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Connecting the Dots: Integrating Green Jobs into Climate Diplomacy

Policy-makers are often wary of the large investments and efforts a sustainable transformation of the economy requires. But it can provide significant opportunities for economic growth and new jobs, as most recently the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate has highlighted. What are the main opportunities in terms of job creation?

Opportunities to make jobs more sustainable abound across the entire economy. Much of the attention has gone to the energy sector, which is not surprising given its strategic nature; more than 6 million jobs have been created by renewable energy development. There are also tremendous opportunities in transforming the more than 100 million jobs in the building sector, both in new construction and retrofitting. But by far the most people worldwide work in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and greener practices—such as organic farming or agroforestry—are critical to render them more sustainable and secure.

Could you highlight a case that you regard as particularly successful?

Rural Bangladesh, where some 3.3 million small solar home systems have been installed during the past decade, offers a particularly interesting example, for several reasons. Financed through micro-credit programmes, this initiative helps overcome widespread energy poverty and stimulates local businesses. It has created at least 70,000 jobs in selling, installing, and repairing solar panels and related activities. And it has put particular emphasis on training female technicians, thus contributing to the enhancement of women’s status.

Promoting and subsidising climate-friendly technologies may create more jobs in some sectors but can destroy jobs in conventional energy production, agriculture and transport. Is it not rather the case that the losses outweigh the benefits?

This is a question that has been examined by a broad range of econometric and other studies over the years. While the specific assumptions clearly influence each study’s findings, the overall conclusion that emerges is that there will likely be small net gains in job creation. But “just transition” policies nevertheless are critical to assist those individuals and communities who do lose their jobs (through retraining and skills development, investments to diversify and strengthen local economies and, where needed, income support and other social protection measures).

How can foreign policy makers use these insights to promote ambitious climate action?

Traditional foreign policy-making needs to be infused with a climate diplomacy that not only pursues international agreements on mitigation but also sharing of climate-related innovations and efforts to identify, replicate and scale-up best practices and experiences from across the world. Foreign policy can help promote these efforts across boundaries. Donor countries can play an important role in funding and otherwise enabling projects and programmes that create green jobs, such as has been shown by Bangladesh’s experience.


For further information on the topic, please consult the Climate Diplomacy Duscussion Brief Connecting the Dots: Integrating Green Jobs into Climate Diplomacy by Michael Renner (Worldwatch Institute).