COVID-19 recovery funds and green job investment could be a cornerstone for efforts by more than 20 developing nations to come up with new, improved national climate plans, according to a Seoul, South Korea-based organization that is working on Green New Deal-type plans with nearly a dozen different countries.
“Every country is focused on the recovery with jobs as the number one priority,” and the strongest argument for climate action “is to focus on employment,” Frank Rijsberman, director general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), told Climate Home News in a recent interview. “The fact that renewable energy provides more jobs than fossil fuel alternatives has become the biggest selling point for governments to focus on climate, if not for climate reasons, for recovery reasons.”
The institute is currently pursuing that line of discussion with governments in Colombia, Fiji, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Vanuatu, and with some eastern Caribbean states.
Citing a 2016 study in the journal Economic Modelling that found clean energy investments creating nearly three times as many jobs per million dollars spent as fossil fuel projects, Climate Home says Rijsberman’s argument “has become particularly potent in emerging economies, with low-income countries also seeking to build climate and economic resilience through green jobs.” By that mechanism, pandemic recovery dollars can “underpin short- and longer-term climate action,” the UK-based publication states.
So far, developing countries trying to cope with crippling budget shortfalls, rising debt, and falling tax revenues are still expected to commit to faster, deeper carbon cuts in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that all countries are supposed to come up with ahead of this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP 26, in Glasgow. Some of them already have, Climate Home says. But all told, only 70 countries representing about 28% of global emissions completed their NDCs by the original deadline at the end of last year.
With the majority of “emerging and low-income” countries still working on their plans, Climate Home says Rijsberman sees green job creation as the “key to reconcile strengthened climate plans with an economic reboot,” with a global study in 2018 pointing to the potential for a net increase of 65 million jobs by 2030 from a transition off carbon.
A GGGI report in July “noted that renewable sector jobs are frontloaded in manufacture, distribution, and installation, providing an immediate stimulus,” Climate Home adds. “Compared to fossil fuels, there is less labour required in the long term for operation and maintenance.”
So far, the institute’s partnerships in different countries have shown how Colombia could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 51% by 2030, compared to a previous target of 20%. Mexico could create 72% more jobs compared to a business as usual scenario, while Indonesia could generate 7.1 million jobs and increase renewable energy to 23% of its electricity mix by 2025.