Paper commissioned by the Green Jobs Programme, International Labour Organisation (ILO), highlights some of the main links between climate change and employment in the Caribbean basin, targeted for government and workers’ organisations but relevant to a wider audience.
Climate change poses a serious threat to sustainable development, impacting jobs, incomes, public and private infrastructures, health and productive sectors, reducing success in terms of poverty eradication and food security. These impacts are particularly important in the Caribbean due to the “biophysical and socio-economic characteristics of these countries” (ECLAC, 2011). The interdependence of the environment, employment and the real economy means that many jobs are at risk.
That said changing patterns of employment and investment are already generating new jobs in many countries, especially in the low-carbon and renewable energy sectors including solar, wind, geothermal and bio-energy.
To illustrate, Jamaica’s electricity and water sectors currently make up 3.1% GDP but employ 0.74% of the population. Jamaica’s goal to transition to 20% renewable energy by 2030 could create 4,000 new and additional jobs – a significance boost to a country with 13% unemployment.
At the Third SIDS Conference in Samoa (September, 2014) countries called upon the international community to support them in their efforts to create inclusive and equitable climate-resilient development. Formal and non-formal education and training to create an environment that is sustainable for investments and growth, development of entrepreneurial and vocational skills, fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, creating green and decent jobs, enhancing gender equality and women’s equal participation are among the needs identified by SIDS to meet this goal.
Training and education will be key. For example, The Barbados Training Board made available vocational opportunities for locals to become solar water heater technicians. Since then, the technology has taken off on the island and now three Barbadian companies dominate installation and manufacturing, with expansion into nearby islands of Trinidad and Saint Lucia. In addition, Trinidad and Tobago created a Solar Manufacturing Complex and National Wind Resource Assessment Programme. Such initiatives and projects are vital to take full advantage of green job growth.
These are great first steps but much more can be done, especially changing the enabling environment and investment opportunities for small- and medium-sized business. There must also be greater coherence between social and climate change policies at the macro-level.