New York, United States [RenewableEnergyWorld.com] Last week four international organizations released a report on the global impact of the green economy. The report, entitled Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World, says that millions of new green jobs will be created across the globe in the coming decades around efforts to mitigate climate change.
The UN Environment Program (UNEP) under a joint Green Jobs Initiative with the International Labor Office (ILO), as well as the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) funded and commissioned the report, which was ultimately produced by the Worldwatch Institute, with technical assistance from the Cornell University Global Labor Institute.
Many sectors are already experiencing job growth around such efforts, notes the report, indicating that changing patterns of employment and investment resulting from efforts to reduce climate change and its effects are already generating new jobs in many sectors and economies, and could create millions more in both developed and developing countries. Sectors that will be particularly important in terms of their environmental, economic and employment impact are energy supply, in particular renewable energy, buildings and construction, transportation, basic industries, agriculture and forestry.
Specifically the report says that 2.3 million people have, in recent years, found new jobs in the renewable energy sector alone, and the potential for job growth in the sector is huge. Employment in renewable energies may rise to 2.1 million in wind and 6.3 million in solar power by 2030. Projected investments in renewable energy of US $630 billion by 2030 would translate into at least 20 million additional jobs in the renewable energy sector.
In addition, the report says that a worldwide transition to energy-efficient buildings would create millions of jobs, as well as “greening” existing employment for many of the estimated 111 million people already working in the construction sector. Investments in improved energy efficiency in buildings could generate an additional 2-3.5 million green jobs in Europe and the United States alone, with the potential much higher in developing countries.
The report provides examples of massive green jobs creation throughout the world, such as: 600,000 people in China who are already employed in solar thermal manufacturing and installing products such as solar water heaters; in Nigeria, a biofuels industry based on cassava and sugar cane crops might sustain an industry employing 200,000 people; India could generate 900,000 jobs by 2025 in biomass gasification of which 300,000 would be in the manufacturing of stoves and 600,000 in areas such as processing into briquettes and pellets and the fuel supply chain; and in South Africa, 25,000 previously unemployed people are now employed in conservation as part of the “Working for Water” initiative.
While mostly optimistic, the report does offer some warnings. In particular, it says that the process of climate change, already underway, will continue to have negative effects on workers and their families, especially those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and tourism. Action to tackle climate change as well as to cope with its effects is therefore urgent and should be designed to generate decent jobs.
In addition, the report warns what many of the new green jobs will be “dirty, dangerous and difficult.” Sectors of concern, especially but not exclusively in developing economies, include agriculture and recycling where all too often low pay, insecure employment contracts and exposure to health hazardous materials needs to change fast.
What’s more, the report claims that too few green jobs are being created for the most vulnerable: the 1.3 billion working poor (43 percent of the global workforce) in the world with earnings too low to lift them and their dependents above the poverty threshold of US $2 per person, per day, or for the estimated 500 million youth who will be seeking work over the next 10 years.
Pathways To Green Jobs and Decent Work
“A sustainable economy can no longer externalize environmental and social costs. The price society pays for the consequences of pollution or ill health for example, must be reflected in the prices paid in the marketplace. Green jobs therefore need to be decent work,” the report says.
The report recommends a number of pathways to a more sustainable future directing investment to low-cost measures that should be taken immediately including: assessing the potential for green jobs and monitoring progress to provide a framework for policy and investment; addressing the current skills bottleneck by meeting skill requirements because available technology and resources for investments can only be deployed effectively with qualified entrepreneurs and skilled workers; and ensuring individual enterprises’ and economic sectors’ contribution to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases with labor-management initiatives to green workplaces.
The report finds that green markets have thrived and transformation has advanced most where there has been strong and consistent political support at the highest level, including targets, penalties and incentives such as feed-in laws and efficiency standards for buildings and appliances as well as proactive research and development.