The pursuit of green-collar jobs

Published: Wednesday 31 December 2008

-- In a world that attempts to move towards a low-carbon economy

Efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change have created a new market, generating new opportunities, dubbed green jobs. According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme, over the coming decades, millions of green jobs would be created in sectors such as energy, transport, construction, agriculture, forestry and industries

Moving away from fossil fuels would see a job reduction in oil, gas and coal industries. The emerging renewable energy sector would compensate this and create millions more jobs. By 2030

  • 2.1 million jobs would be created in wind energy sector
  • 6.3 million jobs in solar power
  • 12 million jobs in biofuel-related agriculture and industry
  • By 2025, India will create 900,000 jobs in biomass gasification alone
A shift towards sustainable transport would mean greater reliance on public transports like trains, trams and buses

  • Bus rapid transit systems would become a major employer offering substantial jobs in retrofitting diesel buses and in managing CNG or hybrid buses. In New Delhi, the introduction of 6,100 CNG buses by 2009 would create 18,000 jobs
Buildings and construction
Buildings have the capacity to reduce projected emissions by 29 per cent by 2020. As the next decade sees a transition to energy-efficient buildings

  • 111 million people, in construction, would use new building technology
  • Construction of green buildings, by retrofitting, and using efficient home appliances, would generate up to 3.5 million jobs in Europe and the US by 2030. The potential is higher in developing countries
Agriculture and forestry
Emissions from agriculture could rise by 30 per cent between 2005 and 2020. Hence, there is a need to focus on organic farming, small farms and local food supply. These are potential sources of green jobs

  • Small farms and local food supply can promote local employment
  • But this seems unlikely. With growing demand on global food production, small farmers would lose out to large retailers and capital-intensive producers. This would create rural unemployment
  • Since deforestation contributes to 18 per cent of all GHG emissions, planting trees and sustainable forestry would create jobs, mostly in developing and poor countries
Basic industries
It is difficult to reduce the carbon footprint of heavy industries like steel, aluminium, cement and paper. Since recycling helps save energy and reduce pollution, recycling industries would grow rapidly offering new jobs

Employment exchanges
  • Renewables such as wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, small hydel dams, fuel cells
  • Technologies such as integrated gasification, carbon sequestration, generation of combined heat and power
  • Improved pollution-control technologies such as scrubbers, tailpipe technologies
  • New vehicles such as fuel-efficient, electric, hybrid and fuel-cell
  • Change in commuting behaviour such as car sharing, biking and walking
  • Frequent use of public transit system
  • Change in settlement pattern to reduce distance from home and workplace
  • Energy-efficient appliances, solar panels
  • Steps such as soil conservation, water efficiency, halting deforestation, reforestation and sustainable forestry
  • Organic farming, agroforestry
  • Reducing farm-to-market distance
  • Recycling and re-manufacturing

  • Caution
  • Most green jobs in developing countries would include agriculture and recycling. Many of these new jobs would offer low wage, contractual and insecure employment and exposure to hazardous materials
  • Very few green jobs would be created for the most vulnerable the 1.3 billion working poor (43 per cent of the global workforce) in the world with earnings of US $2 per person a day or for the 500 million youth who would be seeking work over the next 10 years

  • Source Green jobs Towards decent work in a sustainable, low carbon world-a report by United Nations Environment Programme

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