The Greening of Work

MONACO – When environment ministers from some 100 countries meet here on February 20-22 for UNEP’s Governing Council and Environmental Forum, talks will focus on environmentally friendly “green growth” and ways and means by which the world can achieve a low-carbon economy. The employment and development potential of combating climate change is only now being understood as a part of this effort. UNEP has invited the International Labour Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation to contribute to these discussions.

Changes underway are a result of the Kyoto Protocol, but they are also partly being made in anticipation of deeper emission cuts to come. Equally important, the perception of organized labor and industry concerning environmental issues is changing dramatically. Environmental regulation was sometimes viewed with suspicion and concern for business and labour. Now, business sees profits and unions see jobs.

Consider these facts:

·A Washington-based consulting firm estimates that the U.S. environmental industry generated more than $340 billion in sales and almost $50 billion in tax revenues in 2005. The 5.3 million workers in the environmental industry outnumber pharmaceutical workers ten to one.