by António Guterres
We are losing the climate race. On our current trajectory we are looking at a 3- to 4-degree temperature rise by the end of the century. But we can choose another path. The path of climate action and well-being for people and planet. This path is about people’s jobs, health, education, opportunities, and their future. Today, millions of workers are on the front lines of climate impacts. Many in sectors like tourism and agriculture are losing livelihoods. Others have to withstand unbearable working conditions. The answer to the climate crisis lies in transforming how we generate our power, design our cities, and manage our land. But it also requires that our actions are consistent with making people’s lives better.
It means ensuring that national commitments under the Paris Agreement include a just transition for people whose jobs and livelihoods are affected as we move from the grey economy to the green. To achieve our Sustainable Development Goals we must leave no one behind. We can no longer refuse to face up to the climate crisis. Governments have to commit, businesses have to lead, and people everywhere have to embrace the transformation that will bring us to a carbon-neutral world by 2050.
It sounds daunting – but we too often overlook the enormous opportunities linked to climate action. The New Climate Economy tells us that shifting to a low-carbon economy represents a $26 trillion-dollar growth opportunity that could create 65 million new jobs by 2030. Today, the fastest-growing job creators in several economies are those related to solar, wind and geothermal energy and related businesses. The green economy is the economy of the future and we need to make way for it right now.
Many governments and businesses are already racing to capitalize on it, and rethinking how to conceptualize value in a new, greener economic model. Spain, our host, is an excellent example of how dialogue with workers and caring for their needs can lead to more prosperous and healthy communities. We need all countries and sectors to make sure they do this, by re-training people so they can switch careers.
They need to take gender balance into account, create fair and decent job conditions and capitalize on this opportunity to improve social equity and leave no one behind. It is essential that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, when great transitions have left people, communities and entire nations falling by the wayside. We must ensure the transition to a low-carbon future is fair and inclusive. That means a future of green and decent jobs. A future of thriving, resilient communities, cities and countries. A future where developing nations are not raided for resources and human capital but are treated as equal partners.
And a future where the skills and knowledge of those currently employed in traditional energy industries provide the foundational expertise for the clean industries of tomorrow. To workers in the traditional energy industries, I have a clear message. Those of us leading on climate action are not adversaries. We want the same thing as you: decent jobs in a cleaner, healthier world. For that, government, business and labour leaders must work together to develop a pathway to a carbon-neutral world, where women and men can earn a living in jobs that will not damage their health or the environment.
At the September Climate Action Summit in New York, we announced the “Climate Action for Jobs” initiative, developed with the International Labour Organization, Spain and Peru. The initiative puts job creation and protecting livelihoods at the centre of national climate action plans. We now have more than 40 countries committed to developing a just transition plan. Climate Action for Jobs sets out specific measures to make nation climate plans inclusive.
Boosting skills development, particularly for women and marginalized groups that risk falling further behind as a result of fast-paced change.
Designing innovative social protection policies to protect workers and vulnerable groups. Assessing the employment, social and economic impacts of ecological transition and the potential of green jobs. And increasing the transfer of technology and knowledge to developing countries, alongside innovation and responsible investment. We are also working together at the international level — under the UNFCCC – on the just transition of the work force and the creation of decent work and quality jobs. This work accelerated under the Polish Presidency of COP24, and we thank them for driving this issue.
A just transition is necessary and possible, but it will only work if governments and businesses continue to boost their overall climate action as well. For too long, vested interests have peddled the false story that economic growth and tackling climate change are incompatible. This is nonsense. The truth is that they are mutually reinforcing. In fact, failing to tackle global heating is a sure-fire recipe for economic disaster.
That is why we must continue to use the Paris Agreement as our multilateral path forward. We need to reduce emissions 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels, achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and stabilize
global temperature rise at 1.5C by the end of the century. Without achieving our climate goals, there will be no just transition – just the survival of the richest. For the past year, I’ve been saying we need to make progress on carbon pricing, ensure no new coal plants are built by 2020, and end the allocation of massive amounts of taxpayers’ money for fossil fuel subsidies.
We cannot continue to have one foot in both the grey and the green economies at the same time. To that end, we must also ensure that developed nations fulfil their pledge under the Paris Agreement to mobilize at least $100 billion dollars a year for mitigation and adaptation in developing nations. This is not charity. It is about driving climate action and ensuring we all achieve our collective climate goals – and our Sustainable Development Goals – as quickly as possible, and as fairly as possible.
By ensuring a just transition, we can address climate change in a way that is truly inclusive. Let us all respect the need for climate action today, while leaving nobody behind in our efforts to achieve a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future for all.