23 September 2019
Whilst millions of students and workers gathered on 20 September in demonstrations across the world in an unprecedented call for climate action, the OECD launched a new report, “Accelerating Climate Action – Refocussing Policies through a well-being lens”.
The OECD report applies a new “well-being” perspective on climate policies that analyses synergies and trade-offs between climate change mitigation and broader goals such as health, education, jobs, as well as wider environmental quality and the resources needed to sustain our livelihoods through time. As such, the report takes a much welcome political economy approach to the low-emissions transitions needed across five economic sectors (electricity, heavy industry, residential, surface transport, and agriculture) that are responsible for more than 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The report argues that reframing climate policies using a well-being lens is necessary for making visible such synergies and trade-offs; allowing decision-makers to increase the former and anticipate, manage and minimise the latter.
This new report looking at climate action through a “well-being” lens is timely. The transition to a zero-carbon economy indeed requires a focus on the economic, social, distributional, technological, policy and political dimensions of the transition. It could be an important step in favour of a Just Transition for workers as called for by the Paris Climate Agreement. The OECD report in fact notes that there are clear similarities between the OECD well-being lens and the discussion of opportunities, challenges and guiding principles for the Just Transition.
The report concludes that synergies between emissions reduction and broader well-being objectives such as reduced air pollution and improved health, increases the incentives for early mitigation action. Furthermore, the report notes that, the impact of climate policies on issues such as the affordability of energy and jobs need to be taken into account to counter growing economic and social inequalities within and between countries.
The report’s focus on well-being and recognition of the overlaps with the Just Transition Principles are welcome. Regrettably enough, the OECD does not use this opportunity to explicitly call for Just Transition measures, including social security and investing in skills and life-long learning. These measures are widely accepted and to an extend in-line with the OECD well-being lens. In this regard, the TUAC would like to recall the importance of the ILO Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. These guidelines rest on a set of concepts known as the decent work agenda: Rights at work, social dialogue, social protection and employment.
Worldwide, trade unions are actively supporting a Just Transition with climate policies that protect the climate whilst taking into account the impact on workers, their families and communities. The imperatives of a Just Transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs are recognised in COP 21 Paris Agreement that, together with the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals show the way to a zero-poverty and zero-carbon world.
The importance of the Just Transition principles was further emphasised at the COP 24, in Katowice, Poland. Here, more than 50 countries and the European Commission signed the “Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration”. By adopting the Silesia Declaration, countries committed themselves to take seriously the impact of climate change and climate policies on workers, their families and communities when they prepare and implement their new nationally determined contributions (NDCs), national adaptation plans and national long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies. As such, these countries committed themselves to implement Just Transition policies, which involve engaging with workers and their trade unions to prepare new climate policies and long term climate strategies.
Just Transition measures are a crucial condition to implement the ambitious climate policies we urgently need. Without the correct social conditions (involving investments, social dialogue, social protection, social justice, skills and education, etc.) there will never be enough support in society for the structural reforms of our economies needed to protect the climate.
The OECD should support and encourage investments in sectors with high employment creation and environmental protection potential, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, with particular attention being paid to energy poverty, sustainable mobility, and the upgrade of transport infrastructures among other investments.
The OECD well-being lens is a step in the right direction but still it is still not synonymous with a Just Transition.
Read the OECD report here.
OECD (2019), Accelerating Climate Action: Refocusing Policies through a Well-being Lens, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/2f4c8c9a-en.
 ILO (2015) Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/—emp_ent/documents/publication/wcms_432859.pdf
 For more on the Trade Union efforts see; https://www.ituc-csi.org/just-transition-centre and https://tuac.org/news/?policy-issue=environment-climate-energy