The Rio+20 Earth Summit
Actions for a Green Economy and Jobs
Reducing pollution, increasing efficiency and deploying clean energy can be valuable job creators. In the United States, approximately 2.7 million clean economy jobs have been created in the past decade; in China, more than 4.5 million green jobs can be created by the end of this decade. Check out Environmental Entrepreneurs' weekly tally of clean energy jobs created in the United States.
The Earth Summit will be a key turning point for the transition to a greener economy. Here are some priorities for action:
Integrate Environmental Costs into National and Corporate Accounting
As long as the measure of success for a country or a corporation relies on a single economic number -- i.e. Gross Domestic Product -- we can never achieve sustainable development. According to UNEP's Green Economy Report, this provides a "distorted lens for economic performance, particularly because such measures fail to reflect the extent to which production and consumption activities may be drawing down natural capital."
As an example, the world's stock exchanges have already invested in five times more fossil fuel reserves than we can safely burn to avoid a dangerous tipping point for the climate (learn more at Carbon Tracker Initiative).
At the Earth Summit, participants need to agree to:
- Replace or supplement GDP with broader indicators, such as the UN System of Environmental and Economic Accounting.
- Accelerate green economy investment initiatives through initiatives such as the Principles for Responsible Investment.
Increase Support for Sustainable Jobs Training and Education
Clearly, there is no path toward a more sustainable economy without better education and support by governments and corporations. Here are some no-nonsense policies that could drive the next generation of workers into the clean economy.
- Consider age in green economy jobs statistics and policies. Job creation programs need to help youth. But policies cannot fix what they cannot measure. The lack of reliable information on green economy jobs holders is a fundamental obstacle to defining effective jobs programs. A UN-sponsored collaboration between the International Labour Organization, UNEP and other relevant agencies should systemically monitor how much youth are benefiting from these programs and provide assistance to national labor statistics agencies on tracking these data.
- Improve access to capital for young entrepreneurs. Recent graduates from sustainability programs are some of the best equipped to jump-start a more sustainable economy. Governments can provide support to attract private capital for young entrepreneurs. Banks can partner with community organizations, secondary schools and community colleges to train youth in green skills and entrepreneurship.
- Make green economy jobs for youth a priority of community development initiatives. This can be accomplished by fostering partnerships between green business councils, newly formed local sustainable development planning offices, and community organizations (read the ILO report on green jobs in the U.S.). Synergies are possible between green economy jobs for youth and microfinance, empowerment of women and other groups facing barriers to employment, adaptation to climate change, and addressing rapid urbanization in the developing world. In the United States, President Obama recently announced a Summer Jobs+ program for youth that could promote green economy jobs if structured properly.
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