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    Outlook for “Green Jobs” / Prognóstico para “empleos verdes”

    By Keith R | December 15, 2008

    Topics: Economics & the Environment, Environmental Protection | No Comments »

    1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

    While the idea of creating a “green economy” with “green jobs” has been around quite a while, it really started to gain serious consideration as the climate change debate heated up,  and recently moved front-and-center during the US presidential elections and the debates about how best to respond to the global financial crisis (here, here, here and here).  The concept already has even attracted the fire of professional critics.

    Trouble is, the true potential for “green employment” has remained poorly defined and elusive.  A few weeks back the International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report (English; executive summary in Spanish) taking a stab at defining it at the global level and discussing how policymakers should tackle it.  I think it’s worthwhile reading that I am adding it to the Economics and Environment section of the Temas Reading List.

    What does it tell us, particularly for Latin America and the Caribbean?


    Before discussing Green Jobs: Toward Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World, I want to state upfront a couple of assumptions and perspectives I utilize in examining the report and its implications for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) nations.

    First, I don’t feel personally qualified to pass judgment on the quality of the report’s analysis and the confidence we should have in its conclusions. I’m not an economist by training and I don’t analyze labor markets for a living.  But I note that the report was co-produced by the Worldwatch Institute and Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, under the watchful eyes of the ILO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).  Given the organizations involved and their track records, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that this is a honest, serious effort.

    Second, I had become convinced, even before reading this report, that (1) there exists enormous potential for “green” employment worldwide in the coming years; (2) the economic debates now underway because of the financial crisis pose a unique opportunity to substantially rethink and reshape our economies, and if we seize the challenge, we should seek to do it in as “green” a fashion as we can.

    Third, I see the role of the report not as the final word on the green economy, but rather as a catalyst for getting us all to discuss seriously and openly where the potential, challenges and opportunities are, and what policy options make the most sense to get us to a greener economy.  Some of the specifics of the analysis might change if re-done today in the wake of the global financial crisis (the report was finished before the collapse of Wall Street), but its general outlines and thrust, I think, would remain the same.

    Fourth, bear in mind that the focus, the lens through which I deal with all topics here in The Temas Blog, is Latin America and the Caribbean.  So if you’re looking for a discussion of what the report means for US or European or Chinese policy, then I’m afraid you should keep looking.

    Fifth, like it or not, many countries, developed and developing, have already decided that “green” is the future, and they are already jockeying to establish themselves as the dominant green leader in segments of the global economy.  Policymakers and business and labor leaders in LAC need to start assessing and shaping their nation’s role in such a future or else risk missing out on a major economic development wave.  As the report says,

    Companies and regions that become leaders in green innovation, design, and technology development are more likely to retain and create new green jobs. But workers and communities dependent on mining, fossil fuels, and smokestack industries—or on companies that are slow to rise to the environmental challenge—will confront a substantial challenge to diversify their economies.

    What is a “Green” Job?

    The report defines “green jobs” as

    work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R&D), administrative, and service activities that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. Specifically, but not exclusively, this includes jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce energy, materials, and water consumption through high-efficiency strategies; de-carbonize the economy; and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution.

    The report admits, however, that this may be difficult to define in practice.  Some jobs are more far-reaching and transformational than others.  And whether work is “green” in some areas — such as improving efficiency in water, energy and materials use —  depends on where one sets the bar, and that bar will likely move over time (i.e., what is considered efficient today may not be so regarded five or ten years from now).

    Not Enough Just to be “Green”

    The report also argues that it is not enough for employment in “green” tasks, companies or sectors.   It should also be decent work — with adequate pay, safe working conditions, respect worker rights and offer job security and advancement prospects.

    It is not enough, for example,  for catadores in Brazil to be working in recycling — they should have decent living and working conditions.  It is not enough to help bring in the sugarcane crop for ethanol production or palm oil for biodiesel production if the field worker’s conditions are akin to modern slavery.

