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Green jobs grow in the forest

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forest workers

The green economy is creating new job opportunities in the forest sector in a variety of areas, such as recreation, leisure and sports, ecotherapy, urban forestry or pests, fire and disease control.

Until recently, forest jobs were mostly associated with traditional silviculture and timber harvesting activities. However, the potential for the creation of new job opportunities is now enhancing all forest ecosystem functions. Examples of green forest jobs, emerging tasks and functions which can lead to new employment opportunities in the forest are summarized in the recent UNECE/FAO publication “Green Jobs in the Forest Sector” which builds on the work of the UNECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Green Jobs in the Forest Sector (Joint ILO/UNECE/FAO Expert Network).

The study also identifies “green” skills needed for the careers of the future. New, environmentally-driven competencies will feature the application of new technologies and business management models. New careers will stem from enhanced awareness of environmental and social consequences of economic activities in the forests and the willingness to apply sustainable development values at the workplace.

In this spirit, more than 30 forest experts participating in the UNECE/FAO workshop on “Green Forest Jobs: Exploring Opportunities and Increasing the Capacity of UNECE Member States”, taking place in Geneva on 17-18 September 2018, concluded that the management of forest ecosystem services is the way for creation of green jobs in the forest sector.

Green forest jobs will help retaining jobs in many small and medium-sized enterprises and will create new employment opportunities for professional groups who may incur jobs losses in the process of transition to a green economy. They can also facilitate the integration into the labor market of other vulnerable groups, such as young people, women or rural populations.

The further development of green jobs in the forest sector will strongly depend on the revision of existing curricula aiming to address existing skill gaps and to adapt to new career paths. This will also improve the public perception of forest sector, as an innovative sector attracting qualified workers and offering modern careers in a green economy. Therefore, continuous dialogue on the future of green jobs in the forest sector is crucial and green jobs are one of the key activities the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section.

UNECE and FAO, together with ILO, are leading organizations in the work on green jobs in the forest sector. They collaborate with a number of international and local stakeholders on defining, describing and promoting green forest jobs, related competencies, education and training for the forest sector in the context of a green economy.

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CEOs Urge World Leaders to ‘Do More Together’ in the race to Net Zero

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The Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, hosted by the World Economic Forum, appealed to the governments and world leaders to leverage COP26 as their best chance to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.

Signatories propose concrete steps to world leaders that would help businesses accelerate their emission reductions, scale up innovations and achieve a net-zero and nature-positive world by 2050.

“This letter sends a clear signal days before world leaders meet in Glasgow to agree measures that can safeguard our climate,” said Antonia Gawel, Head of Climate Action, at the World Economic Forum. “Chief executives are committed to ambitious, and science aligned climate action, and welcome bold policies to accelerate decarbonization efforts around the world at the outset of this critical decade.”

“The World Economic Forum Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders has grown to over 100 members, said Christian Mumenthaler, Chief Executive Officer, Swiss Re. “The private sector is playing a huge role in climate leadership by pressing for action along its value chains. With more collaboration across industries, we can accelerate the green transition.”

“For me this is personal, I will double my efforts and expect businesses, government and society to do the same,” said Jesper Brodin, Chief Executive Officer, Ingka Group | IKEA. “We will achieve and transition to a net-zero future that is good for both people and the planet, by working together. That is why we encourage more CEO’s to join us at the World Economic Forum Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders in the progress towards a new economy where everyone can be a winner.”

Following the lockdown caused by the COVID19 pandemic, COP26 will provide a platform for members of the Alliance, world leaders, government officials and representatives of the NGO community, to tackle the climate crisis together.

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‘No time to lose’ curbing greenhouse gases

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Last year, heat-trapping greenhouse gases reached a new record, surging above the planet’s 2011-2020 average, and has continued in 2021, according to a new report published on Monday by the UN weather agency.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a “stark, scientific message” for climate change negotiations at the upcoming UN climate conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow, said Petteri Taalas, head of the UN agency.

“At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a temperature increase by the end of this century far in excess of the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”, he explained. “We are way off track.”

Emissions rising

Concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2020 was 149 per cent above the pre-industrial level; methane, 262 per cent; and nitrous oxide, 123 per cent, compared to the point when human activitity began to be a destabilizing factor.

And although the coronavirus-driven economic slowdown sparked a temporary decline in new emissions, it has had no discernible impact on the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases or their growth rates.

As emissions continue, so too will rising global temperatures, the report maintained.

