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‘Green’ is the new white-collar job

According to reports, an increasing awareness towards the preservation of the environment has created what is now popularly known as ‘green jobs’. A green job is essentially an employment in any industry, be it agriculture, manufacturing, research and development, administration and service activities such as IT, finance that contributes to preserving or restoring environmental quality. According to estimates nearly 1.5 million green jobs will be created in India by 2014.

Initially the preserve of technocrats catering to engineering and architectural firms, now green work opportunities span across a variety of work spheres from technical to as diverse and set apart as marketing of green products. Though the concept is evolving in India, it has, however, made rapid strides worldwide. For example the United States set up “The Green Jobs Act” way back in 2007 with $125 million in funding to establish national and State job training programmes, administered by the US Department of Labour, to help address job shortages that are impairing growth in green industries. Recently, the Obama Administration announced a budget of $150 billion over 10 years to create five million new green-collar jobs.

Green collar jobs are the basis to a “green economy”. Essentially, environmentally effective buildings, eco-friendly transport and automobiles, renewable sources of power are the cornerstones to a green economy as they have the potential to generate enormous green employment opportunities that in turn result in every green job employee contributing towards reduction of global warming and further strengthening the growth of a green economy.

India has a mixed and haphazard orientation towards green economy in general and green jobs in particular. The lack of a comprehensive and cohesive policy of the Government that gravitates towards the creation of a green economy means that while in some sectors like education we have remarkable green training programmes such as environmental engineering and carbon finance courses, in sectors such as heavy and polluting industries the Government regulation against air and water pollution severely lacks teeth as our rivers and ambient air quality get worse by the day. Comparatively, Western countries have set up astounding examples of responsibility towards the environment. For instance, in the US, the Subaru automotive manufacturing unit at Indiana produces less waste in a month than an average American family.

The myopic strategy of the Government in India is furthermore made evident when a consumer can buy a non-ecofriendly product cheaper than a green product. This discourages investment in, production of, and purchase of green products, and the creation of green jobs as well. As a policy making, adhering country we are still far off from our western counterparts where the efforts of NGOs and individuals find voice and representation in the overall policy framework. Some projects of the Government such as Bus Rapid Transport System  in Delhi were considered as part of the initiatives under green economy, but inherent flaws in the BRT system drew flak from people in general, intervention by the judiciary and even suspension of the BRT system.

Instead of the above measures, the Government should concentrate on establishing at least one geo-thermal power plant and one wind-based power plant per city. This will reduce pollution, provide much needed energy efficiency and reduce dependence on non-renewable sources of power. In addition, the Government can declare green business and industries as priority by announcing tax incentives, provide free training of manpower in green best practices and correspondingly adopt zero-tolerance policy towards polluting industries. The form of zero tolerance can be to tax environmentally unfriendly technologies so that by the same we can fund the development of sustainable alternatives revival and detoxification of urban water bodies is yet another high priority area the Government can concentrate on.

Companies should be rewarded for avoiding pollution and adopting measures that eradicate practices and processes that increase pollution. Companies should also be encouraged to express profits not only in terms of monetary value but also in societal value. This can be made possible by taking ownership of societal costs be it manufacturing or costs in the supply chain, both upstream and downstream.

Due to climate change and initiatives taken up by environmentally conscious nations, the pattern of employment is changing towards new jobs that are beginning to emerge in favour of greener, cleaner and more sustainable occupations. The growth in Green Jobs has so far occurred mostly in developed countries, but developing economies are fast catching up. For instance, a project in Bangladesh, training local youth and women as certified solar technicians and as repair and maintenance specialists, aims to create some 1,00,000 jobs. In India, an initiative to replace unproductive biomass cooking stoves in nine million households with more advanced and efficient ones could create 1,50,000 jobs.

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