Rio+20 : We need all jobs to become greener

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Temps de lecture : 2 minutes  

Green growth, green economy and green jobs has become very popular words since the Rio summit in 1992/ 20 years later, Simon Upton, director of the environment division of the OCDE gives us an outlook on what was done to add sustainability to economy.

What did the 1992 Rio Earth Summit change?

This summit made the public realise that the economy, the environment and development are interdependent. This changed the terms of the debate but unfortunately, it did not change the direction of the economy.

What is green growth?

Green growth is a term that we coined at the OECD to describe a type of growth that promotes well-being in a manner that can be considered “environmentally-friendly”. This begins with making better use of natural resources by giving them added value. If we want growth whilst remaining green, pollution must be expensive, much more expensive than it is now, so as to encourage a more effective use of resources. This goes hand in hand with the development of new technologies.

What is happening in the biggest emerging countries (Brazil, Russia, China, India)?

Given the scale of these economies and their growth, I won’t be surprised if they become the leaders who will provide future technological solutions. Big countries like China and India have an advantage because they are still building their infrastructures, and as regards their situation, new solutions can be introduced at levels and to extents that have never been tested before. China is big enough to become the leader in any field. It is already selling solar panels and wind turbines to the rest of the world.

How many people in the world have green jobs?

It is indeed difficult to define what qualifies as a green job. If the economy “gets greener”, will a worker in a steel or a cement factory who has managed to drastically reduce his footprint be less green than a worker in the wind turbine industry? We need all jobs to become greener. Does the economic argument make it possible to better take into account the environment? “You cannot control what you cannot assess” But we still lack measuring tools as well as simple and precise indicators – such as energy efficiency – so that all countries can easily concentrate on these goals.

Can progress be measured?

Our management abilities have improved, but we have not yet really made the most difficult decisions, namely, putting a price on water and on pollution. Since it was created, the Clean Air Act (a law to control air pollution) has made it possible to save 2 000 billion dollars in health costs in the United States. Putting a figure on things makes some people realise how important they are. Changing subsidies can be a form of leverage: throughout the world, almost 500 billion dollars go to fossil energy whereas renewable energies only receive one-tenth of this amount.

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