According to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), a shift to low carbon production over the next twenty years would strengthen the economy. In addition to increasing sustainability, this shift has the potential to create a net gain of 15 to 60 million jobs throughout the world. In comparison, the report finds that business-as-usual scenarios will lower productivity levels by 2.4 percent by 2030 and 7.2 percent by 2050.
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, energy, resource-intensive manufacturing, recycling, building and transport would be the sectors most affected by a shift towards a green economy. In total, by 2030 more than half of the global workforce would be affected by the changes. Directly affected sectors, such as renewable energy and recycling, have already created 3.1 million green jobs and would continue to grow if green policies are enacted. Indirectly affected industries such as building, agriculture, and transport would see new investment as demand for efficiency rises.
On a country-by-country analysis, the report expects emerging and developing countries to see the highest net gains in employment. The study finds that a green economy has the potential to lift millions out of poverty by providing better job, energy, and food security for those affected. Furthermore, the report finds that a green economy can increase the social inclusion of certain underprivileged groups, such as waste pickers, by better integrating them into the global economy.
In order to realize the economic and social benefits of a green economy, the report suggests combining specific economic reforms with socially conscious development. Suggested policies include the promotion of sustainable forestry policies (REDD+), support for small and medium enterprises, and retraining for people in carbon-intensive industries. The report concludes that a shift towards green development is economically and socially desirable as well as achievable.
Photo: Waste-recycler in Bhopura, India. Courtesy of mackenzienicole via flickr