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ILO Says Green Economy Will Create 24 Million Jobs by 2030

A new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts 24 million new jobs will be created globally by 2030 if the right policies to promote a greener economy are put in place.

The “World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs” report released Monday said though measures taken in the production and use of energy will lead to some 6 million job losses by 2030, action to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will result in enough job creation—roughly 18 million jobs— to more than offset it.

The study said new jobs will be created by adopting sustainable energy practices, including changes in the energy mix, promoting the use of electric vehicles and improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

The apparel, textile and retail industries have taken effort in recent years in these areas, from better cotton farming practices and recycling of raw materials to water conservation methods, the use of electric vehicles, natural gas fuels in transportation, and overall energy efficiency programs.

The report noted that ecosystem services–air and water purification, soil renewal and fertilization, pest control, pollination and protection against extreme weather conditions–help farming, fishing, forestry and tourism activities that employ 1.2 billion workers around the world.

However, the ILO said projected increases in temperature will make heat stress, particularly in agriculture, more common, which could lead to exhaustion and stroke. The report calculates that heat stress will cause a 2 percent global loss in hours worked by 2030 due to related illnesses.

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“The findings of our report underline that jobs rely heavily on a healthy environment and the services that it provides,” ILO deputy director-general Deborah Greenfield said. “The green economy can enable millions more people to overcome poverty and deliver improved livelihoods for this and future generations. This is a very positive message of opportunity in a world of complex choices.”

At the regional level, the report forecast net job creation in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe, representing some 3 million, 14 million and 2 million jobs respectively, resulting from measures taken in the production and use of energy. In contrast, there could be net job losses of 0.48% in the Middle East and 0.04% in Africa if current trends continue, due to the dependence of these regions on fossil fuel and mining, respectively.

The report calls on countries to take swift action to train workers in the skills needed for the transition to a greener economy and provide them with social protection needed for transition to new jobs, contributes to preventing poverty and reduces the vulnerability of households and communities.

“Policy changes in these regions could offset the anticipated job losses or their negative impact,” Catherine Saget, the lead author of the report, said. “Low- and some middle- income countries still need support to develop data collection, and adopt and finance strategies toward a just transition to an environmentally sustainable economy and society that includes everyone from all groups of society.”

The report predicted that 2.5 million jobs will be created in renewables-based electricity, offsetting some 400,000 jobs lost in fossil fuel-based electricity generation.

Transitioning toward a circular economy, which includes things like recycling, repair, rent and remanufacture, replacing the traditional economic model of “extracting, making, using and disposing,” can create 6 million jobs with the right policies, the ILO said, but no gains will be seen without the right policies.

The report calls for synergies between social protection and environmental policies that support workers’ incomes and the transition to a greener economy. Policies that combine cash transfers, stronger social insurance and limits on the use of fossil fuels would lead to faster economic growth, stronger job creation and a fairer income distribution, as well as lower greenhouse gas emissions, the report contended.

“Social dialogue which allows employers and workers to participate in the political decision-making process alongside governments plays a key role in reconciling social and economic objectives with environmental concerns,” Saget added. “There are cases in which such dialogue not only helped to reduce the environmental impact of policies but also avoided a negative impact on employment or working conditions.”