by Mehrin Karim
Green energy and green technology have become an integral part of tackling climate change. However, production processes are still leaving behind carbon footprints that impact the environment. The author writes on the next stage of green initiatives, green jobs, and how this is shaping up the future for workplaces and workers.
It is predicted that by 2050, the world’s population is going to reach 9 billion people and there will be a need for more food, water, and energy. Our current growth patterns are highly inefficient and stand in the way of truly sustainable development. In 2020, Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described Bangladesh as the “best example of a successful case” to tackle climate change and now more than ever, there is an extra need for the nation to prove it to the rest of the world.
Bangladesh has been well prepared in addressing climate change issues and one thing we need to invest on to attain the SDGs are Green Jobs. Not only should the utilization of resources and reduction of emissions be achieved by a green economy, but also an increase in employment in sectors based on sustainable resource management and protection should be looked upon. A greener future also promises a huge potential during much-needed employment growth.
What is considered as Green Jobs? Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources or businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. And to establish green jobs, it will require green investment which in turn will be a blessing for the environment, this will generate a “green economic multiplier effect”. Green jobs are mostly concentrated in OECD countries and still limited in developing countries.
Green jobs initiatives in Bangladesh commenced as a follow up to the International Conference held in Niigata in April 2008. The Ministry of Labor and Employment took the lead for inter-ministerial consultations and the way forward but not much has been done and there are greater prospects and opportunities around it.
As the current workforce is concentrated with youth and this particular group is becoming more aware of protecting the environment and contributing positively for the earth, there will be a much need for green jobs to attract them in the industry. They also tend to possess stronger aspirations for work that benefit society as an entire, in this case by contributing to environmental sustainability.
With unemployment rising due to the pandemic, there is now a chance to reconfigure the jobs landscape while putting the environment centre stage.
How can Bangladesh achieve this? Our nation is mostly agriculture-based and as we are moving forward, employment in agriculture has declined from 51 per cent in 1999-2000 to 40 per cent in 2016-17 while employment in manufacturing has increased from 9.5 per cent to 14 per cent during the same period. Jobs that have a direct, positive impact on the planet traditionally involve renewable energy, electric transport, energy efficiency, wastewater management or nature conservation. But right now, as more sectors transition to low-carbon models, every job has the potential to become “green”.
Major greening shifts in the economy and the labour market of Bangladesh have occurred in renewable energy and waste management, but rather inadequately in-service sector and manufacturing such as tourism, telecommunication and transport. Skills for green jobs are instrumental in bringing about the desired change for sustainable development but the shifts in the sectors remain weak mainly due to inadequate policy and institutional support. Bangladesh has undertaken several policies and programs for adaptation to climate change and mitigation of its adverse impact, but it still lacks in policy for the formation and development of skills for greening the economy.
A rational policy for the formation and development of skills and training for green jobs in all the potential sectors should be put in situ and implemented.
What can be done? Pro-employment macroeconomic policies such as Monetary policy- putting emphasis on quantitative easing, credit expansion and Fiscal policy – stimulus packages; strategies to create fiscal space such as reduced tax benefits in order to support green start-ups can be put in place.
Importance should be given to green investment policies and improving the investment climate, including investment in infrastructure, in green production and R&D. Job orientation measures such as publicizing/promoting green jobs prospects and vacancies in green enterprises can be created to attract more concerned youth.
Policies and Labor manuals can be structured in order to re-skilling programs targeting youth in unstable or recently acquired jobs in sectors/enterprises under pressure from environmental regulations or market changes (e.g. plastic packaging material production, eco-tourism, brick and cement industry, RMG industry etc.).
Bangladesh is very successful in employment from TVET system and the present TVET system can be made to be environment-driven focusing on greener jobs perspectives. Further research and regular data collection should be undertaken with a view to updating the knowledge and progress in greening the economy.
Our neighbouring country, India has established the Sector Skill Council for Green Jobs which is a joint initiative by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), established in 2015. It addresses the shortage of skilled workers in the installation and maintenance of solar panels. Its broader mission is “to identify skilling needs of service users as well as manufacturers and service providers within the Green Businesses sector, and implement nation-wide, industry-led, collaborative skills development and entrepreneur development initiatives that will enable India’s potential for “Green Businesses”. Much can be learned from this initiative which can help our nation to take a step forward.
As more and more industries around the world are becoming environmentally conscious, a nation that offers green jobs will be a pulling factor to attract more foreign direct investment which is a boost to the economy. A dedicated zone can be established with all the additional services that will cater to green jobs with proper new greening technologies and skillset.
Our National Employment policy should have a vision and a concerted and coherent framework linking the employment interventions and stakeholders focusing on green employment skills. A clear work plan with a clear distribution of responsibilities and a detailed work plan can be formulated.
Labour force surveys should consider taking into account the percentage of employment that is engaged in green jobs in all the sectors which can also provide a clear indication on the direction the country is heading.
Greening the economy should be a continuing priority for the Government, civil society and other stakeholders if we as a nation need to move forward. We are not far off – with the right policies, funds and institutions, it is time for action. The emerging economy of Bangladesh will flourish if proper investment is made in this sector with a strong emphasis on encouraging companies to take responsibility for promoting sustainable development by applying best practices and promoting environmentally responsible corporate actions and information policies.
Mehrin Karim is a Research Officer at UNDP. She can be reached at [email protected]