    Probable Shifts in Employment

    Broadly speaking, the move toward greater sustainability will affect employment four ways:

    Overall, the global market for environmental products and services is projected to double by 2020, from US$1,370 billion per year at present to US$2,740 billion:

    Energy Supply

    Energy Efficiency/Buildings

    A CVRD locomotive run on biodieselTransportation

    Basic Industry

    Food and Agriculture


    Recommended Policies

    The report stresses that “forward-thinking government policies” are important for funding, goal-setting, providing infrastructure and maintaining a level playing field.  Key policies promoted by the report include:

    Challenges To Creating More Green Employment

    Also worth noting are the broad challenges to creating more green employment worldwide identified by the report:


    From the International Labor Organization (ILO):

    Landmark new report says emerging green economy could create tens of millions of new “Green Jobs”

    A new, landmark study on the impact of an emerging global “green economy” on the world of work says efforts to tackle climate change could result in the creation of millions of new “green jobs” in the coming decades.

    The new report entitled Green Jobs: Towards Decent work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World, says 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.

    However, the report also finds that the process of climate change, already underway, will continue to have negative effects on workers and their families, especially those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and tourism. Action to tackle climate change as well as to cope with its effects is therefore urgent and should be designed to generate decent jobs.

    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, especially but not exclusively in developing economies, include agriculture and recycling where all too often low pay, insecure employment contracts and exposure to health hazardous materials needs to change fast.

    What’s more, it says too few green jobs are being created for the most vulnerable: the 1.3 billion working poor (43 per cent of the global workforce) in the world with earnings too low to lift them and their dependants above the poverty threshold of US$2 per person, per day, or for the estimated 500 million youth who will be seeking work over the next 10 years.

    Green jobs reduce the environmental impact of enterprises and economic sectors, ultimately to levels that are sustainable. The report focuses on “green jobs” in agriculture, industry, services and administration that contribute to preserving or restoring the quality of the environment. It also calls for measures to ensure that they constitute “decent work” that helps reduce poverty while protecting the environment.

    The report says that climate change itself, adaptation to it and efforts to arrest it by reducing emissions have far-reaching implications for economic and social development, for production and consumption patterns and thus for employment, incomes and poverty reduction. These implications harbour both major risks and opportunities for working people in all countries, but particularly for the most vulnerable in the least developed countries and in small island States.

    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. According to the report, meaningful social dialogue between government, workers and employers will be essential not only to ease tensions and support better informed and more coherent environmental, economic and social policies, but for all social partners to be involved in the development of such policies.

    Among other key findings in the report:

    The report provides examples of massive green jobs creation, throughout the world, such as: 600,000 people in China who are already employed in solar thermal making and installing products such as solar water heaters; in Nigeria, a bio fuels industry based on cassava and sugar cane crops might 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; and in South Africa, 25,000 previously unemployed people are now employed in conservation as part of the ‘Working for Water’ initiative.

    Pathways to green jobs and decent work

    “A sustainable economy can no longer externalize environmental and social costs. The price society pays for the consequences of pollution or ill health for example, must be reflected in the prices paid in the marketplace. Green jobs therefore need to be decent work”, the report says.

    The report recommends a number of pathways to a more sustainable future directing investment to low-cost measures that should be taken immediately including: assessing the potential for green jobs and monitoring progress to provide a framework for policy and investment; addressing the current skills bottleneck by meeting skill requirements because available technology and resources for investments can only be deployed effectively with qualified entrepreneurs and skilled workers; and ensuring individual enterprises’ and economic sectors’ contribution to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases with labour-management initiatives to green workplaces.

    The report finds that green markets have thrived and transformation has advanced most where there has been strong and consistent political support at the highest level, including targets, penalties and incentives such as feed-in laws and efficiency standards for buildings and appliances as well as proactive research and development.

    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 report was funded and commissioned by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) under a joint Green Jobs Initiative* with the International Labour Office (ILO), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), which together represent millions of workers and employers worldwide. It was produced by the Worldwatch Institute, with technical assistance from the Cornell University Global Labour Institute.


    * The Green Jobs Initiative is a partnership established in 2007 between UNEP, the ILO and the ITUC, joined by the IOE in 2008. The Initiative was launched in order to promote opportunity, equity and just transitions, to mobilize governments, employers and workers to engage in dialogue on coherent policies and effective programs leading to a green economy with green jobs and decent work for all. The ILO is a tripartite UN agency that brings together governments, employers and workers of its member states in common action to promote decent work throughout the world. IOE is recognized as the only organization at the international level that represents the interests of business in the labor and social policy fields. Today, it consists of 146 national employer organizations from 138 countries from all over the world. ITUC is the International Trade Union Confederation. Its primary mission is the promotion and defense of workers’ rights and interests, through international cooperation between trade unions, global campaigning and advocacy within the major global institutions. The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates. UNEP is the voice for the environment in the United Nations system. It is an advocate, educator, catalyst and facilitator, promoting the wise use of the planet’s natural assets for sustainable development.


