A recently published report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) looks at the impact of a net-zero economy in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The report, “Jobs in a net-zero emissions future in Latin America and the Caribbean,” finds that transitioning LAC to net-zero emissions has the potential to create 19 million net jobs in plant-based agriculture by 2030.
According to a previous study by the ILO, LAC will lose 2.5 million jobs from heat stress alone by 2030. Additionally, the IDB estimates that by 2050, climate change will cost the region US$110 billion annually.
The current economic system “locks societies into a high-carbon pathway [making] us more vulnerable to future climate change risks, including health crises,” Adrien Vogt-Schilb, Senior Economist at the IDB and co-author of the report, tells Food Tank. He explains that if LAC countries do not address these problems now, it will become costlier to reverse and reduce emissions later.
The report notes that over time, the transition will result in a loss of 7.5 million jobs in fossil fuel electricity, fossil fuel extraction, and animal-based food production, but create 22.5 million jobs in sectors such as sustainable agriculture, forestry, solar and wind power, manufacturing, and construction
The report outlines five pillars to achieve a decarbonized economy in LAC by 2050. It calls on the region to do the following: replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, utilize electricity for transportation, cooking and heating, expand public transportation, preserve natural carbon sinks, and reduce waste in all sectors.
According to the report, a decarbonization agenda would require a transition to sustainable plant-based agriculture. If governments create policies in consultation with farmers, there is an opportunity to improve the livelihoods and productivity of small farmers, Vogt-Schilb explains.
The report suggests governments can regulate and direct investments to help small farmers switch to high value-added crops, connect them with better infrastructure to domestic and global markets, make sure they benefit from insurance products, and incentivize farming that provides income diversification.
“A significant part of rural poverty is associated with a lack of economic opportunities,” Vogt-Schilb tells Food Tank. He continues, growth in smaller parts of the economy can provide more employment for people who live and work on small-scale farms in developing countries.
Despite these prospects, researchers found that 80 percent of jobs created would be in male-dominated sectors. The report suggests implementing new government policies that will help women and Indigenous communities to contribute to a more equitable and diverse workforce.
“Women frequently work in agriculture as family members and are thus more likely to be unpaid, or [women’s] contribution to the sector is underreported,” Ana Belen Sanchez, Green Jobs Specialist for LAC at ILO, tells Food Tank.
To provide equitable agriculture job opportunities for women in a net-zero future, Sanchez says that “giving women a voice in the decision process, at the local level and for the national strategy, is essential.”
Furthermore, the report emphasizes including Indigenous groups in the decarbonization strategy. ILO and IDB researchers highlight that inclusive and effective climate change policies must address all impacted communities.
“I hope that countries can be inspired into seeing long-term decarbonization as an economic opportunity and use that end goal as a compass – in discussion with all stakeholders,” Vogt-Schilb tells Food Tank. “Co-construction is key to ensure all sustainable development goals are considered and that challenges on the road are identified and addressed.”
Photo courtesy of Raphael Nogueria, Unsplash