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States must combine fight against poverty with drive for green economy – UN expert

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NEW YORK (21 October 2020) – The current economic and environmental crises can only be overcome with a development model that addresses the challenges of poverty eradication and environmental sustainability together rather than in isolation, a UN expert said in a report published today.

The report, presented to the UN General Assembly by Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, provides a human rights vision to both eradicate poverty and transition towards low-carbon societies.

“Responses to the current economic crisis should contribute to a new model of development where poverty and the environment are not a mere afterthought. The principles of a ‘just transition’ provide a roadmap for governments to design their recovery plans in a way that fulfils their human rights obligations and the requirements of the 2030 Agenda,” De Schutter said.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have injected at least $11 trillion into the economy in the form of recovery plans. “Many government plans blatantly ignore the urgent need to green the economy, despite ample evidence that people in poverty are the first victims of environmental crises,” De Schutter said. People in poverty suffer the most from the impacts of pollution and waste dumping, and they are overrepresented in the 1.2 billion jobs (40 percent of the world’s employment) that depend on healthy ecosystems.

“Recovery plans must prioritise the creation of jobs for people with low levels of qualification in the sectors that matter most to the ecological transition – renewable energy, public transport, the retrofitting of buildings, or the circular and repair economy,” De Schutter said.

“The evidence is clear: a scenario consistent with the Paris Accord would create 18 million net jobs, each $1 million spent on energy efficiency creates 7.72 jobs (versus 2.65 jobs with the same expenditure in the fossil fuel sector), and 5 million jobs worldwide can be created from doubling investments in public transport. These jobs can be lifesaving for those in poverty or with low incomes. What more evidence do we need to start acting?” the UN expert said.

“We have no time to waste. This pandemic has already devastated the lives of too many. Governments need to start acting now before the next crisis - likely a climate-related crisis - hits us, because the question is not if, but when,” De Schutter warned.

The economic stimulus plans that are now being rolled out shall shape economies and societies for the next generation: the report presented to the General Assembly charts how governments can seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change course. “The ecological transformation can only succeed if it is also socially just, and poverty eradication cannot be at the expense of keeping the planet livable: it is only by addressing both challenges at the same time that we can succeed in tackling either. ‘Building back better’ after COVID-19 does not mean returning to the status quo, but instead taking public action towards the eradication of poverty within planetary boundaries,” De Schutter said.

ENDS

Watch the video here

Follow the presentation to the General Assembly here

Mr. Olivier De Schutter was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights by the UN Human Rights Council on 1st May 2020. Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

Follow Olivier De Schutter on Twitter at @DeSchutterO and @srpoverty

For more information and media requests, please contact Patricia Varela (pvarela@ohchr.org) and Junko Tadaki (jtadaki@ohchr.org).

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact: In New York, Jonathan Fowler (+ 1 917 208 6656 / jonathan.fowler@un.org). In Geneva, Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts

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