Making green jobs happen

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Birmingham

“Better integrated thinking and co-ordinated action, in the public, private and third sectors, is needed to enable meaningful green job transformations.”


The creation of ‘green jobs’ is high on the policy agenda across the world. The G7 Minsters Communiqués on Finance and on Climate and Environment confirm this and commit the signatories to ‘building back better’, including transforming economies and creating decent green jobs.

Ahead of the G7 Summit 11-13 June 2021, hosted by the UK Government, the Institute of Global Innovation-led Forum for Global Challenges organised a panel discussion with international thought leaders to identify the opportunities and challenges of creating decent, green jobs that will help us build forward better.

What are ‘green jobs’?

The panellists agreed that a ‘green’ job must create positive social, economic and environmental impacts. Green jobs are associated with a reduced consumption of energy and new materials, reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and minimization of generation of waste and pollution. Green jobs are also those that protect and restore ecosystems and support adaptation to climate change. The creation of ‘green jobs’ has more recently been associated with economic recovery plans following the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the OECD’s Green Recovery Database shows that only around 17% of recovery spend could be labelled as ‘green’. Simple maths tells us that 83% of this spend could be working against green recovery targets creating new problems for the future. Better integrated thinking and co-ordinated action, in the public, private and third sectors, is needed to enable meaningful green job transformations.  However, this requires far better accountability, monitoring and evaluation of the greenness of any employment programmes.

What’s needed to encourage the creation of ‘green jobs’?

  1. Long-term investment and strategic interventions.  Much of the recent ‘green’ investment in the economy has focussed on short-term impacts, biased towards ‘shovel-ready’ opportunities and tends to reinforce business-as-usual thinking rather than transform the economy. It is much harder to set up new transformative programmes than to pour more money into existing programmes. The panel was very clear on the need for longer-term investments, recognising that it takes time to build greener educational, industrial and business institutional capacity, as well as enhancing individual skill sets and competences. 
  2. Greater integration of policy objectives and performance measurementGovernment and other institutions still work in siloes, which can create contradictory policies and misleading performance measures. What counts as a success in one ministry becomes a problem for another to solve. Opportunities for pooling resources and synergistic effort are missed. A situation that is made worse with a lack of accountability. More joined-up, effective policy formulation is needed, as is the creation of delivery models that actually deliver. 
  3. Quality of jobs mattersGreen jobs should not involve a ‘trade-off’ between labour standards, wages or wellbeing. Green jobs also need to be ‘decent’, with a fair income, aligned with cultural norms, security and equality of opportunity for all, including those facing structural barriers to employment, such as those with disabilities. It is important to tailor green jobs programmes to the informal job market in developing countries and the precariousness of the growing gig economy.

Key messages to the G7 Summit

  • The G7 must take the lead in green economic transformation, enabling the creation of decent green jobs. They have the wealth, infrastructure and the human capital to make a difference.
  • As approx. 80% of the G7 recovery expenditure is on ‘non-green’ investment, there is a massive opportunity to speed up progress towards a green economy and green jobs.
  • The G7 should re-prioritise investment in low-carbon economic activity (which has an economic return on investment of 50%), ending harmful subsidies and increasing the ambition of their climate change mitigation plans.• G7 nations must deliver on their 2015 Paris pledge to mobilize $100 billion per year to address the climate-related needs of low- and middle-income countries.
  • G7 must support low-income countries in moving their economies away from fossil-fuel dependency towards creating wealth and jobs in alternative industries, including renewable energy and agriculture, and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises to move towards the generation of green jobs.
  • There is an urgent need to support the creation of green decent jobs and income-generating activities for young people, in all parts of the world.
  • And, to share inspirational green job case studies from which all nations can learn and adapt.


The Forum for Global Challenges thank the panellists for their time and contribution:

  • Kumi Kitamori, Head of Green Growth and Global Relations Division, Environment Directorate of the OECD
  • Joel Jaeger, Research Associate, Climate Program, World Resources Institute
  • Camilla Roman, Policy Specialist, Green Jobs Program, International Labour Organization

Watch the webinar and add to the discussion in the Forum for Global Challenges Online Community.