enterprise development, and labour mobility to achieve a “human-centred future of work in Africa”, said ILO.
With its young and dynamic population, vast natural resources, and political and social engagement, the UN agency upheld that “Africa offers solutions to the world”.
“There is indeed an urgent need to put African young people and women as agents of change, to drive innovation and green job creation”, Cynthisa Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, said at the event.