ILO report: “It is not action against climate change and environmental degradation that will destroy jobs, it is inaction that will destroy jobs”

ilo2019workforabrighterfutureTo mark its centenary in 2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) commissioned a Global Commission on the Future of Work in 2015. On January 22, the Centenary was launched with the release of the Commission’s report : Work for a Brighter Future , an aspirational document with  recommendations for government policies to address the “ unprecedented transformational change in the world of work.”   The ten recommendations in the report call for a universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers’ rights, an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces, a universal entitlement to lifelong learning , managing technological change to boost decent work, and greater investments in the care economy, green economy, and rural economy. The Executive Summary is here ; the full 66-page Report is here  .

Work for a Brighter Future is a broad and visionary document, but its arguments and proposals are supported by a series of more detailed research papers, including The Future of work in a Changing Natural Environment: Climate change, degradation and sustainability (August 2018) . The Research Paper argues that “… on the one hand, environmental degradation destroys work opportunities and worsens working conditions. On the other hand, any efforts to achieve sustainability will entail a structural transformation. Crucially, this transformation can result in more and better jobs.”

The paper calls for a new development model that acknowledges that the economy, including the world of work, is a subsystem of the global ecosystem, and cannot expand beyond the confines of ecological limits. It concludes: “….For developing economies, it means adopting a development strategy based on sustainable principles in energy, transport, construction, resource-intensive manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and waste management. For developed economies, it means restructuring these industries so they become sustainable … In advanced economies, it means, potentially, embracing zero growth… For both developed and developing economies, it means developing a service sector that is decoupled from material extraction or carbon emissions in addition to progress towards resource efficiency and low carbon intensity….….At a global level, if a tax on CO2 emissions were imposed and the resulting revenues were used to cut labour taxes, then up to 14 million net new jobs could be created.”

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder summed up some of these themes in his address to the Ministerial Conference of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), held on January 10 – 11 2019 in South Africa. He stated:  “It is not action against climate change and environmental degradation that will destroy jobs, it is inaction that will destroy jobs. …Economic activity and jobs depend on ecosystem services and a safeguarding of the natural environment. Around 1.2 billion jobs, or 40 per cent of world employment in 2014, were in industries that depend heavily on natural processes.… ultimately, environmental degradation will compromise livelihoods and magnify inequality. We must work around these highly interconnected challenges to devise workable solutions in specific country contexts. “

The State of Human Rights policies in the international Renewable Energy Industry

In May, 2016 the Business and Human Rights Centre  , an international monitoring and advocacy group,  released the results of their survey of the human rights policies of  international wind, hydropower, and utility companies.  Key issues identified by the 14 responding companies:  local community rights, land rights, community health and safety, labour rights, and rights of Indigenous people.  Results  show that  two thirds have human rights policy commitments, although only half refer to international standards. Two thirds of companies state a commitment to consultation with local communities, but only three companies (Engie (France), Lake Turkana Wind Power (Kenya) and Vestas (Denmark)) commit to the internationally recognised standard of  free, prior and informed consent.  Only 2 North American companies were included in the survey: Ontario Power Generation (Canada) and NextEra Energy (U.S); neither responded to the survey.  Responses of participating companies are provided here.  Case studies are promised in future.

Labour Practices and Sustainability in the Seafood Industry

In early March, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions  released the first update since 2008 to its Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood ,  a widely-used best-practices guide used by the North American food industry.  New in the 2016 edition are strong prescriptions for labour rights and traceability of the supply chain.  From the preamble:  “…socially responsible seafood ensures that sourcing does not impact the food security of vulnerable communities, provides a living wage for workers in seafood supply chains, and supports the sustainable livelihoods and cultural heritage of communities.”  Specific steps are outlined, including: “ Establish effective grievance mechanisms for labor abuses and worker safety that meet the minimum standards set forth in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and include a meaningful role for workers themselves in the monitoring of workplace conditions and resolving disputes. • Develop corrective action plans with suppliers found to violate human or labor rights.• Include requirements in purchasing agreements and contracts that suppliers will respect fundamental labor rights, including freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, and will pay workers a living wage.”  The Association website also includes a Social Resource Centre   , with links to all the major organizations and documents relating to sustainability and  core labour standards in the fisheries industry.

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement may threaten Environmental Regulation and Labour Standards

Completion of the Trans Pacific Partnership was announced on October 5th 2015, though the text will only be revealed to the Canadian public when it is debated in the new Parliament. Although environmentalists take comfort in some concessions regarding wildlife protection, the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis says “Trans-Pacific Partnership a big win for Corporate Interests” (Oct. 5) especially because of the investor protection rules (ISDS). The Council of Canadians furthers the CCPA discussion in “ISDS and the Paris Climate Agreement”, as does a detailed paper by Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Hall Law School in An ISDS Carve-out to Support Action on Climate Change, which aims to “identify language for an ISDS carve-out that is reliable and clear considering the importance of climate change action”. As Maude Barlow states in the introduction to the Van Harten paper: the ISDS “gives foreign corporations the right to directly sue governments for financial compensation if those governments introduce new laws or practices – be they environmental, health or human rights – that negatively affect corporations’ bottom line”.  Another paper released by the Centre for International Governance (in Waterloo, Ont.), Investor-State Arbitration Between Developed Democratic Countries is the first in a planned series reviewing and assessing ISDS from a global and legal perspective, without a focus on climate change aspects.

Coalition for Infrastructure Investment Adopts Framework with Community Labour Standards

The West Coast Infrastructure Exchange (WCX) is a partnership between Oregon, California, Washington state, and British Columbia. It’s goal is “to promote near-term job creation and long-term economic competitiveness by improving and accelerating infrastructure development, as we look to make $1 trillion in infrastructure investments along the West Coast in the next 30 years in a time of fiscal uncertainty and climate change.” On January 2nd, WCX released the final version of its Framework document to define the types of public infrastructure projects they will seek and how they will structure investments. WCX states that it has chosen to use the terms “Infrastructure Investment Partnership (IIPS)” and “Performance-Based Infrastructure Solution (PBIS)”, on the grounds that the traditional term, Public Private Partnership (P3), is misunderstood and misinterpreted. The Framework document uses these terms in Section 1.6.7 relating to Community Labor Standards: “Projects executed through IIPs or PBISs should adopt labor standards as would be afforded under the traditional public procurement and operations model, providing comparable wages, benefits, and worker protections, including the right to organize and collectively bargain, as well as ensuring that contractors have a history of compliance with community health and safety, wage and working hour standards. All projects should follow the relevant labor requirements of the sponsoring jurisdiction, including working with labor representatives to provide continued employment opportunities for the existing workforce and to maintain wages and benefits where relevant.”

LINKS:

West Coast Infrastructure Exchange website is at: http://westcoastx.com/Infrastructure Project Certification – Principles and Framework is at:http://westcoastx.com/home/discussion-forum.html

An explanatory press release is at: http://westcoastx.com/news/wcx-releases-final-project-standards.html