    Desde Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT):

    Un nuevo informe dice que la emergente economía verde podría crear decenas de millones de nuevos “Empleos Verdes”

    Un nuevo estudio sobre el impacto de la emergente “economía verde” en el mundo del trabajo, dice que los esfuerzos para combatir el cambio climático podrían conducir a la creación de millones de “empleos verdes” en las próximas décadas.

    El informe titulado: Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World (“Empleos verdes: Hacia el trabajo decente en un mundo sostenible con bajas emisiones de carbono”), afirma que la transformación de modelos de empleo e inversiones como consecuencia de los esfuerzos por reducir el cambio climático y sus efectos generan nuevos empleos en muchos sectores y economías, y podrían crear millones de puestos más, tanto en los países industrializados como en países en desarrollo.

    Pero el informe también alerta que el proceso de cambio climático en curso continuará teniendo efectos negativos sobre los trabajadores y sus familias, en especial sobre aquellos cuyo modo de vida depende de la agricultura y el turismo. Es urgente que las acciones para combatir el cambio climático, además de enfrentar sus efectos, sean diseñadas para generar trabajo decente, agrega.

    Aunque el informe es en general optimista acerca de la creación de nuevos empleos para abordar el cambio climático, también alerta que muchos de estos trabajos pueden ser “sucios, peligrosos y difíciles”. Las áreas que despiertan preocupación –en especial aunque no exclusivamente en las economías en desarrollo– incluyen la agricultura y el reciclado, en donde es necesario modificar con rapidez situaciones de bajos salarios, inseguridad de los contratos de trabajo y exposición a materiales peligrosos.

    El informe dice además que se crean muy pocos empleos verdes para los más vulnerables, es decir los 1.300 millones de trabajadores pobres (43 por ciento de la fuerza de trabajo mundial) del mundo con ingresos tan bajos que no les permiten a ellos ni a sus familiares superar el umbral de la pobreza de 2 dólares por persona al día, o los cerca de 500 millones de jóvenes que buscarán trabajo en los próximos 10 años.

    Los empleos verdes reducen el impacto ambiental de las empresas y el sector económico hasta niveles sostenibles. El informe se concentra en “empleos verdes” en la agricultura, industria, servicios y administración que contribuyan a preservar o restablecer la calidad del ambiente. Hace además un llamado a adoptar medidas que garanticen “trabajo decente” con el fin de reducir la pobreza al mismo tiempo que se protege el ambiente.

    El informe dice que el cambio climático en si mismo, el proceso de adaptación y los esfuerzos para frenarlo al reducir las emisiones, tienen repercusiones de gran alcance en el desarrollo económico y social, en los modelos de producción y, por lo tanto, en el empleo, ingresos y reducción de la pobreza. Estas repercusiones implican tanto mayores riesgos como oportunidades de empleo para los trabajadores en todos los países, pero en particular para los más vulnerables, en los países menos desarrollados y en los pequeños Estados Insulares.

    El informe hace un llamado a lograr “transiciones justas” para aquellos afectados por el cambio hacia una economía verde y para aquellos que deben adaptarse al cambio climático, facilitando el acceso a economías alternativas y oportunidades de empleo para empresas y trabajadores. De acuerdo con el informe, es esencial un diálogo social entre gobiernos, trabajadores y empleadores, no sólo para aliviar las tensiones y sostener políticas ambientales, económicas y sociales mejor informadas y más coherentes, sino también para involucrar a los interlocutores sociales en el desarrollo de estas políticas.

