Green Jobs: From a gloomy present to a bright, green future?

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The media are full of doom and gloom about the economic situation around the world. Is there a silver lining to the dark clouds hanging over the economy and the other threats we face like climate change and a global food crisis? Some organizations think that green jobs and a global green new deal could be a way out and actually turn the crisis into an opportunity to build a better future. Peter Poschen, Senior Advisor, Sustainable Development & Climate Change, Policy Integration Department from the International Labour Organization (ILO) gave us more information on the ILO’s green jobs initiative.

 Peter Poschen
Peter Poschen

“The primary goal of the ILO today is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.” – Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General

Mr Poschen, what is your role?

My role is to help develop and roll out an ILO programme based on the Green Jobs Initiative launched by the Director-General at the International Labour Conference in 2007 in his report on ‘Decent work for sustainable development’. One section is on climate change as an emerging global challenge as we believe it will have major repercussions on enterprises and the labour market.

What is your definition of decent work and green jobs ?

Decent work is a combination of four characteristics.

  • Productive employment providing decent income but at least the ability to earn a living wage
  • Adequate levels of social security
  • Respect for workers’ rights, including the right to organise and bargain collectively
  • The right to participate in decisions which affect workers own lives through organisation and representation, from the workplace to the international level.

These characteristics apply to all workers in all countries and sectors, even if the levels of incomes or social security considered adequate may vary from country to country.

Green jobs are decent jobs – as defined above – which also play a role in reducing the environmental footprint or production and consumption, in terms of raw material input needed; energy usage; greenhouse gas emissions; pollution and waste; or jobs which help restore the functioning of ecosytems.

 Installing photo-voltaic cells
Installing photo-voltaic cells

As an example, readily identifiable green jobs include individuals who install windmills or photovoltaic power generators which are clean, renewable sources of energy. There are also what you could call the unsung heroes of greener economies. These are less visible, but equally important green jobs which include diverse profiles such as facilities managers helping reduce heating and lighting consumption; IT managers not buying equipment with standby functions; and even bankers encouraging clients to invest in specific energy efficiency in buildings or factories. These will play a crucial role in making the entire economy more environmentally sustainable, not just green sectors. We also include jobs helping countries to adapt to climate change like those in public works programmes in the Caribbean creating coastal defences against hurricanes and preventing flooding from tropical downpours.

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