ILO Director-General statement at the Just transition forum

Statement | 13 December 2021
Thank you very much, and my greetings and a warm welcome to the 2021 Just Transition Forum.
It is a privilege to organize this forum together with the IEA and IRENA, and I greet their representatives. We greatly value that engagement and look forward to strengthening it. Let me say also how important it is to have the UK’s COP26 Presidency part of this event. Jobs and energy are essential to the transition to sustainable development.

But we discuss this at a time when the COVID-19 crisis has wrought unprecedented disruption.  While we see some signs of recovery, there are widening gaps between developed and developing countries. Inequalities within countries are also increasing.

And now on top of that, many countries are facing serious difficulties with energy supplies and energy pricing. So, we stand at a very delicate moment. Because just when the world needs to build recovery from the pandemic, it must also scale up action on climate and energy sustainability.

It is encouraging to see that policy makers are engaging with both of these challenges. More than 150 countries have submitted new or updated plans for their Nationally Determined Contributions. And more than 130 countries have set or are considering a target of net zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century.

Many of these commitments revolve around energy. All of this marks significant steps forward on what are, let’s be clear, very challenging issues.

But we need to be even more ambitious if we are to make the transition. We must recognize that the supposed choice between environment and employment is a false one. In fact, if our future is to be sustainable and equitable, we cannot have one without the other. Rather we should see this ecological transition as something positive for employment. Something that can support job creation and social justice.

According to ILO estimates, a ‘green’ transition towards low-carbon and circular economies can generate a hundred million new jobs by 2030. Energy efficiency, renewable energy development and sustainable transport will all create employment.

But we cannot underestimate the scale and difficulty of the transformations this will require. And the positive outcomes we seek will not come about automatically. Government, business and trade unions will have to work together to manage this process. It is also essential that we look beyond the number of jobs that we seek to create to look at the quality of employment.

This means we must make sure that the policies that shape this transition also support social and economic equity. It was to support just this approach that the ILO’s tripartite constituents adopted Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies. The Guidelines emphasize that, if we are to achieve a just transition, policy makers need to use social dialogue. This is the most effective way to maximize employment and income opportunities and to minimize social and economic disruption.

It’s the way to find practical and accepted solutions to complex problems. And they must address a range of challenges; including encouraging job-rich sustainable investment, enterprise development, social protection; and skills.

Dear Colleagues,

The transformation of our energy systems is a necessity, not a choice. And it is an enormous challenge. We can only hope to meet this challenge with broad-based support, generated through social dialogue.

In addition, national initiatives can be supported by cross-border cooperation and by technical assistance. Here, the multilateral institutions and their partners have an important role to play.

So let me highlight the United Nations Climate Action for Jobs Initiative. This is a multi-stakeholder partnership hosted in the ILO, which unites global efforts on climate change and decent work. The Initiative comprises a global coalition of, so far, 48 countries to create and offer policies, technical advice and international collaboration that can pave the way for a just transition.

One good example is this Just Transition Forum. Another, brand new scheme is the Just Transition Innovation Challenge that is being launched today. Its aim is to foster inspiring solutions that can be scaled up to create systemic change.

Actions like this should give us hope. They show how, if we work together, we can meet the existential challenges that we share, and build a better, sustainable future.

I’m really looking forward to this event.

Thank you very much.