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Remarks by Minister of Labour on the report of the Director-General with specific reference to Climate Change

by lloyd last modified 2017-06-08 14:45

8 June 2017

Fellow delegates

Climate change is one of the most challenging phenomena to deal with as it has rightly or wrongly, become a heavily contestant terrain. To develop norms and standards that would guide interventions is even more complex given the profound conflict of interests and ideas. This is evidenced by the ongoing work and research being undertaken to better understand it. None the less, it is our collective responsibility to secure the future of our children by effectively using natural resources at our disposal in a sustainable manner in order to mitigate undesirable outcomes. Are the current initiatives sufficient to prevent catastrophic climate change whilst building the energy systems needed to sustain growth, create jobs and lift millions of people out of poverty? This question invites divergent views on what climate change is exactly, and how can we deal with it. Many have argued that climate change demands that we rethink the relationship between energy and development. Some argue that the carbon-intensive energy systems that drive our economies have set us on a collision course with our planetary boundaries. These are but some of the complexities that are inherent in this international discourse.

The Africa Progress Panel admits that some African countries are already leading the world in low-carbon, climate-resilient development. Their initiatives are indeed boosting economic growth, expanding opportunity and reducing poverty, particularly through agriculture. These eminent persons argue strongly that African nations do not have to lock themselves into developing high-carbon old technologies, when they can expand power generation and achieve universal access to energy, by leapfrogging into new technologies that are transforming energy systems across the world. However, they admit that unlocking this “win-win” will not be easy.

The ILO, as part of the United Nations family, has a responsibility to provide guidance and support to its member-states in developing evidence based policy interventions that would strike the delicate balance between too much reliance on old energy generation technologies the results of which will be catastrophic and, contributing to sustainable decent work creation.

“There is no “one size fits all” in dealing with this challenge. Policies and programmes need to be designed in line with the specific conditions of countries, including their stage of development, economic sectors and types and sizes of enterprises”. We cannot over-emphasise this point because it is mostly under-developed and developing economies that often bear the brunt of having to restructure, at great costs.

This therefore demands that the manner in which we craft interventions must take into account these harsh realities more so given the targets set out in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. It is encouraging to note that Green Initiatives are cross-cutting in the Programme and Budget for 2018 – 2019 and it has also been given prominence through the ILO Centenary Initiatives.

President, it would be important to adopt a multi-dimensional approach in finding the happy medium of dealing with these challenges as a one-dimensional approach would create more problems than what we seek to remedy. Locating our interventions on the key tenets of the decent work agenda as our point of reference, will be extremely useful in this regard.

South Africa has embraced the need for a shift to a low-carbon, resource efficient and climate resilient economic growth path. We recognised that this transition must be nudged at every possible opportunity, without turning a blind eye to the harsh realities of possible unintended consequences that may arise. We have put in place various enablers and incentives for green initiatives, including the establishing of what we call the Green Fund. The Green Fund plays a catalytic role by, inter alia; • promoting innovative and high impact green programmes and projects;

• reinforcing climate policy objectives through green interventions; • building an evidence base for the expansion of the green economy; and • Attracting additional resources to support South Africa’s green economy development.

Again if the transition is not managed properly, it could undermine these efforts with dire consequences, especially for the workers and the poor. In order for us to ensure that workers are not affected negatively by the developments in the green economy, there needs to be strategic scaling-up of skills development programmes and mount concerted efforts to change the mind-set of all our social partners so that at the very least, we are all on the same page. (A common vision so to speak.) It is therefore incumbent on all our social partners to play their part in this regard. It is also important that we should as this conference, move towards crafting guidelines of one sort or the other, which will be used as a tool to navigate the challenges that are inherent in this mission.

We welcome the Director General’s proposition that the ILO should, engage with the concept of the “Green Centenary Initiative” which aptly finds expression in the ILO’s founding principle of social justice.

I thank you.

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