Cop26: Put jobs at centre of climate plans or face ‘social rejection’, warns UN labour chief

Guy Ryder, ILO director-general says the move to carbon neutrality needs to be reconciled with the need to create decent jobs.(Photo: Marcel Crozet /ILO)

Countries around the world risk facing “social rejection” if they do not ensure that people’s jobs and livelihoods are at the centre of national plans for decarbonising their economies, the UN’s labour chief has said.

Speaking ahead of crucial meetings on the climate crisis at the G20 summit and at Cop26, International Labour Organization (ILO) director-general Guy Ryder said governments should integrate clear measures to create decent work into their climate plans, as economies move to cleaner energy sources.

He told Geneva Solutions: “If people think that they are being asked in the name of climate neutrality, to forgo an acceptable standard of living, an opportunity for decent employment, we're going to run into roadblocks; we're going to run into social rejection of necessary action.”

“So the need to make the notion of a ‘just transition’ understood in this way, is integral to nationally determined contributions (NDCs) at COP 26.”

The ILO has estimated that 24 million jobs worldwide could be created by 2030 under the right policies to promote a greener economy, offsetting job losses elsewhere.

However, countries also need to take action to equip workers with the skills for new green jobs and invest in other policies like social protection to make sure they don’t lose out along the way.

This also means taking into account the needs of indigenous and tribal peoples, persons with disabilities, displaced people with disabilities, migrant workers, workers in the informal economy and the youth, the organisation said in a statement setting out its recommendations ahead of COP26.

Ryder said the ILO will be sending “a strong delegation” to Glasgow, noting that it had played an integral role in having the notion of a “just transition” embedded in the Paris Agreement.

The treaty acknowledges “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.

He said the notion was more widely understood today than when it was adopted but remained a major challenge for countries in the shift to greener economies.

“I suspect the biggest inhibitor of governments when it comes to their NDCs is their worry about what it means for the income, the jobs, the standards of living for their population. So this is absolutely a key issue.”

“The ILO will be in Glasgow to try to assist that discussion and bring to it the experience, the expertise and the ideas that we have developed over a number of years to facilitate the process.”