Poverty-Environment Nexus – ILO Perspectives at Achieving the SDGs within Europe: No Poverty Eradication without Environmental Action

At an event hosted by European Parliament and the Club of Rome EU-Chapter in Brussels, the ILO Enterprises Department Director, Victor van Vuuren, stressed the importance of strategically linking environmental sustainability and social justice together.

News | 05 March 2019
Panel discussion at the session of achieving SDGs within Europe: no poverty eradication without environmental action

A question during the conference theme was “How can Europe balance the needs of nature and people and maintain a healthy environment, while fostering sustainable economic growth and eradicate social inequalities?”

To address the theme, the Club of Rome EU-Chapter co-organized a public session at the European Parliament on 19 February, together with the Parliamentary Intergroup on Sustainable Development of the European Parliament. Themed with “Achieving SDGs within Europe: no poverty eradication without environmental action”, the session looked into the interface of environmental and social issues. It did so by including testimonies, concrete examples of bad practices versus best practices and lessons learned.

Victor van Vuuren, Director of Enterprises Department of the ILO, was invited to speak on behalf of the ILO on the panel. In his address he stressed three key messages:
  1. Addressing environmental sustainably and social deficits must go hand-in-hand.
  2. Working on the basis of the right narrative.
  3. The involvement of governments and social partners is indispensable. 
In his presentation, Victor Van Vuuren stressed the importance of strategically linking environmental sustainability and social justice together. From his perspective at the ILO, he gave the example of 1.2 billion jobs currently depending on ecosystem services, which totals 40% of world employment. There is an overhanging risk of exploiting these natural resources, which in turn would lead to “profound social consequences”, thus stressing the significance of a coherent approach to both of these issues. He then discussed the importance of the correct narrative which must include sustainable development, job creation and income generation. If nothing is done towards global warming, it will destroy jobs, but through positive action more jobs will be created. Actions to limit global warming to 2°C is estimated to create 18 million jobs by 2030. Further, Van Vuuren argued for a coherent approach, involving both governments and social partners.

At ILO, a guiding framework has been developed, which includes practical tools for countries in order to work for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all.

The discussion panel was chaired by MEP Isabelle Thomas. Other four high level speakers participated in the panel:

Isabel Kempf, Co-Director of UNEP-UNDP Poverty and Environment Programme;
Céline Charveriat, Executive Director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy;
Philippe Pochet, General Director of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI);
Astrid Schomacker, Director of Global Sustainable Development, DG ENV, European Commission.

All meeting documents can be found here.