Youth from across the world came together in Bandung, Indonesia, to attend a conference on green issues hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The focus of the Tunza International Children's Conference will be providing training and education for young people in order to ensure their ability to fully participate in the "green economy."
"Tunza" is a word in the Kiswahili language spoken in East Africa that means "treat with care." The programme aims to provide a strategy to provide young people with the tools and information to care for the Earth and create a better world.
The conference, which was launched yesterday and will continue through the week, will be attended by 1,400 young people from more than 120 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America and Latin America. The youth, 605 of whom are only 10-14 years old, were selected based on their activism and involvement in environmental projects.
In these countries and in small island states, youth employment remains a major social and economic challenge. Of the world's 80 million unemployed individuals, 40 per cent are between the ages of 15 and 24 – more than a third of whom live in Asia and the Pacific. In order help these left-out youth take part in the transition to the green economy, they need the necessary knowledge and skills – the tools of the trade.
Conference participants will share their appeals to world leaders through the creation of a new declaration: the Bandung Declaration, which will be delivered at next June's UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20).
“The Bandung Declaration at this week’s conference offers a moment and a vehicle for the children and youth to send a clear and unequivocal message to world leaders meeting 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit that this is what they want and the future they deserve,” said UNEP's Executive Director, Achim Steiner.
This year, before the conference, the UNEP published the YouthXchange guidebook. The book contains information on the links between climate change and lifestyles, in order to help young people take action in support of more sustainable lifestyles.
Some governments have also taken the initiative to factor youth into decisions about green employment and development. Some have launched environmentally-conscious entrepreneurial initiatives. Indonesia, the conference host, is already active in this field with the help of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The country's new joint initiative, inspired by ILO-UNEP research, was inspired by Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
"We plan to pursue a decentralized youth apprenticeship programme for green jobs and take measures to foster entrepreneurship and self employment in the green sector,” he said in his address to the one-hundredth ILO session in Geneva in June.
The research indicates that jobs in unsustainable, high-emissions industries will be redefined or lost in a transition to a sustainable, "green" economy. Meanwhile, millions of new jobs would be created to support sustainable agriculture, construction, energy, forestry, tourism, transportation, waste management and recycling. For these new sectors to thrive, education and vocational training for the potential labour force are needed, as the supply is currently limited.
Already, there are a growing number of job opportunities in areas such as hybrid vehicles, solar panels and LED lights. Other sectors, such as organic farming, biomass and “green” construction, have also seen gains. The shortage of new skills to meet growing needs can be attributed to explosive growth in several green energy sectors, which have, for example, outpaced growth in teaching/training jobs in developing countries.
According to a 2008 report, Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World, authored by UNEP, ILO, International Trade Union Confederation and International Organization of Employers, 12 million people could be employed in biofuels-related industries by 2030 – 2.1 could be employed in wind energy and 6.3 million in solar energy.
Goal #7 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda is to "Ensure Environmental Sustainability." Target A is to ”integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources." Other targets include reducing biodiversity loss, halving the number of people without access to safe water, improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers.
So far, progress has been mixed. While carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 10 per cent since 1992, global temperatures have risen 0.4 degrees Celsius and 300 million hectares of forest have been lost since the early 1990s, protected areas have risen from 8.6 per cent to 12 per cent from 1992 to today.
But, with luck and effort, it may be that green jobs in the fields of sustainable agriculture and renewable energies can be instrumental in meeting this goal.