    Otras conclusiones importantes del informe:

    El informe ofrece ejemplos de la creación masiva de empleos verdes en todo el mundo: en China, 600.000 personas están empleadas en la producción de energía térmica y en la instalación de productos como calentadores de agua solares; en Nigeria, la industria de biocombustibles basada en el cultivo de la mandioca y la caña de azúcar podría sustentar y emplear a 200.000 personas; en India, para 2015 se podrían crear 900.000 empleos en la gasificación de biomasa, de los cuales 300.000 en la fabricación de hornos y 600.000 en áreas como la fabricación de briquetas y gránulos y en la cadena de suministro de combustible; en Sudáfrica, 25.000 personas desempleadas, trabajan ahora en la conservación como parte de la iniciativa “Working for Water”.

    El camino hacia empleos verdes y trabajo decente

    “Una economía sostenible no puede continuar externalizando los costos ambientales y sociales. El precio que la sociedad paga por las consecuencias de la contaminación o las enfermedades, debe reflejarse en los precios del mercado. Por lo tanto los empleos verdes deben ser trabajo decente”, dice el informe.

    El informe recomienda un número de alternativas para avanzar hacia un futuro más sostenible al orientar inversiones hacia medidas de bajo costo que deberían ser tomadas de inmediato y que incluyen: la evaluación del potencial para empleos verdes y vigilancia de los progresos para constituir un marco para políticas e inversiones; abordar el actual cuello de botella en las calificaciones profesionales y satisfacer las exigencias de capacitación porque la disponibilidad de tecnología y recursos para inversiones sólo puede ser desarrollada de manera eficaz con empresarios calificados y trabajadores capacitados; y garantizar la contribución de las empresas y del sector económico en la reducción de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero con iniciativas para generar empleo en lugares de trabajo verdes.

    El informe muestra que los mercados verdes prosperan y la transformación avanza sobre todo en los países donde ha habido un apoyo político fuerte y consistente en los más altos niveles, incluyendo objetivos, sanciones e incentivos, como leyes de introducción y normas de eficiencia para edificios y electrodomésticos así como investigación activa y desarrollo.

    El informe recomienda además la redistribución de subsidios, beneficios de las ecotasas y/o de la subasta de los créditos de carbón que generan enormes flujos de recursos de cientos de miles de millones de dólares. Aquellos generados en Estados Unidos y Europa bastarían para apoyar economías más verdes y la creación de empleos verdes tanto en el sur como en el norte industrializado. La cooperación Sur-Sur puede desempeñar un papel más importante al transferir tecnologías probadas y conocimientos prácticos.

    El informe dice que el logro de un nuevo acuerdo sobre clima más exhaustivo y decisivo, cuando los países se reúnan para la Cumbre de las Naciones Unidas sobre clima que se realizará en Copenhague a finales de 2009, será vital para la aceleración del crecimiento de los empleos verdes.

    El informe fue encargado y financiado por el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA), en el marco de la iniciativa conjunta “Empleos verdes”* del PNUMA, la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT), la Organización Internacional de Empleadores (OIE) y la Confederación Sindical Internacional (CSI), que juntas representan millones de empleadores y trabajadores en todo el mundo. Fue elaborado por el Instituto de la Vigilancia Mundial (Worldwatch Institute) con asistencia técnica Cornell University Global Labour Institute.


    * La Iniciativa Empleos Verdes es una asociación establecida en 2007 entre el PNUMA, la OIT y la CSI. La OIE se adhirió en 2008. La Iniciativa fue lanzada con el objetivo de promover oportunidades, equidad y transiciones justas; movilizar a los gobiernos, empleadores y trabajadores a participar del diálogo sobre políticas coherentes y programas eficaces orientados hacia una economía verde con empleos verdes y los trabajadores de sus estados miembros en una acción común para promover trabajo decente en el mundo. La OIE es reconocida como la única organización a nivel internacional que representa los intereses de las empresas en el ámbito de las políticas laborales y sociales. En la actualidad, está formada por 146 organizaciones de empleadores de 138 países en todo el mundo. CSI es la Confederación Internacional de Trabajadores. Su misión principal es la promoción y la defensa de los derechos e intereses de los trabajadores, a través de la cooperación internacional entre sindicatos, campañas globales y actividades de concientización dentro de las principales instituciones mundiales. La CSI representa 168 millones de trabajadores en 155 países y territorios y tiene 311 afiliados nacionales. PNUMA es la voz para el ambiente del sistema de las Naciones Unidas. Es promotor, educador y catalizador al apoyar un uso inteligente de los recursos naturales del planeta para lograr un desarrollo sostenible.

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