Cornell University

September 24 2008

Green Jobs

A Report to the World

When the world's largest green jobs analysis was unveiled today at the United Nations, Jill Kubit and Sean Sweeney of the ILR School's Global Labor Institute were in the room, ready to answer questions.

They are intimate with the thousands of facts in "Green Jobs:  Toward Sustainable Work in a Low-Carbon World;" they co-authored the report with Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute.

The first comprehensive study of the "green economy" and its impact on the work world is a project of the Green Jobs Initiative, a joint collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and international worker and employer organizations.

The study aims to analyze and promote green jobs in the transition toward a more sustainable economy.  The study was funded by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Optimistic findings in the report include:

  • green jobs could grow by the millions by 2040
  • billions are being spent this decade to retrofit buildings, creating jobs
  • "clean tech" investment shot up 60 percent from 2006 to 2007, to $148 billion
  • renewable energy jobs – now at 2.3 million -- are expanding rapidly

Formidable challenges to advancing the green economy are also cited:

  • only a tiny portion of work worldwide can be described as green
  • many "green jobs" may be "dirty, dangerous and difficult"
  • energy research spending is down for government and the private sector
  • green employment does not have a foothold in most developing countries, home to 80 percent of the world's workers.

The shift to a green economy is not helping those who perhaps need jobs the most – the 1.3 billion people who lives on less than $2 a day and who comprise 43 percent of the global workforce, the report says. 

"There is nothing intrinsically fair or just about either the process of becoming green or the end result," according to the report. "The issue is not simply about the transition itself, but what follows the transition – the goal being a new mode of production and consumption that allows for greater social inclusion, equity, and opportunity."

The report will also be presented today at the Columbia Business School as a panel discussion and at a union event with the International Trade Union Confederation and the AFL-CIO.

On Sept. 30, the international development community, researchers and others will be debriefed at a Carnegie Council Policy Dialogue meeting.

All events will be held in Manhattan.

The United Nations Climate Convention meeting will be held in Copenhagen in 2009; the  report's policy recommendations for the international community include improved access to investment for developing countries and boosting energy efficiency in buildings and industry.

The report is available for download at www.unep.org/civil_society/Publications/index.asp.  Partners in its creation include:

  • Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization, based in Washington, D.C., www.worldwatch.org
  • United Nations Environment Programme, coordinates international environmental action, based in Nairobi, www.unep.org
  • International Labour Organization, works with governments, employers and workers to promote decent work throughout the world, based in Geneva, www.ilo.org
  • International Trade Union Confederation, world's largest trade union federation, based in Brussels, www.ituc-csi.org
  • International Organisation of Employers, represents employer organizations from 139 countries in the labor and social policy fields, based in Geneva, http://ioe-emp.org

Kubit and Sweeney have been working on the report for nine months.  Kubit is assistant director of the Global Labor Institute and Sweeney is director.

The institute, based in New York City, helps union officers, staff and activists gain a deeper understanding of the policies and institutions that shape today's world, and assist in bringing unionists based in different countries into contact with each other for meaningful discussion on strategy and policy.

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