Jobs and labor will be among the priority issues to be discussed during Rio+20. The current scenario presents opportunities to migrate this to type of occupations, characterized by lower carbon emissions and social inclusion.
To create jobs becomes increasingly important in a world looking for sustainable options. In this scenario, green jobs can result a viable alternative when considering a 30% increase in world population by 2050.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) considers green jobs as an “emblem” of more sustainable economies and societies, and defines them as occupations that “reduce the environmental impact of enterprises and economic sectors, ultimately to levels that are sustainable”.
This definition, still under discussion, includes jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, reduce energy, materials and water consumption through high-efficiency strategies and de-carbonize the economy.
For this organization, green jobs need to be decent in order to help build a bridge towards a truly sustainable future. They have to eliminate all forms of child labour, secure health, social security and freedom of association.
Jobs are one of the seven critical issues that will be addressed in the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (see United for sustainable development)
“Green jobs hold the promise of a triple dividend: sustainable enterprises, poverty reduction and a job-centered economic recovery”, states the Director General of the ILO, Juan Somavia.
Argentina: going green
The country is strengthening the green jobs market by promoting training workshops, organized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
“There are global reports analyzing the importance of green jobs, and we share those criteria with the ILO: green jobs are forward-looking”, says during an exclusive interview with RIA Matías Barroetaveña, Undersecretary of Employment Policies and Professional Training. According to the specialist, this type of initiatives are included “within the strategic plan” of the Ministry.
Last year the Undersecretariat opened a Center for Environmental Education and Training, in partnership with the Fundación Espacios Verdes, and is currently preparing a second similar project, but with potential to increase its educational offer.
During that experience, 92 people from vulnerable sectors of society attended different workshops to learn vermiculture, weaving techniques, fabrication of eco-bags and paper pots and to reduce and transform different plastics. In this way, the Ministry not only taught different ways to enter the labour market, but did so taking into account the benefits it would generate to the environment.
According to Barroetaveña, the goal is not to have “a predatory but a sustainable over time and socially inclusive economic system”.
In the world there are currently different initiatives to create green jobs within a program started by ILO: China maps the impacts of climate change on the labor market; Costa Rica promotes ecotourism and sustainable agriculture; Brazil produces biofuels and generate green jobs in the social housing area, and Bangladesh implemented a waste management program (see sidebar: Green Jobs initiative).
Accordingly, Argentina conducts actions related to sustainable production and the use of environmentally friendly technologies in decent jobs.
For example, the National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA), through the Center for Research and Technological Development for Small Family Farming (IPAF), offers to small agricultural producers eco friendly tools that can be adapted to different regions in the country and their unique parameters.
In Hornillos, province of Jujuy, the IPAF NOA created a demonstrative water park. In this teaching facility it is possible to learn on alternate waterworks systems for water supply, the use of pipes, canals and bridges, irrigation, soil conservation, and water pumping equipment powered by renewable energy.
In turn, IPAF-Pampean region develops along with the National University of General Sarmiento, the Peasant Movement of Córdoba, the INTA Extension Agency Cruz del Eje and the Extension System of the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) a prototype of a solar refrigerator to provide to over 600 goats farmers living in northwestern Córdoba, that lack access to conventional energy networks. This device operates using the adsorption principle and it is based on the use of methanol-active carbon and a device that captures solar energy.
Investigators at INTA are also working in different research lines on urban waste management. The Labour Ministry is also interested in this initiative, as it considers that waste especially affects the most vulnerable sectors of society.
For Barroetaveña, the current waste management system “is not a long term solution and we see that there are interesting experiences all over the world where garbage is considered a good and can help create jobs”.
Nearly 2.3 million people found new jobs in the renewable energy sector, whereas clean technologies are the third largest sector for venture capital.
Green jobs have a considerable future growth potential: wind and solar energies can create 2.1 and 6.3 million jobs by 2030, respectively. Also, almost 630 billion dollars will be invested in removable energies this year, which would result in at least 20 million new jobs. In addition, 12 million people could be employed in the biomass sector biomass and related industries.
New job skills
Green jobs require a set of professional skills not currently exploited and, in some cases, not even identified. Consequently, the ILO, together with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), initiated an investigation to identify these competencies in 21 countries, representing 60 percent of world population and responsible for 49 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
According to the report, the transformation towards low carbon economies influences job skills in three ways: it generates a green restructuring that reduces the demand for certain occupations and causes the emergence of entirely new ones. These new occupations will be necessary for people currently working at existing jobs to help transform those in green jobs.
For this transformation to be fair, workers already in the labor market should have access to retraining, in order to enable them to align their skills on new technologies, new market demands and government regulations needed to meet the upcoming changes.
Matías Barroetaveña – Undersecretary of Employment Policies and Professional Training.
Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security
Matías Barroetaveña graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences (UBA). He has a Master in Public Policy (UNSAM) and a specialization in Public Policy and Development Management (Georgetown University, Washington, USA). Since 1997 he is director of the Institute Urban Observatory, in the city of Buenos Aires. Barroetaveña wrote numerous publications on the role of the State and Public Administration.