Nature-based solutions can generate 20 million new jobs with right policies: UN report

Investing in nature-based solutions, particularly in rural areas, would generate significant job opportunities, say UN agencies

Peter Kenny  | 10.12.2022 - Update : 12.12.2022
Nature-based solutions can generate 20 million new jobs with right policies: UN report


Twenty million jobs worldwide could be created by harnessing the power of nature to address significant challenges facing society, such as climate change, disaster risk and food and water insecurity, a UN report said Friday. 

It would entail investing in policies that support nature-based solutions to generate significant employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas, it said.

The report was compiled by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"It is critical that as we scale up the use of Nature-based Solutions, we make sure we do not also scale up decent work deficits," Vic van Vuuren, director of the ILO enterprises department, said in a statement.

He cited informal work, low pay and low productivity that many workers in nature-based solutions currently face and said ILO's Just Transition Guidelines provide a framework to help.  

Biodiversity conference

The report was launched at the UN's Biodiversity Conference, COP15, in Montreal, titled “Decent Work in Nature-based Solutions.”

ILO stressed the need for a just transition --- greening the economy fairly and inclusively to create meaningful work opportunities,

Nature-based solutions are defined by the UN Environment Assembly resolution 5/5 as "actions to protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage natural or modified terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems."

Currently, nearly 75 million people are employed in nature-based solutions, said ILO.

About 9% live in Asia and the Pacific and lower-middle-income countries, although most global nature-based solutions expenditure occurs in high-income countries.

Many such jobs are part-time and total employment is estimated to be around 14.5 million full-time-equivalent jobs.

The report cautions about the challenges in measuring nature-based solutions employment.

Moreover, the figures need to capture job losses and displacements that might occur as nature-based solutions are implemented.

In low-income (98%) and lower-middle-income (99%) countries, nearly all nature-based solutions work is in the agriculture and forestry sectors.

The number falls to 42% for upper-middle income and 25% for high-income countries.

In industrialized countries, where agricultural productivity is high, nature-based solutions spending is concentrated on ecosystem restoration and natural resource management.

Public services contribute the largest share of nature-based solutions in high-income countries (37%), with construction representing 14%.

ILO said an additional 20 million jobs could be generated worldwide if investment in nature-based solutions were tripled by 2030.

Such investment is seen as a critical step toward achieving biodiversity, land restoration and climate goals such as those set out in the United Nations' State of Finance for Nature 2021 Report, according to UN agencies.

The report warns that there is no guarantee that nature-based solutions employment will meet ILO's standards for green jobs.

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