First-person perspectives on the world of work
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The Future of Work Podcast

Episode 28
Just transition

COP27 – What progress for the world of work?

22 November 2022

As we transition to a greener economy, how do we ensure that workers are not left behind? What actions need to be taken to achieve a just transition?

COP27, the UN’s annual climate change summit, has wound up in Egypt. The ILO hosted over 40 events there at a Just Transition pavilion, looking at climate change issues related to the world of work. It included the launching of an ILO just transition finance tool on banking and investment.

Moustapha Kamal Gueye headed up the ILO delegation to COP27. Just back from Egypt, he discusses the issues at stake on the Future of Work podcast.



Hello and welcome to the ILO's Future of Work Podcast.

I'm Sophy Fisher.

The COP27 has just wound up in Egypt.

That's the acronym

for the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change.

The Egypt meeting was the latest edition of the UN's annual climate change summit,

where nations meet to discuss how we're going to face the challenges

posed by climate change.

The ILO's role in this extremely complex issue

is to highlight the social dimensions of climate change,

in particular, as they relate to the changes that

will be essential in the world of work,

changes that will affect workers and employers in all industries,

and in all areas of the world.

The ILO's delegation to COP27 was led by Moustapha Kamal Gueye,

global coordinator for green jobs at the ILO.

Moustapha joins us now in the studio, hot off the-- straight back from COP.

Moustapha, welcome very much and thank you for joining us.

Thanks, Sophy. Thanks for having me.

Tell us first of all, for you,

what were the most important things that have come out of COP27?

Well, I think one of the most important things

is the recognition of the role of social policy

and just transition in mitigation and implementation.

There is a very clear reference to just transition,

including social dialogue and social protection

in the covered decision, which is a quite important outcome for us.

Tell us more about what we mean by a just transition from an ILO perspective.

Well, we understand well that decarbonization

will have impacts on economies and societies in different ways.

We will see an important potential for new and possibly more and better jobs,

but there will be unavoidable loss of employment and income,

so how do we make sure that climate policies

maximize those opportunities for economic and social gains

and minimize the risk of disruption is what we mean by a just transition.

One of the big items on the agenda of this particular COP

was that issue of adaptation, wasn't it,

and the question of handling loss and damage and mitigation.

How did that come out?

I think there's been very important outcomes,

in particular on loss and damage.

This has been a demand from developing countries,

in particular, those mostly impacted by climate change.

It's a quite important step forward with the recognition of the need

to provide the mechanism of funding for loss and damage

and set a timeline that this has to be put in place

with the transitional committee by next COP in 2023.

On adaptation, there has been important progress

on the global goal to adaptation, which is also quite important,

rebalancing adaptation with mitigation.

This is quite important.

Let's talk a little bit about the ILO's actual activities at the COP,

because the meeting went on for two weeks

and the ILO had a Just Transition pavilion for the first time.

I think 45 events took place in that pavilion. Is that right?

Yes, indeed. We had for the first time

a COP pavilion on Just Transition.

There are thematic pavilions on food systems, on water, et cetera,

but this was the first time we had a space dealing with issues in the world of work.

It's a partnership between the ILO, the European Commission,

the UN Climate Secretary, but also with IOE and ITUC.

It was a useful space for informal diplomacy,

for convening a number of events, as you said, 45 events,

but also a knowledge hub, as we called it, where we had experts,

really knowledgeable experts speaking of various issues,

like the CEO of the Wind Energy Association.

We had the chair of the Scottish Just Transition Commission

and people like that coming and share their experience.

Do you think having that physical presence with the title Just Transition

helped to focus some of the COP's delegates' attention

on that particular aspect of climate change and its effects?

Yes, absolutely.

I can just say that myself, in the time I was at the pavilion,

have met several ministers just coming by, the Minister of Investment of Egypt.

We had the mayor of Glasgow

who came at the pavilion just to exchange ideas

on how we're taking forward the Just Transition agenda.

It was really a way of convening,

not only our consituents, but also ministers and other delegates.

That made visible Just Transition

as an important element of the climate agenda.

Now, in this Just Transition pavilion, there were a number of key events

and a couple of important new initiatives from the ILO.

The first one I'd like to talk about is the Green Jobs for Youth Pact,

which I imagine the purpose of that was to focus attention

on the effects that climate change is going to have on young people

in the world of work. Is that right? Tell us more.

Absolutely. I think we have to see

that the drive behind climate action now

is made of young people.

They really are the ones pushing and asking for more,

but they also are not only wanting environmental sustainability.

They aspire to decent jobs and income.

Now, what we see as a difference is that many of these young people

are not looking for any kind of job. They look for decent work,

but that matches their environmental aspirations.

The pact, which we put together in the ILO, UNICEF, and UNEP

is trying to do that,

to marry this youth engagement on the environmental side

with aspirations of decent work.

We aim to create together 1 million clean jobs

working with a number of other partners.

Do you think it's starting to become an issue for young people

when they're choosing their sector or their employer

to spend their careers with,

to the extent that that employer is recognizing

issues related to climate change?

