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Making the Green Economy Go: Scaling Sustainable Energy For All

The shift to the green economy means making green jobs GOOD jobs, abroad and at home.

Submitted by: Guest Contributor

Posted: Aug 15, 2012 – 09:08 AM EST

Series: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity

Tags: jobs, green jobs, sustainability, worldwatch institute, ilo, renewable energy


By Michael Renner, Senior Researcher, Worldwatch Institute

(In collaboration with the Worldwatch Institute)

Emerging from the Rio+20 conference this June, governments and citizens continue to discuss what a sustainable economy should look like. Some see salvation in green growth; while others argue that structural, not just technological, change is necessary. Indeed, fundamental cultural change away from materialism is critical to success.

Creating Green and Decent Jobs

It’s indisputable that a green economy must offer adequate numbers of good-quality jobs in order to have traction. At a time when the world needs to create 600 million jobs over the next decade, when some 200 million people confront unemployment and many others contend with insecure, dangerous, or low-paid work, sustainable and fulfilling livelihoods is a critically important goal. Thus, a focus on “green and decent jobs” has developed in recent years, which emphasizes employment that not only preserves and restores environmental quality, but also offers workers a secure income and a perspective for the future.

In my chapter, Making the Green Economy Work for Everybody in the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, I discuss the importance of addressing social green jobsinequities in order to achieve environmental sustainability. Collaborative solutions cannot develop if hampered by deep social divisions. Policies must be more inclusive to counter the growing sense of disillusionment in a world marked by tremendous gaps in wealth and power.

ILO Study Shows Link Between Social Equity and Green Jobs

Two recent studies by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) provide additional insights and innovative solutions in moving towards a green economy. The ILO’s report, Working Towards Sustainable Development, is part of the Green Jobs Initiative – a joint initiative between the ILO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Trade Union Confederation, and the International Organization of Employers.

The ILO report outlines necessary steps toward building a green economy, examining a range of sectors from agriculture, forestry and fisheries to energy production, transportation, and buildings. Additionally, the report states that employment opportunities must be improved by incorporating social concerns into sustainable development strategy. For an effective, new development model, ILO places social dialogue at the center of policy reform.

IRENA Study Points To Green Job Opportunities in Rural Regions of Developing World

While the ILO report details the role of green jobs in a broad range of sectors of the global economy, IRENA’s report, Renewable Energy: Jobs & Access, focuses on the employment opportunities of renewable energy projects in rural areas of the developing world. According to IRENA, at present, small scale renewable energy projectsmore than 1.3 billion people are without electricity access and another one billion have unreliable access. At least 2.7 billion worldwide lack access to modern fuels, relying instead on highly polluting kerosene or burning biomass, which cause dangerous indoor smoke.

Decentralized forms of renewable energy offer solutions to the lack of energy access. Through the development of biogas, various forms of solar energy, small-scale hydropower and improved cookstoves, substantial employment opportunities are possible.

Although most developing countries do not manufacture renewable energy equipment, jobs can be generated in the distribution, sales, installation, operation, and service of these systems. The IRENA report estimates if the UN target of providing sustainable energy for all by 2030 is reached, it could yield some four million jobs.

Small-scale renewable energy technologies are well adapted to the rural context, and the bulk of skills required for installing and operating them can be developed locally. Case studies highlight linkages between local job creation and renewable energy, such as integration of the renewable energy sector into local economies, skills and training, gender impacts, and standards and quality assurance measures.

These reports add to the literature emphasizing the importance of a green economy and the role of green jobs. Such studies are significant not only in generating better data on existing and potential green jobs, but also in attempting to improve our understanding of important qualitative aspects.

About the Author

Michael Renner is a Senior Researcher at the Worldwatch Institute. In 2007–08, Renner was the lead author of a report on green jobs commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme, and he has also consulted for the International Labour Organization on this topic. Renner is a Senior Advisor to the Institute for Environmental Security (The Hague/Brussels), serves on the board of the Global Policy Forum, and is a member of the International Program Advisory Committee to CoCooN (Conflict and Cooperation over Natural Resources in Developing Countries), Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.


More from The Worldwatch Institute:

Desperately Seeking: A Sustainable, Climate-Friendly Food System

Management Education: Planting The Seeds Of Sustainable Education

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