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Paris Agreement on climate change

Accelerated action on climate change receives overwhelming global support

The far-reaching Paris Agreement on climate change was signed at the United Nations by 175 countries ushering in an era of unprecedented action to protect the environment, slash greenhouse gas emissions and ensure a just transition to a low-carbon economy.

Press release | 22 April 2016
Opening Signing Ceremony of the Paris Climate Treaty
NEW YORK – "The Paris Agreement on climate change is a new covenant with the future. Let us never forget -- climate action is not a burden; indeed, it offers many benefits. It can help us eradicate poverty, create green jobs, defeat hunger, prevent instability and improve the lives of girls and women" Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening address at the signing ceremony.

Although the content of the Agreement was adopted at COP21 in Paris last December, today’s signing will create national legal obligations for measureable and concrete action to stop harmful emissions and protect the planet. The agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified the Agreement.

The ceremony, which coincides with Earth Day, brought together governments, the UN system, workers’ and employers’ organizations, civil society and the private sector to generate momentum and focus global efforts to urgently address climate change and take wide ranging action to mitigate the increasingly devastating effects it has on people, societies and economies.

An important element of the Paris Agreement is the recognition of “the imperative of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.

Gilbert Houngbo, Deputy Director-General of the ILO’s Field Operations and Partnerships, in his statement at the UN’s signing ceremony said that “Climate change poses major risks to economic prosperity and social progress. Unabated climate change will exacerbate damage to infrastructure, disrupt business activity, and destroy jobs and livelihoods on an unprecedented scale. There is an urgency to act.”

We can now jointly pursue Agenda 2030’s ‘Plan of Action for people, planet and prosperity’, where economic growth, environmental protection and social justice are mutually supportive and pursued together."

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder
The recognition that climate change and employment present interrelated challenges requiring coordinated responses shows that labour markets can contribute significantly to climate action by generating jobs, enhancing environmental sustainability and promoting social justice.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, in highlighting these connections in the newly agreed global development vision, said “with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement in hand, and the Decent Work Agenda at our disposal - we can now jointly pursue Agenda 2030’s ‘Plan of Action for people, planet and prosperity’, where economic growth, environmental protection and social justice are mutually supportive and pursued together.”

In relation to the scope and scale of the employment potential of a green economy, an ILO report stated that “at least half of the global workforce – the equivalent of 1.5 billion people – are affected by the transition to a greener economy.” Furthermore, the report indicated that the transition to a low-carbon economy “could generate up to 60 million additional jobs” in sectors such as construction, agriculture, tourism and waste management.

To meet this growing demand for national green economy strategies, the ILO, UNEP, UNIDO, UNDP and UNITAR created the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE). PAGE currently works with a dozen countries to help formulate and adopt green economy policies, strengthen national partner capacity to implement initiatives, provide access to tools and training programmes, collect data and create and share knowledge on green economy to support country-level implementation.

In a special event held before the Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony, a new UN initiative called the Southern Climate Partnership Incubator for the SDGs (SCPI), Mr. Houngbo stated that "South-South and Triangular Cooperation is also an important vehicle to promote decent work outcomes in the context of climate change".

In 2013, the ILO launched the Green Centenary Initiative to significantly scale up the ILO’s office-wide knowledge, policy advice and tools for managing a just transition to a low carbon, sustainable future. The objective is to better equip the actors of the world to understand the challenges and opportunities of the coming transition, and help them take up the active role they must play in managing this change.

The Green Initiative will contribute to giving practical effect to the Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies, adopted by the ILO Governing Body as a comprehensive framework for policy making in the greening of economies.

In concluding his speech at the signing ceremony, Mr. Houngbo stated that “climate change policy responses – when discussed and implemented with the participation and agreement of workers and employers, the government, and civil society actors – are better informed, more stable, easier to implement, more beneficial for workers and businesses of all sizes, as well as society at large.”