The rise of new green jobs –in renewable energy, buildings and construction, transportation,basic industries, agriculture and forestry– is the first tangible result of efforts to tackle climate change. But that’s just about all we can say for certain. A recent UNEP report, entitled Green Jobs: Towards Decent work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World, sets out the real (future) green jobs scenario in a few brush strokes. Two buzz terms are ‘adaptation to climate change’ and ‘efforts to reduce carbon emissions’.
These two factors are going to be two continuous themes in the future green jobs sector, which yes, will see the creation of millions of new green jobs but which will also witness effects of climate change on existing jobs that are going to be rather negative.
Despite the report’s dreary overall conclusion, the document itself is a fount of information with lots of numbers which will come as a relief if you read it, promise. The study shows exactly what kind of changes to expect in economic and social development, production and consumption, employment, income and poverty.
It situates the emergence of the green job sector in the context of a global green economy of environmental products and services. This market is set to double from US$1,370 billion (1.37 trillion) per year to US$2,740 billion (2.74 trillion) by 2020. Half of the market is in energy efficiency and the balance in sustainable transport, water supply, sanitation and waste management. In Germany for example, environmental technology is to grow fourfold to 16 per cent of industrial output by 2030, with employment in this sector surpassing that in the country’s big machine tool and automotive industries.
New issues that will soon dominate the job market and the global economy include a fast rise of clean technologies, massive job growth in the renewable energy sector, changes in agriculture and general building jobs. Clean technologues are already the third largest sector for venture capital at the moment (after information and biotechnology) in the United States. In China green venture capital also more than doubled to 19 per cent of total investment in recent years. This phenomenal growth is only the beginning.
Another eye catcher are the job prospects in the renewable energy sector. In recent years, 2.3 million people around the globe have started a job in this industry and the potential for job growth is still massive with employment in alternative energies set rise to 2.1 million in wind and 6.3 million in solar power by 2030.
Projected investments of US$630 billion by 2030 would translate into at least 20 million additional jobs in the renewable energy sector. This figure dwarfs those of the fossil fuels industry’s growth, according to the report. This echoes the findings of a report entitled Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy written on behalf of the Center For American Progress. We covered it last week, and the main gist was that the US economy could generate 2 million jobs in two years if investments were diverted away from the oil industry to green projects.
Agriculture is going to witness the creation of 12 million new jobs in biomass for energy and related industries. For instance, a country like Venezuela is on track to create one million jobs in the sugar cane sector by 2012 for the production of a blend of petrol that includes 10% of ethanol.
The worldwide transition to energy-efficient buildings is also of crucial importance in the next years. This trend is set to create millions of jobs not to speak of its potential to green existing employment for many of the estimated 111 million people already working in the construction sector. Investments in improved energy efficiency in buildings are expected to generate an 2-3.5 million green jobs in Europe and the United States alone.
One of the main risks in the near future is that too few green jobs will emerge for the most vulnerable on the planet; the poor and our youth. The 1.3 billion working poor (estimated at 43 per cent of the global workforce). These people have earnings too low to lift them and their dependants above the poverty threshold of US$2 per person, per day. A further estimated 500 million youth who will be seeking work over the next 10 years are also going to be facing tough times as too few jobs are created.
The report was written by the Worldwatch Institute, with technical assistance from the Cornell University Global Labour Institute. UNEP’s co sponsors included the International Labour Office (ILO), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), which together represent millions of workers and employers worldwide