GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: Promoting a greener economy could create 30 million jobs over the next decade, largely offsetting employment losses linked to the shift, the UN said Monday, although farming would be especially hard-hit.
A fresh report from the International Labour Organization estimated that, excluding the agriculture sector, far more jobs would be created than lost if countries manage to stick to the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
That agreement calls for capping global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and 1.5 C if feasible.
But US President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the deal, and policies currently in place around the world look set to send global temperatures soaring by at least three degrees.
The ILO report, “Greening with Jobs”, found that policies aimed at limiting global warming below the two-degree limit could create some 24 million jobs, enough to “more than offset job losses of six million elsewhere.”
“The transition to a green economy is urgent and it will create jobs,” Catherine Saget, lead author of the report told journalists in Geneva.
At the same time, the report found that “embracing a circular economy”, including things like recycling, renting, repair and re-manufacturing of goods, would create an additional six million jobs worldwide.
But Saget acknowledged that the picture was far worse for farmers.
Transitioning to a more environmentally-friendly agriculture model is expected to lead to the loss of 120 million jobs worldwide, she said, adding that the shift was expected to entail employment losses in every region except Europe.
New jobs would meanwhile emerge when countries adopt more sustainable practices in the energy sector, including promoting the use of electric vehicles and improving energy efficiency in buildings, the report said.
It estimated that 2.5 million jobs could be created in renewables-based electricity alone — six times more than the 400,000 expected to be lost in fossil fuel-based electricity generation.
Most sectors of the economy would see net job creation, the ILO said.
The report said more jobs would emerge with growing investment in so-called “ecosystem services”, like air and water purification, soil renewal and fertilisation, pest control, pollination and protection against extreme weather conditions.
Such services are vital to sectors as varied as farming, fishing, forestry and tourism, which currently employ 1.2 billion workers globally, the ILO pointed out.
If little or nothing is done to halt temperature rises, heat stress on agriculture and other industries will become increasingly common.
This comes at a high cost.
“By 2030, the percentage of total hours of work lost will rise to two percent” as a result of heat related illnesses, the report said.
It pointed out that the productivity loss was “equivalent to 72 million full-time jobs,” and warned that this was likely an underestimate, since it assumed only a 1.5-degree-Celsius increase in global mean temperature, and assumed all agricultural work was carried out in the shade.
A transition to a greener economy “is urgent given the unsustainable pressure of current economic activity on the environment,” Saget said.
Excluding agriculture, the ILO report estimated that the Americas, Asia and the Pacific and Europe would all experience significant net job creation if they greened their economies.
But it warned that if current trends continue, and no action is taken to rein in climate change and environmental degradation, the Middle East and Africa especially would see net job losses due to their dependence on fossil fuels and mining.
The report called on countries to take urgent action to train workers in the new skill sets needed for the transition to a greener economy, and also urged them to provide social protections to prevent those who are unable to make the transition from falling into poverty.
“Policy changes in these regions could offset the anticipated job losses or their negative impact,” Saget said.