Decent Jobs, Environment & Growth: ILO's Green Jobs Initiative Takes Root

Looking to realize a "triple dividend" of a job-centered economic recovery, establishment of sustainable enterprises and poverty reduction, the UN International Labor Organization's "Green Jobs Initiative" is taking root.

From top-down to bottom-up, it's generally agreed that internationally inclusive and coordinated policies and actions are needed in order to address the growing threats posed by ongoing environmental degradation and climate change.

UN Green Jobs Initiative

And in the midst of economic recession and the latest financial crisis, many in government, the public and the private sector see clean technology, renewable energy and environmental and ecosystem services as a means of turning threats into opportunities.

Uniquely positioned to respond to this challenge, the UN's International Labor Organization--along with the UN Environment Programme, the International Organisation of Employers and the International Trade Union Confederation-- last September formed the core of and launched the Green Jobs Initiative.

A Triple Dividend

Some 300 million jobs will need to be created between now and 2015 just to bring total employment back to the level it was before the latest financial systems crisis. The world's poor are faring even worse as a result of ongoing environmental degradation and the increasingly evident impacts of climate change, according to the ILO.

To date, ten countries have joined the ILO's "Global Programme on Green Jobs." These include countries with large, emerging industrial economies such as Brazil, China and India, as well as smaller nations with economies driven primarily by agriculture, such as Bangladesh, Haiti and Somalia, where poverty and conflict, along with environmental degradation and climate change, are exacting a severe toll.

"Decent green jobs hold the promise of a triple dividend: sustainable enterprises; poverty reduction; and a job-centred economic recovery," ILO director-general Juan Somavia states in a recent guest article for the International Institute of Sustainable Development.

"They are not a panacea for economic recovery and for overcoming the jobs crisis, but they can be effective components of a short-term strategy and are indispensable if we are to put the world on a path to sustainable development."

Towards Decent, Sustainable Work

The ILO's green jobs program is bringing together governments, workers and employers in an effort to identify, develop and refine public-private policies that spur climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts by creating a high-employment, low-carbon economy.

"This requires boosting green sectors, particularly clean energy, and environmental services, but just as importantly a greening of all enterprises to reduce energy consumption and emissions, use of raw materials and pollution," Somavia explains.

The ILO, UNEP, the ITC and IEO last September put out "Green Jobs: Towards Decent, Sustainable Work in a Low-Carbon World," the most ambitious and comprehensive study to date of the actual and potential impact stimulating creation of "green jobs" is having and can have in developing and developed economies moving forward.

Green Jobs: Facts & Figures

The ILO presents excerpts of its "green jobs" report in "Green Jobs: Facts and Figures," a brochure containing highlights of the facts, figures, forecasts and the rationale underpinning the Green Jobs Initiative.

- 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 alternative energies may rise to 2.1 million in wind and 6.3 million in solar power by 2030;

- The global market for environmental products and services is projected to double from US$1,370 billion per year at present to US$2,740 billion by 2020;

- Half of this market is in energy efficiency and the balance in sustainable transport, water supply, sanitation and waste management;

- Renewable energy generates more jobs than employment in fossil fuels. Projected investments of US$630 billion by 2030 would translate into at least 20 million additional jobs in the renewable energy sector.

- In agriculture, 12 million people could be employed in biomass for energy and related industries.

- A worldwide transition to energy-efficient buildings would create millions of jobs as well as “green” existing employment for many of the estimated 111 million people already working in the construction sector.

"Examples from China, Germany, Brazil, Denmark, France and elsewhere show that, with coherent policies, hundreds of thousands of green jobs have been created and have more than outweighed losses in emission-intensive sectors," Somavia writes in his IISD guest article.

"A sound dialogue with industry and trade unions and provisions for a just transition for those who lose jobs will buttress the political resolve. There is so much more to be done. Inaction on climate change will be to the detriment of labour markets. It is sure to destroy many jobs and enterprises."

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