In the works
The 14th Five-Year Plan offers an opportunity to focus more on green job creation to boost both the green transition and economic development
The world is witnessing an unprecedented economic contraction since World War II as a result of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. According to the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook Update, released in January, the global growth contraction for 2020 is estimated at 3.5 percent.
That translates into significant loss of jobs, incomes and social welfare. Major economies have put mitigating unemployment at the heart of recovery packages, aligned with green and just transitions. At this juncture, boosting green jobs can help redirect investment and resources into green sectors, guaranteeing the full implementation of green transition policies.
Green industries encompass such things as the construction of green buildings and manufacture of electric vehicles, thus creating new jobs and supporting economic recovery. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency's Renewable Energy and Jobs－Annual Review 2020, investment in renewable energy creates three times more jobs than the equivalent investment in fossil energy.
Several major economies have started implementing green job policies and there is international consensus on creating green jobs to promote recovery from the pandemic.
According to the Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services Sector dataset produced by Hong Kong-based k-Matrix, the US green economy employed nearly 9.5 million Full-Time Equivalents from 2012 to 2016, which is 4 percent of the working age population in the United States. During the presidential elections, Joe Biden promised that if elected his administration will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment in a new US infrastructure and clean energy economy. He also vowed to create 1 million new jobs in the US auto industry, domestic auto supply chains, and auto infrastructure, be it from parts to materials to electric vehicle charging stations.
To repair the economic and social damage caused by the pandemic, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Union leaders have agreed on a recovery plan that lays the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe. The EU's long-term budget, coupled with Next Generation EU, the temporary instrument designed to boost economic recovery, will be the largest stimulus package ever financed through the EU budget. A total of 1.8 trillion euros ($2.18 trillion) will help rebuild a greener, more digital and more resilient post-pandemic Europe.
The European Commission estimates that the energy sector's green transition will create 3 million more jobs by 2050.What's more, in October 2020, the European Commission released a building renovation plan in order to improve energy efficiency. The recent sustainable recovery report released by the International Energy Agency found that, per euro invested, building renovation is the biggest job creator. The EU plans to invest in the renovation of 35 million buildings, helping create 160,000 jobs in the next decade.
In 2020, China put forward "six priorities" (jobs, basic living needs, operations of market entities, food and energy security, stable industrial and supply chains, and the normal functioning of primary-level governments). Together with the "stability in six areas" (employment, financial operations, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment, and expectations), first raised in 2018, it shows the attention China is paying to employment, which has a vital bearing on people's livelihoods and the country's economic development. After the unemployment rate in China peaked in February 2020 at 6.2 percent, it dipped to 5.2 percent, which is comparable to that before the pandemic.
However, a new engine is needed to realize a faster and better-quality recovery in China's job market, one that can confront the economic challenges posed by climate change and future public health crises.
On Oct 29, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China adopted the Central Committee's proposals for the formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, which emphasize goals such as "accelerating green and low-carbon development "and "systematic allocation of intellectual green new infrastructure". This is a good opportunity for China to hasten the pace of economic and social recovery. Learning from other major economies, China could create jobs through green infrastructure construction in the following ways:
First, the government can offer more support to new energy jobs. More industrial policies can be introduced to accelerate the transition from fossil energy to renewables. Asia is expected to create the most jobs in the renewable energy industry. With jobs in the solar energy generation industry growing the fastest, according to the IRENA report. The green transition will help China create more sustainable jobs, achieving the balance between economic development and environmental protection. With proper vocational training, the new energy industry can replace the fossil energy industry in job creation.
Second, the government should build the skills base through more vocational training. Given the changed industrial development process caused by the pandemic, remote learning with expanded use of information and communications technology plays an important role in the cultivation of skilled labor. China's new infrastructure involves ultra-high voltage transmission, big data centers, 5G, artificial intelligence, new energy vehicle charging stations and other fields which all demand professional skills. Therefore, the government needs to work together with higher education institutions to ensure a high-quality workforce.
Finally, the social side effects should be given adequate attention. When carrying out the green transition, supporting measures are needed to tackle the temporary unemployment caused by the transition. Also, the gender imbalance in the energy sector may continue in the construction of new infrastructure, so women's participation in relevant education and skills training is indispensable to achieve just and inclusive development.
The authors are consultants of the China Green and Just Recovery Project at Greenpeace East Asia. The authors contributed this article to China Watch. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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