Absolutely, absolutely. We see that not only from young people,

but the partners that we work with, like LinkedIn, for example,

committing to the pact, but they have also indicated so.

They see in their data sets that

young people when they are search for career and moves

consider who is going to be their new employer?

What is their environmental stance?

Are they really accounting for sustainability considerations?

Those are important, and companies themselves are realizing it.

Of course, the other aspect of that for young people

is giving them the skills that they're going to need

for this new generation of jobs, actually.

Where does that fit in?

Well, the skilling is quite important, and with the pact,

we aim to support skills development and enterprise development.

There is also this dimension of technical skill and training.

That's why another product that we took to the COP

is a greening TVET guide,

which we've done with colleagues in skills here,

but this is going to help technical and training institutions

anticipate the needs for the emerging occupations.

When it's renewable energy, we are moving to a hydrogen economy,

that demands different skills, even in advanced economies.

We hope this guide is going to help in that transition

but meeting the skills that are needed today

but for the economy of the future.

You spent two weeks in the conference, walking the corridors,

listening to conversations, talking to people.

Do you get the impression that delegates,

not directly involved in the world of work as we are,

that they are starting to comprehend this aspect of the climate change picture

and how important it is if we are actually going to have a successful transition,

that that transition should be just, and it has to include things like

skills and mitigation and the opinions of young people,

and indeed things such as the way that

climate change does not affect all groups equally.

Are they getting the big picture now?

I think it's work in progress, but to some extent,

the message we've been trying to put across,

which is that ambition is about people. It's not just about numbers.

I think we've been able to gradually make delegates see

the need for social policy and the imperatives of a just transition

and decent work to actually enable ambitious action against climate change.

One of the key topics that came up at the COP this time

was the issue of financing and money.

I know that another important product that was launched by the ILO

in the Just Transition pavilion was this just transition finance tool

on banking and investment.

Tell us a little bit more about that and how it works.

It's a tool that we developed with actors in the banking industry

and researchers like London School of Economics.

I think this is going to be critical

because the COP decisions are very clear

that there is a need for some $3 to $5 trillion that would be required,

but obviously this is not going to come from public money.

It will require multi-lateral development banks, financing institutions,

but more importantly the private sector.

Now, this is a specific tool to help banking and insurance industry

align with the climate needs of their customers and the financing.

We are also positioning this guide as something the ILO can offer

in the just energy transition partnerships,

like the one that was just announced for 20 billion for Indonesia.

How you now leverage private financing in the JETPs

and other modalities of climate financing will be quite important

and we have something to go to offer to countries.

Did you get a sense that with things like this and now

there are concrete tools to offer,

that a lot of the disparate parts of the climate change problem

are starting to come together, all the different bits of the solution,

financing, jobs, and so on,

not just looking, as you said, at at the figures of 1.5

or how much it's going to cost,

that people are starting to get a more holistic picture of the solution?

I think there is a better understanding of the complexity

and the need for holistic solutions.

The challenges are that we need speed

and we need countries to fulfill the commitments.

I think if speed and fulfilling of commitments,

including financing, happens,

then opening the door with other actors, workers, employees, organizations

and the actors in the world of work, like technical organizations like us,

ILO and others,

then we will be able to advance at the pace and scale that is needed.

It's good that we have a greater recognition

of the importance of a just transition.

It's good that we have specific concrete mentions

of the importance of social dialogue

and social protection in the outcome papers.

Where do we go from here? How do we keep progress moving forward?

I think implementation is the word of the moment.

The COP is just a platform for dialogue,

but action will happen at the national level.

I think, there, we need to really scale up our engagement,

supporting countries, and implement their NDCs (Nationally determined contributions) ,

in the JETPs (Just Energy Transition Partnerships), where it started with South Africa,

now Indonesia is coming in the picture. Vietnam is on the way.

How the ILO can play a meaningful role in working in these major economies

on their JETPs (Just Energy Transition Partnerships), and with developing countries in general,

but through our country offices and presence is what we need.

But I think we are on good way to do that.

Next year, it's the opportunity for the global stocktake

of progress on climate change. Is the ILO contributing to that?

Will the issues that we are interested in

be measured and taken into account as part of that stocktake?

The ILO is very fortunate to have been coopted by the UNFCC secretary

to provide technical input in the global stocktake.

The ILO served as an expert on response measures

where issues of decent work, just transition

and economic diversification and transformation were discussed.

That was a major opportunity.

We hope that going to next year,

all what we provided as technical inputs in the stocktake

will be taken on board,

and that when countries reflect on what to do next,

the critical element for us is the financing.

There needs to be dedicated funding mechanisms

for a just transition,

as there is now one being put in place on loss and damage,

but just transition, funding the social dimensions

of the ecological transition is indispensable.

That's the next milestone for us.

Well, fingers crossed that policymakers keep their eye on that particular ball

and we can continue to make progress.

Moustapha Kamal Gueye, thank you very much for joining us

on the Future of Work podcast.

For now, that's all we have time for. Let me wish you goodbye,

and I hope you will be able to join us again soon for our next podcast.