Efforts to tackle climate change could result in the creation of millions of new green jobs in the coming decades, according to a new report from the United Nations on the impact of the emerging global green economy. Green jobs reduce the environmental impact of enterprises and economic sectors, ultimately to levels that are sustainable.
The report says that delivery of a "deep and decisive new climate agreement" when countries meet for the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009 will be vital for accelerating green job growth. The subject of intense international negotiations for the past two years, the agreement would be the successor to the Kyoto Protocol which expires at the end of 2012.
Entitled "Green Jobs: Towards Decent work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World," the UN report released Wednesday finds that changing patterns of employment and investment resulting from efforts to reduce climate change and its effects are already generating new jobs in many sectors and economies, and could create millions more in both developed and developing countries.
Yet, the process of climate change will continue to have negative effects on workers and their families, especially those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and tourism, the UN report also finds.
Green jobs are already being created throughout the world. In China, 600,000 people are already employed in solar thermal making and installing products such as solar water heaters, according to a study cited in the new report. In South Africa, 25,000 previously unemployed people are now employed in conservation as part of the Working for Water initiative.
Green jobs are on the horizon for other countries as well. In Nigeria, a biofuels industry based on cassava and sugar cane crops may sustain an industry employing 200,000 people.
India could generate 900,000 jobs by 2025 in biomass gasification of which 300,000 would be in the manufacturing of stoves and 600,000 in areas such as processing into briquettes and pellets and the fuel supply chain, the study estimates.
Though the report is generally optimistic about the creation of new jobs to address climate change, it also warns that many of these new jobs can be "dirty, dangerous and difficult."
Sectors of concern include agriculture and recycling where all too often low pay, insecure employment contracts and exposure to health hazardous materials needs to change fast, the report states.
The report warns that too few green jobs are being created for the most vulnerable. These vulnerable people are the 1.3 billion working poor, who make up 43 percent of the global workforce and earn too little to lift them and their dependants above the poverty threshold of US$2 per person, per day, and the estimated 500 million youth who will be seeking work over the next 10 years.
The report calls for "just transitions" for those affected by transformation to a green economy and for those who must also adapt to climate change with access to alternative economic and employment opportunities for enterprises and workers.
Among other key findings in the report:
- The global market for environmental products and services is projected to double from US$1.37 trillion per year at present to US$2.74 trillion by 2020, according to a study cited in the report.
- Half of this 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.
- Recycling and waste management employs an estimated 10 million in China and 500,000 in Brazil today. This sector is expected to grow rapidly in many countries in the face of escalating commodity prices.