The just transition rests on human rights and decent work

Anna Triponel

May 27, 2022
Our key takeaway: The adverse impacts of climate change on the environment, on people and on markets are colliding, threatening global well-being and stability. A just transition to a low-carbon economy relies not only on the availability of green jobs, but on the availability of decent and safe jobs. Central to the just transition is ensuring that workers and their families have social safety nets and that companies are held accountable for addressing negative impacts on people and planet, including through mandatory measures. G7 policymakers agree that the pathway towards the just transition requires corporate responsibility for human rights and due diligence grounded in international frameworks like the UNGPs and OECD Guidelines. 

The Ministers of Labour, Employment and Social Affairs of the G7 issued a meeting communiqué, ‘Just transition: Make it work - Towards decent and high quality work in a green economy’ (24 May 2022). During the meeting, G7 ministers aligned on “concrete actions and joint steps towards a just transition and the creation of decent, high quality work for a green economy” and committed to establish a standing Employment Working Group to “promote continuity and prioritize coordinated action across the G7 on critical labour, social and employment issues.”

  • Ensuring both green and decent jobs: The ministers commit “to promoting decent and high quality work including for a green and digital economy,” recognising the “interlinkages and the significant impact of the three key drivers of structural change – digitalisation, decarbonisation, demographic change – on labour markets and employment.” They commit to “significantly strengthening efforts to foster continuing education and training” including through the implementation of an Action Plan for Inclusive Continuing Education and Training of Adults towards a Green Economy (in Annex A of the communiqué). Beyond the availability of green jobs, the ministers acknowledge the critical importance of ensuring “decent work and good quality jobs” as essential for a just transition. They “therefore commit to strengthening and improving OSH in the face of structural and climate change and environmental degradation by implementing the G7 ‘Roadmap towards Safe and Healthy Work in a Green Economy’” (in Annex B), which outlines steps for governments to manage health and safety of workers in light of the adverse impacts of climate change on health and well-being.
  • Strengthening social safety nets: The ministers “emphasize that the ‘right of everyone to social security, including social insurance’ is a human right, enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations.” They reinforce “the value of universal and adequate social protection systems in general and even more so in times of crises, pandemics, aggravated inequalities and increasing climate change and environmental degradation” and “seek to identify and implement measures to improve their resilience and responsiveness” through policies; these policies will play an important role “ in offsetting disproportionately high social and economic burdens for the most vulnerable in society as we transition to a carbon neutral economy.” 
  • Ensuring respect for human rights and the environment throughout business value chains: The ministers underscore that “sustainable value chains are of paramount importance for achieving human rights, decent work for all and protecting the environment,” grounded in the “shared framework” of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. To achieve this, “businesses should identify, prevent, mitigate and account for their negative impacts on people and the environment with which they are involved.” The ministers express their concern over pervasive human rights issues in value chains, highlighting in particular violations of the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, increasing attacks against human rights defenders, barriers to remedy, child labour and forced labour. The ministers “strive to contribute to a global level playing field aligned with the authoritative standards of the UNGPs, ILO’s MNE Declaration and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises” and acknowledge their “particularly important role to play in achieving better outcomes for people and planet through a smart mix of mandatory and voluntary measures including legislation, incentives and guidance for business.” Growing global momentum behind mandatory measures “offers an opportunity: to ensure coherence in regulatory measures taken at the national level, provide legal clarity to business, reduce compliance costs for companies and, most importantly, prevent business involvement with harms to people and planet in the first instance, and enable access to effective remedy wherever they occur.”

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