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Addressing climate change is one of the most important policy challenges facing the international community. There is growing recognition that, unless action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the state of the environment will continue to deteriorate. This would have dramatic and sometimes irreversible consequences for people's daily lives, such as higher global temperatures, rising sea levels, worsening soil quality and growing shortages of fresh water.
The economy too would be affected. According to the so-called "Stern Report", unless action is taken, climate change will entail economic costs equivalent to at least 5 per cent of world GDP per year. (1) A recent study finds that climate change is likely to affect developing countries disproportionately: higher temperatures by 1 degree would reduce long-term economic growth in poor countries by over 1 percentage point. (2) Higher temperatures per se are not expected to have any discernible growth impact on developed countries as a whole, but some dimensions of climate change such as changes in precipitation would have equally negative effects on economic growth in both developed and developing countries.
While many studies have focused on the role of environmental policies and their impact on the economy, the social dimensions of these issues have not received much attention so far. In order to remedy this, the ILO recently organized an international conference on the social dimensions of environment-friendly policies. (3) This note reviews some of the key issues discussed at that conference.
A double dividend is possible ...
An interesting message which emerged from the discussions--and is confirmed by recent studies--is that efforts to improve the environment may at the same time support social goals. Hence the so-called double-dividend view.
One reason for this double dividend is that, by shifting production to new sources …