Around the world many countries are trying to shift towards a cleaner economy, moving away from a reliance on energy produced by fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, towards a more sustainable supply by ramping up renewable energy sources, such as solar plants and wind farms. This is an important example of the ways that countries can transition to a “green economy.”
Whilst there is not a universally agreed definition of the term, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), describes a green economy as being one which is
“low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.”
At the UN’s Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in 2012, one of the milestone conferences on the road to the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the outcome document declared that a green economy is
“one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development,”
which should create
“opportunities for employment and decent work for all, while maintaining the healthy functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems.”
The shift to a green economy opens up a “massive opportunity for job creation,” says Moustapha Kamal Gueye, coordinator of the Green Jobs Programme at the International Labour Organization (ILO). An obvious example is the energy industry, where the shift to renewable energies is creating new jobs in companies catering to solar plants, wind farms and other clean energy sources.
But the opportunities stretch far beyond the energy industry, in both developed and developing countries, to include areas such as construction and manufacturing, where a host of innovative new techniques, often driven by digital technology, are designed to reduce waste and improve efficiency.
In developing countries, the ILO Green Jobs Programme actively helps communities to adopt and implement sustainable practices, increasing their chances of securing an income. In rural Zambia, for example, the Programme has trained women to build homes using sustainable techniques, and how to assemble and install solar panels, in a country suffering from an energy crisis, and where many people have never had access to electricity. The skills they have learned have had positive, life-changing benefits for the community and, by reducing waste and pollution, have reduced the impact on the environment.
For the Just Transition to function effectively, a range of actors need to work together, from trade unions, to national and local government, sustainability-conscious businesses and community-based organizations. And the prize couldn’t be bigger: a world in which all people work in decent, productive jobs, contributing to a global economy that protects the environment, for the benefit of all.