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Wanted: A global green New Deal

Without transformation of the global economic model, we will not be able to solve the world’s most urgent problems, including poverty and climate change, said Pavan Sukhdev, leader of the Green Economy research project within the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Sukhdev was speaking as part of a panel on “Economic recovery and green jobs: Win-win for development, climate and labour?” which was hosted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at the trade unions’ World of Work pavilion in Copenhagen. Today’s economic model is fundamentally wrong because it rewards massive production and mindless consumption, not sustainable production and intelligent consumption, Sukhdev said. “We reward accumulation of vast private wealth and denigrate investment in public wealth.” He labelled the prevailing economic model as “one-dimensional capitalism” because it only values physical capital, and called for “three-dimensional capitalism” that would value human and natural capital as well. “What’s needed now is a global green New Deal,” he said, emphasizing that it’s not an either-or choice between greening the economy and employment. Rather, studies show that the opportunities for job creation are highest in renewables compared to the traditional oil and gas sector or the “spending spree” approach to fiscal stimulus. Sachiko Yamamoto, ILO regional director or Asia Pacific, outlined the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact, which aims for an employment-centred recovery from the economic crisis. It promotes a shift to a low-carbon, environmentally-friendly economy through investment in employment-intensive sectors and green jobs. The Green Jobs Initiative brings together the ILO, UNEP, ITUC and the IOE (International Organisation of Employers) to work towards these shared goals. Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), questioned why the world has not moved more swiftly towards these attractive win-win scenarios of green jobs. “Let’s not pretend this is easier than it is,” he warned. “It is possible to reconcile the climate challenge with decent jobs, but it’s not a convenient truth. There are extremely tough obstacles on the path.” Ryder pointed to the need to control the unregulated pursuit of private profit to the detriment of the public good, the lack of a global consensus on a framework for just economic transition and the significant financial constraints as some key obstacles. “Where is the financing going to come from? The coffers are empty. The bankers have emptied the public purse. A great deal has been spent on stimulus, and now we’re hearing talk of exit strategies. But how can we mobilise to achieve the transfer of resources to the developing world needed to deal with the historic debt?” he asked. Ryder concluded by asserting that just transition to a green economy is not simply an intellectual exercise. It must offer concrete reasons for workers, especially those whose jobs are threatened, to get on board.

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