Invest for net zero emission future: UN chief

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 18, 2019 (Xinhua) — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 18, 2019. The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 74) will spotlight climate change in the coming days when leaders gather at the UN headquarters in New York to discuss issues of common concern, Antonio Guterres said Wednesday. (Xinhua/Li Muzi/IANS)

New Delhi, Sep 29 (IANS) Investing in job-rich growth, social protection and a just transition to a net-zero emissions future, particularly in low -and middle-income countries, could prevent a further deepening of the inequalities between developed and developing economies that have been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic, said UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

At least USD 982 billion in fiscal stimulus measures is needed to respond to the immediate labour market shocks of the crisis and to support a just transition, as well as USD 1.2 trillion annually for social protection floors in low- and middle-income countries. “No advanced economy has achieved economic and social progress without investing in social protection systems and quality public services that provide people with the necessary support to navigate the vicissitudes of their lives,” Guterres said in a policy brief issued on Tuesday.

The UN Secretary-General had presented the brief at a virtual high-level meeting at the UN late on Tuesday night India time.

While the wealth of billionaires increased by over USD 3.9 trillion between March and December 2020, the impact of the pandemic on the world of work, among other factors, increased the number of extremely poor by between 119 and 224 million people — the first increase in poverty in over 21 years, a release from the UN said.

An estimated 8.8 per cent of total working hours — equivalent to the hours worked in one year by 255 million full-time workers — were lost in 2020. This corresponds to a loss of USD 3.3 trillion in labour income before government support. Because of the pandemic, there are an estimated 75 million fewer jobs in 2021 than there were before the crisis, and 23 million fewer projected in 2022.

Calling for urgent investments in a job-rich, sustainable, and socially inclusive recovery, the Secretary-General’s brief said: “The public and private sectors should leverage finance to significantly ramp up such investments to get the world back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to address ever increasing risks from climate change and environmental degradation that could jeopardise 1.2 billion jobs-equivalent to 40 per cent of the global labour force.”

A human-centred recovery from the pandemic needs employment and social protection policies to work in tandem, not only to improve people’s living standards, but also to help them navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing world of work and the transition towards the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the release said.

Net zero carbon emissions means balancing the emissions needed for development with conservation and mitigation measures, including by carbon absorption or reduced use.

Leaders from countries, along with the heads of major international organisations, multilateral banks and finance institutions, civil society, private sector, and academia will discuss pathways during the meeting, the release added.

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