Opinion

How green workforces can contribute to sustainable economies

By prioritising green workforce development, governments can achieve groundbreaking goals


Published : 17 Feb 2023 07:47 PM

Addressing the impacts of climate change will necessitate radically transforming industries to adopt sustainable solutions.

Many governments in recent years have invested in reconfiguring their cities in sustainable ways, such as opting for renewable energy, shifting towards electric transportation methods, implementing sustainable waste management systems, managing local agricultural ventures, and adapting green infrastructure solutions.

To power these transitions in a more rapid, extensive manner, governments would need to develop workforces who possess the competences and skills relevant to climate change adaptations and who can implement changes on a grass roots level.

This will entail having a vast network of robust upskilling and reskilling programs aimed at deploying much-needed transformations across diverse sectors.

A report published by the Adecco Group finds that more than 1.47 billion jobs globally depend on a stable climate. However, the Middle East and North Africa region is especially susceptible to climate change impacts, posing a multitude of potentially devastating risks to the hundreds of millions of its residents.

Without action, the region is prone to a number of impending threats, including extreme heatwaves of 50°C for 200 days every year, food insecurity, water stress, desertification, reduced rainfall, droughts, land erosion, and marine life deterioration.

Transition to Net Zero future

Governments will need to spearhead efforts to transition to a net zero carbon future, ensuring affected employees or communities receive equitable opportunities to reskill or retrain in order to shift towards livelihoods that are sustainable in a green economy.

Considering the seismic shifts in our world today, 

countries should endeavour to reskill their 

workforces so they can be prepared to hold 

the reins of their jobs in an ever-evolving 

marketplace that demands more sustainable 

methods of operating

To illustrate the magnitude of this task, a study by the International Labour Organization estimates that around 6 million jobs in coal-powered electricity, petroleum extraction, and other related sectors could be eliminated by 2030. This would entail an enormous retraining and reskilling plan to transition these workforces into green sectors. Fortunately, we will witness elevated demands and job opportunities in green sectors as the world embraces more sustainable practices and innovations in the next decade. The renowned economics research house, Oxford Economics, estimates that new green activities have the potential to create economic opportunities reaching up to $10.3 trillion in global GDP by the year 2050, or approximately 5.2% of global GDP.

Innovative technologies and solutions

By prioritising green workforce development, governments can achieve groundbreaking goals and assist populations in shifting rapidly towards sustainable futures. This will carve the way towards creating unique competitive opportunities in the form of innovating technologies and solutions that are revolutionary for industries.

Trained green workforces can also be available to deliver upon critical projects, goods, and services.

These could range from mega projects that involve sustainable construction methods, green infrastructures, sustainable agricultural practices, sustainable fisheries management, and transportation systems to daily goods and services we find in retail or commercial settings.

Policymakers should begin with formulating comprehensive transformation road maps that detail the required expertise and skills according to different sectors and job families.

This would involve assessing current workforce skills, identify economic needs, evaluate skills gaps, and deploy targeted green workforce development programs. Detailed guidance should be published per sector to clearly identify the nature of the adaptations and transformations needed to transition to greener economies.

A key component of this plan will involve an overhaul of the mindsets of current workforces, via reskilling and upskilling them to adopt sustainable methods and solutions in their daily jobs. There is an ever-expanding list of knowledge areas and skills that would need to feed into the grand scheme of green workforce development.

This includes areas, such as managing natural resources, enacting environmental legislations, innovating green technologies, upgrading green infrastructure, designing energy-efficient buildings, caring for green spaces, minimising waste and pollution, protecting and restoring ecosystems, and supporting sustainable agricultural or fisheries practices.

Increasingly, property developers are utilising more energy and resource-efficient technologies during construction. On the other hand, the transport and logistics industries are leveraging renewable energy sources and more energy-efficient technologies in their daily operations.

Preserving natural ecosystems

Many countries are also working diligently to preserve natural ecosystems. It is equally important to steer consumers’ responsibility and behaviour towards embracing a more sustainable lifestyle.

Securing strategic partnerships with stakeholders will be pivotal in any workforce development strategy. Introducing the subject of climate change as early as school education could be an effective way of prioritising the topic among the younger generation and to build the rising case for adopting more sustainable solutions in the world of work.

Partnering with universities to create intensive and practical climate-related courses will be important in the coming years. Moreover, the role of vocational schools, work-based learning programs, and apprenticeships would be critical in equipping talents with the right skills for future success.

In many instances, recertification programs would need to be deployed to ensure skills are being upgraded in specific professions.

At the same time, research institutes should be encouraged to create climate-themed sandboxes to test and conceptualise green technologies and solutions that could be rolled-out to the market. Governments could provide dedicated grants to enterprises to reskill and upskill their workforces as well.

Considering the seismic shifts in our world today, countries should endeavour to reskill their workforces so they can be prepared to hold the reins of their jobs in an ever-evolving marketplace that demands more sustainable methods of operating.


Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and literature. Source: Gulf News