Just Energy Transition: Opening new doors for youth employment

The grasp is in our hands to shift the course of Just Transition, transforming the challenges posed by the double-edged sword in employment into promising and sustainable opportunities for the younger generation. By Chaeyoung Hyun, Energy Youth Fellow, Climate Champions Team | December 5, 2023

Whether you are a seasoned energy enthusiast or just starting to delve into the realm of sustainable development, the term “Just Transition” has likely caught your attention at least once. Despite the absence of a universally agreed-upon definition, one thing remains certain – Just Transition is a pivotal concept in safeguarding the rights of those displaced by the shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources, putting people at the heart of the transition. In a recent Just Transition Policy Brief by the International Labour Organization (ILO), projections indicate a potential loss of 78 million jobs in a low-carbon energy and circular economy scenario.  However, it is yet too early to be pessimistic about these numbers and livelihoods that will be endangered. It is important to note that according to the two scenarios, overall job creation potential is close to 103 million jobs.

The definition of green jobs revolves around two key principles – output basis and social-justice basis. An output-based green job involves producing environmentally friendly products or services, such as working in a company manufacturing solar panels. Conversely, a social-justice-based green job prioritises roles that minimize pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and harm to livelihoods, aligning with the concept of “decent jobs” as defined by the ILO.

During COP27, a groundbreaking initiative known as the “Green Jobs for Youth Pact” was unveiled by Stockholm+50 UNEP, ILO, and UNICEF/Generation Unlimited. This pact aims to accelerate the creation of one million new green jobs while transforming existing ones to be more sustainable. By addressing the skills gap in developing countries and fostering systemic change, this partnership strives to benefit people, the planet, and prosperity.

Empowering youth for greener jobs goes beyond symbolic gestures of inclusivity; it places the tools for climate mitigation and adaptation in the hands of the younger generation. Engaging youth in transitional phases is the key to overcoming traditional obstacles in energy decarbonization.

An exemplary opportunity for youth seeking green careers is the Climate Champions Team youth fellowship program. Aligned with the Marrakech Partnership mandate, this program equips fellows with the skills needed for future green jobs. Fellows engage in non-state actor work, collaborate on shared goals, and are involved in events such as COP and Regional Climate Weeks, expanding the reach of climate action across diverse industries.

In line with these goals, the Climate Champions Team is hosting an event on 5 December, titled “Empowering Youth through Green Jobs: A Just Transition Perspective” at the Children and Youth Pavilion at COP28. The event aims to explore the influence of the private sector in creating new opportunities, shaping job requirements, and influencing the education sector to equip students with the right skill set. It underscores the importance of simultaneous development across these sectors, with youth at the forefront of shaping their future and the world they inhabit.

Concluding with a personal reflection, there was a time when I perceived myself as a glass-half-empty individual, directing my focus towards areas in need of improvement rather than acknowledging accomplishments that were already well-executed and progressing. However, my perspective has undergone a transformation as I’ve observed the signals of change in the Just Energy Transition. It transcends the mere replacement of displaced workers and jobs; instead, it signifies the initiation of new markets and opportunities that hold the potential for superior and enduring solutions for all. This marks the inception of a journey wherein collaborative efforts across sectors, industries, countries, and regions should unite to propel this noble cause forward.

Not to forget, it is crucial to strike a balance between reskilling existing jobs for the transition and harmonizing the young workforce that will be upskilling with new and innovative skill sets for green jobs. I aspire that this metaphorical green door for children and youth symbolizes the commencement of promising pathways, inspiring us collectively to pursue a net zero, resilient and nature-positive world.