Governments and Workers Discuss Opportunities for Green Jobs in the Area of Climate Change Mitigation

Green Jobs in renewable energies, sustainable agriculture, forestry and fishery, transport, waste management, and green construction help to mitigate climate change and at the same time create social benefits. In order to discuss different perspectives on the issue, share new research findings and information on specific sectors where green jobs can be created and identify opportunities and gaps encountered by countries in the transition to a green economy the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) organized a social talk on “Green Jobs and Mitigation to Climate Change”, 2 December 2011 in the margins of COP17/CMP7 of the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa. This discussion was part of a broader series of social talks sponsored by the UN Task Team on the Social Dimensions of Climate Change formed by 20 UN agencies.

Ms. Ana Sanchez, from the Green Jobs Programme of the ILO presented the event and welcomed the participants. The first speaker, Mr. Llorenç Serrano, Confederal Secretary of the Spanish trade union Comisiones Obreras, presented the work done by his organization in the area of green economy and green jobs. He presented four studies undertaken by the Trade Union Institute on Work, Health and Environment (ISTAS) on job creation potential in renewable energies, sustainable mobility, refurbishment of buildings and sustainable waste management and recycling. The four reports showed the important positive effects in terms of job creation in the short, medium and long term of policies and programmes aiming at incentivizing these four sectors. In addition, findings regarding the labor conditions for green jobs as well as the gender dimensions were presented.

The second speaker was Ms. Yvette Pena Lopez from the USA-based Blue Green Alliance, a coalition formed by environmental NGOs and the labor movement. Ms. Pena Lopez presented the recently launched campaign Jobs 21. The initiative compiles a number of proposals with the goal of creating jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems and further developing the industrial capacity of the American economy.

Finally, Ms. Karen Hedeman from the National Council for Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanism of the Dominican Republic explained the objectives and expected benefits of the national UN CC:Learn project that will be implemented in the Dominican Republic over the next 18 months. Ms. Hedeman highlighted that in order to benefit from the job potential of a green economy, countries needed to make sure that national education and training programmes corresponded to the skills required for green jobs. Therefore, the Dominican Republic was developing a National Strategy to Strengthen Human Resources and Skills to Advance, Green Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development as part of the UN CC:Learn project.

Key points that emerged from the discussions include:

  • The potential for the creation of green jobs is not yet fully explored in most countries. Workers, trade unions and civil society have assessed these potential and are providing proposals to their governments on how to advance the transition to a green economy.
  • Examples from countries suggest that it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time create employment opportunities that will result in strengthened economies and more equitable societies.
  • Sectors with high green jobs potential include sustainable mobility plans, renewable energies and energy efficiency measures, green industrial policies and waste management and recycling.
  • For that to happen, capacity development and skills for green jobs need to be an essential element of the equation of countries to mitigate climate change.

Green Jobs are decent jobs that are created when the environmental impacts of enterprises, sectors and economies as a whole are reduced. Areas with high green jobs potential are energy efficiency, renewable energies, sustainable management of agriculture, forestry and fishery, green construction, waste management and recycling as well as areas related to the adaptation to climate change impacts. If policies to create green jobs are designed to benefit the most vulnerable, providing them additional incomes, alternative employment opportunities and enhancing their working conditions, green jobs will help countries in eradicating poverty, boosting equity, promoting social cohesion and overall setting the path towards sustainable development.

For further information about the meeting please contact Ms. Ana Sanchez (sanchezab@ilo.org) or Ms. Amrei Horstbrink (amrei.horstbrink@unitar.org).