Moreover, given the long life of CO2, the current temperature level will persist for decades, even if emissions are rapidly reduced to net zero.

From intense heat and rainfall to sea-level rise and ocean acidification, rising temperatures will be accompanied by more weather extremes – all with far-reaching socioeconomic impacts.

“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now”, stated the WMO chief. “But there weren’t 7.8 billion people then”, he reminded.

Lingering CO2

Roughly half of today’s human-emitted CO2 remains in the atmosphere and the other half is absorbed by oceans and land ecosystems, the Bulletin flagged.

At the same time, the capacity of land ecosystems and oceans to absorb emissions may become a less effective buffer against temperature increases in the future.

Meanwhile, many countries are currently setting carbon neutral targets amidst the hope that COP26 will see a dramatic increase in commitments.

“We need to transform our commitment into action that will have an impact of the gases that drive climate change. We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life”, said the WMO official. 

The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible“, he assured. “There is no time to lose”.

Battling emissions

CO2 is the single most important greenhouse gas and has “major negative repercussions for our daily lives and well-being, for the state of our planet and for the future of our children and grandchildren”, argued the WMO chief.

Carbon sinks are vital regulators of climate change because they remove one-quarter of the CO2 that humans release into the atmosphere.

Nitrous Oxide is both a powerful greenhouse gas and ozone depleting chemical that is emitted into the atmosphere from both natural and anthropogenic sources, including oceans, soils, biomass burning, fertilizer use and various industrial processes.

Multiple co-benefits of reducing methane, whose gas remains in the atmosphere for about a decade, could support the Paris Agreement and help to reach many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said the Bulletin.

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Landmark decision gives legal teeth to protect environmental defenders

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A 46-strong group of countries across the wider European region has agreed to establish a new legally binding mechanism that would protect environmental defenders, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said on Friday.

“I remain deeply concerned by the targeting of environmental activists”, said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, welcoming the rapid response mechanism as “an important contribution to help advance my Call to Action for Human Rights”. 

The agreement will delegate setting up the new mechanism to the United Nations, or another international body.

As the first ever internationally-agreed tool to safeguard environmental defenders, it marks an important step in upholding the universal right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment – as recognized by the Human Rights Council earlier this month

“Twenty years ago, the Aarhus Convention entered into force, bridging the gap between human and environmental rights.

Today, as the devastating effects of climate change continue to ravage the world, the Convention’s core purpose – of allowing people to protect their wellbeing and that of future generations – has never been more critical”, spelled out the UN chief. 

A protective eye

The agreement to establish the mechanism was adopted on Thursday by the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, known as the Aarhus Convention. 

“This landmark decision is a clear signal to environmental defenders that they will not be left unprotected”, said UNECE chief Olga Algayerova.

“It demonstrates a new level of commitment to upholding the public’s rights under the Aarhus Convention, as well as Parties’ willingness to respond effectively to grave and real-time challenges seen in the Convention’s implementation on the ground”.   

Vital defence

Whether it is groups protesting the construction of a dangerous dam or individuals speaking out against harmful agricultural practices in their local community, these activists are vital to environmental preservation across the globe, said the UNECE.

The Aarhus Convention ensures that those exercising their rights in conformity with the provisions of the Convention shall not be penalized, persecuted or harassed in any way for their involvement.

As such, the mechanism will establish a Special Rapporteur – or independent rights expert – who will quickly respond to alleged violations and take measures to protect those experiencing or under imminent threat of penalization, persecution, or harassment for seeking to exercise their rights under the Convention.  

As time is of the essence to buttress the safety of environmental defenders, any member of the public, secretariat or Party to the Aarhus Convention, will be able to submit a confidential complaint to the Special Rapporteur, even before other legal remedies have been exhausted.   

Defenders targeted

Although it is crucial for environmental defenders to confidently exercise their rights, cases have been reported in which instead, they face being fired, heavy fines, criminalization, detention, violence, and even death. 

Moreover, incidents of harassment and violence against environmental defenders are far from uncommon

A report to the Human Rights Council by Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, found that one-in-two human rights defenders who were killed in 2019 had been working with communities around issues of land, environment, impacts of business activities, poverty and rights of indigenous peoples, Afrodescendants and other minorities.  

Since January 2017, among the Parties to the Aarhus Convention, incidents of persecution, penalization and harassment of environmental defenders have been reported in 16 countries

In contrast to current existing initiatives, which mainly rely on applying political pressure through the media, the Aarhus Convention’s rapid response mechanism will be built on a binding legal framework, giving it much greater powers to act.

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