May 29, 2009

“Greening” the economy across the board

Jim Harris

By: Jordana Levine

We are on the verge of an economic transformation to a greener economy, notes the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Compared to fossil fuels, renewable energy generates more jobs per dollar invested.  Looking at the countries that had data available, the world employed nearly 2.3 million people in the renewable energy sector in 2006.  The UNEP report estimates that there could be over 20 million workers in this area by 2030.

Energy efficiency retrofits of buildings not only creates new jobs it also reduces carbon emissions.  It has been estimated that this could reduce CO2 emissions by 29% by 2020 at no extra cost, thereby fighting climate change and avoiding the increase in extreme weather it causes.

Other new jobs while decreasing damage to the environment include the development and alteration of mass transportation and creating small, sustainable farms.

The UNEP points out the importance of having a properly developed system to support the “greening” of our economy.  Some areas that need to be addressed are the importance of sharing research both within the community and worldwide, job training for the new types of work that will arise, and assistance for the affected workers who may lose jobs in areas that cloud up the environment with smog.

A solid green jobs strategy will help ensure that the money spent between now and 2030 generates workplaces and jobs with low carbon emissions.  The UNEP report points out that green jobs will “radiate” across various workplaces, creating a greener economy overall.

The UNEP Background Paper on Green Jobs focuses on the Green Jobs Initiative, which is a collaborative project of the UNEP, International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Trade Union Confederation (ATUC).

The Green Jobs Initiative looks at, analyzes and promotes employment in relation to climate change.  It supports jobs that are environmentally sustainable and development that contributes to the environment’s well-being.  These “green jobs” are defined as positions in agriculture, manufacturing, research and development, administrative, and services activities meant to combat environmental issues.

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