Adopting a globalized green economy presents challenges beyond logistics. Industries contributing to climate change, natural disasters, and food and water insecurities pose the greatest threat to the planet’s ecosystems, yet many low-income and lower-middle income economies rely on them. Without proper support, the side effects from eradicating these industries could be devastating.
The “Decent Work in Nature Based Solutions” report for the UN’s Biodiversity Conference (COP-15) in Montreal emphasizes ‘Just Transition’ policies must be implemented in aiding the path to environmentally sustainable economies. Conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Union for Conservation of Nature, the report calls for scaling nature-based solutions (NbS) to achieve long-term sustainability goals while minimizing short-term concerns.
Nature-based solutions drafted by the UN Environment Assembly align with the COP-15’s biodiversity goals as they provide protection, conservation, restoration, and sustainability while managing the global natural ecosystem addressing economic and social challenges. “It is critical that as we scale up the use of Nature-based solutions (NbS) we make sure we do not also scale up decent work deficits, such as the informal work, low-pay and low productivity conditions that many workers in NbS currently face” stated Vic van Vuuren, Director, ILO Enterprises Department.
While the COP-15’s commitment to biodiversity is vital, it must not take precedence over humans’ livelihoods. Implementing NbS into economies risks negative externalities in the short-term including exposing skill gaps, causing job displacements, and unemployment due to mismatched skills. Rural communities are especially vulnerable to these effects as they do not have the infrastructure or economic diversity to sustain a drastic structural shift.
‘Just Transition’ policies would provide necessary support to low and lower-middle income economies to alleviate these challenges. “What this report brings to light is how to make NbS work for people and the economy, and this will be a key success factor.” Susan Gardner, Director of UNEP’s Ecosystems Division, remarked. Measures include developing skills as laborers shift from their current industries to jobs working in NbS, aligning higher education curricula with NbS in universities, and addressing labor standards such as minimum wage and occupational health and safety. This is key for ensuring rural communities’ success as they could benefit the greatest from harnessing a nature-based economy.
Although the ILO does not provide a range for the cost of implementing the proposed policies, they express that “the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of action.” The N has also published evidence showing climate action will not significantly impact national budgets and could yield a $26 trillion USD economic gain by 2030. As many as 20 million new jobs could be created if NbS opportunities were to triple by 2030.
The ‘Just Transition’ policies are crucial because without a proper framework to aid the global economy’s adoption of NbS, many households and communities would face catastrophic consequences as their economies are restructured. While the long-run solutions leave everyone better off, understanding the impact on humanity is critical. The proposed policies hope to bridge gaps between lower and higher income countries’ economic capabilities and resources while assuring sustainability goals remain the top priority.
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