Labour & the environment

Background paper • Briefing note


Photo by Francis Vorhies

Climate change • Responses • Adaptation • Mitigation • Agencies • Cases
Responses to climate change can be grouped into two broad categories: adaptation and mitigation.

ILO programmes interested in the challenges of just employment transitions -- for example among rural workers in Africa -- will be most interested in policies and programmes addressing adaptation.

On the other hand, ILO programmes interested in the implications of climate change for small and medium enterprise development and employment creation may want to focus initially on mitigation responses, particularly in the context of the grown market for carbon offsets.


A recent green paper by the European Commission on adapting to climate change, explains adaptation as follows:

"Adaptation actions are taken to cope with a changing climate, e.g. increased rainfall, higher temperatures, scarcer water resources or more frequent storms, at present or anticipating such changes in future. Adaptation aims at reducing the risk and damage from current and future harmful impacts cost-effectively or exploiting potential benefits. ... Adaptation can encompass national or regional strategies as well as practical steps taken at community level or by individuals. Adaptation measures can be anticipatory or reactive. Adaptation applies to natural as well as to human systems."

Though developing adaptation technologies and services is potentially a business opportunity for developing country enterprise, the more immediate opportunities for employment creation appear to be in the area of mitigation.


As explained on the UNFCCC website:

"The ultimate objective of the Convention is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."

This requires an overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions which can be accomplished by economic actors -- companies, governments, individuals -- directly reducing their emissions or alternatively by offsetting their emissions through ensuring emission reductions by others.

Today's carbon markets trade in the reduction of emissions. Essentially one group of economic actors buy "emission credits" from other groups of economic actors. The production and sale of carbon offset credits -- through either mandatory or voluntary carbon markets -- is a potentially lucrative business opportunity for developing country enterprises.

More on responses to climate change ...

Adapting to climate change in Europe - Options for EU action (EC, 2007)
This green paper from the European Commission looks at adaptation challenges in Europe within a global context.

Climate change 101: Understanding and responding to global climate change (Pew Center, 2006)
This primer outlines the challenges and opportunities for emission reduction, with a focus on the US situation where the government has not been particularly supportive of policies to address global warming.

Stocktaking of progress on integrating adaptation to climate change into development co-operation activities (OECD, 2007)
This OECD report highlights the work that needs to be done to ensure that climate change is addressed within development assistance programmes

Walking the talk on climate and energy (WBCSD, 2007)
A flyer by the World Business Council for Sustainable Developing promoting corporate responsibility on climate change.

Policy Directions to 2050 - A business contribution to the dialogues on cooperative action (WBCSD, 2007)
The purpose of this major report is "to identify and explore policy options to sustain economic growth while transforming the ways we access, produce and consume energy."