Global warming and its consequences for the climate and the environment now directly threaten people’s well-being and the sustainable development prospects for many populations around the world – due to their location or already higher level of vulnerability – and they therefore require improved social protection mechanisms
Most countries and people are not equipped to deal with climate change-related risks or the intensified life-cycle risks of a person normally covered by social protection (such as ill health and unemployment). Those in fragile settings often experience the greatest exposure to natural disasters, which further aggravates the vicious circle of increased vulnerability to climate risks and weakened systems to cope with them.
Strategies are not currently in place to manage the transition to a low-emissions and climate-resilient society in an inclusive way. Large-scale green policies are triggering major energy, industrial and sectoral shifts. Yet in many countries, their current design does not seize the full potential to create new and decent jobs in the green/sustainable sectors of the future and also fails to address the dire consequences of this transition for those whose jobs, livelihoods and assets are affected or lost.
Over time, climate change will continue to alter the parameters and increase the stresses on social protection systems (including social assistance, social insurance and ALMPs), while reinforcing the essential role of social protection in supporting people throughout the life cycle and facilitating a just transition to a green economy.
Standards and Guiding Principles
Approach and Technical Support
The overall goal to provide adequate social protection for all throughout their lives – including throughout shocks and crises – can only be achieved by systematically considering and mitigating the causes of climate change and anticipating and adapting to its impacts, while ensuring robust social protection systems. The ILO therefore aims to support countries in implementing the Guidelines for a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all (2015), following the adoption of the Resolution concerning sustainable development, decent work and green jobs by the International Labour Conference at its 102nd Session in 2013. The ILO’s approach jointly considers and pursues three key avenues, as described below, together with the areas of technical support offered to ILO Member States:
Supporting climate change mitigation
The structural transition needed to mitigate the scale of global warming can be promoted by reskilling workers, supporting and incentivizing the move to green and formalized jobs – systematically embedded in the social protection system (in line with economic, social and environmental goals). Beyond the reduction/avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions, the combination of social protection and climate policies or measures also can be transformative in increasing carbon sequestration (capturing and storing), such as by including the rehabilitation or restoration of landscapes/coasts, reforestation or conservation in social protection programmes.
Supporting climate change adaptation
Legal entitlements to adequate benefits
In the transition to a more sustainable economy and society, it is crucial to help people adapt to a changing climate and protect them in the event of a sudden-onset shock or if they are negatively affected by slow-onset impacts or the transition itself. They may lose working hours or their jobs, requiring unemployment protection, complemented by ALMPs.
Other social protection instruments can also play a key role along the entire disaster risk management cycle from prevention (such as through public works programmes, cash or in-kind support and resilient infrastructure/ sustainably managed resources and skills promotion) and risk transfer (including social insurance such as social health protection) to preparedness and response through flexible and rapidly scalable social assistance benefits for those affected by climate related shocks (shock-responsive social protection) to recovery. This constitutes a key element of a just transition approach, as social protection in disaster risk management can also prevent emissions or sequester greenhouse gases.
Continuing to build robust social protection systems towards universality
Without such comprehensive systems, climate change mitigation and adaptation will leave some behind and therefore not be sustainable. Universal social protection, in turn, will only be achieved if the intensified life-cycle risks (health, unemployment and so on) are covered; if more rapid and frequent changes in needs due to a wider range of (climate-related) risks are also anticipated; and if social protection systems can maintain their functionality throughout.
When applying social protection (social assistance and social insurance linked to ALMPs) for climate change mitigation and adaptation, including in situations of shocks and crises, the continuous advancement of the right to social protection is key to make these efforts sustainable. The ILO has a particular role to play in reflecting this in countries’ development strategies/policies, laws or national action plans, as well as in international cooperation frameworks.
On social protection, climate change and a just transition, the ILO’s approach may offer the following technical support to ILO Member States in the application and promotion of international labour standards and relevant guidelines:
- analysis of social protection in the context of climate change and facilitating the development of collaborative approaches for the assessment of existing social protection system or instruments, including regarding their contribution to a just transition;
- analytical/advisory support to systematically integrate social protection and poverty reduction considerations in green policies, measures and strategies, including nationally determined contributions, national just transition plans and national adaptation plans;
- development of social protection financing options in the context of a just transition, including cost estimates and innovative financing for idiosyncratic and systemic risks, such as through the creation of contingency funds or reinsurance;
- support for the drafting of action plans, road maps with broad-based consultations and programme (re)design (such as to better link social assistance and reskilling) for an adaptive and scalable system – bringing together social assistance, social insurance and ALMPs;
- across the above, facilitation of: (a) partnerships and broad-based coordination mechanisms (including across the humanitarian development nexus) with social dialogue; (b) capacity-building on the linkages between social protection, a just transition and climate change (mitigation and adaptation); and (c) a systematized knowledge base on social protection, a just transition and climate change, such as country- and region-specific advocacy and technical tools/products and their wide dissemination.