Green jobs can help reduce negative environmental impact and ensure environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable enterprises
Green jobs are no longer a new concept in Bangladesh. We have been familiar with this concept for more than two decades. The ‘Green Jobs Initiative in Bangladesh’ was officially launched on 4 December 2008, jointly by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the ILO, with a view to initiating an action plan, job inventory, and policy intervention. Nowadays, green jobs are found in many sectors of the economy, ranging from energy supply and recycling of waste to agriculture, construction, and transportation sectors.
Green jobs are generally associated with qualities that help reduce negative environmental impact and ensure environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable enterprises. As per the ILO definition, green jobs are decent jobs that reduce energy and raw materials consumption, limit greenhouse gas emissions, minimise waste and pollution, and protect and restore ecosystems.
Preparing for the future
If we consider the future context, we will see that Bangladesh needs to go for an integrated action plan based on the six pillars of the Bangladesh Climate Change Action Plan 2008, where mitigation and low-carbon development play an important role. Considering this point, Bangladesh revised and submitted the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2021, the heart of the Paris Agreement, to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
As per the revised and updated NDC, Bangladesh is committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 89.47 MtCO2e, or 21.85% below the business as usual (BAU) level, in 2030 with international support and using its resources. The updated NDC includes a number of new sectors that will be targeted for emissions reduction, including agriculture, forestry, and other land use (AFOLU).
According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. It is likely to be affected by sea level rise and saltwater intrusion, mean temperature increases (1.7 degrees Celsius by 2050), rainfall variability, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Each of these factors will considerably impact the country’s agriculture and forestry. Considering productivity, adaptation, and mitigation, Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) and Climate Smart Forestry (CSF) could play vital roles in addressing the challenges of climate change while creating opportunities for green jobs.
Green jobs in CSA and CSF
The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) defined CSA as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience, reduces GHGs where possible, and enhances the achievement of national food security and development goals. On the other hand, EU Cost Action CLIMO defines CSF as sustainable adaptive forest management and governance to protect and enhance the potential of forests to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
In its report titled “Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World,” the ILO mentioned that green jobs in the agricultural sector are associated with soil conservation, water efficiency, organic growing methods, and reducing farm-to-market distance.
Similarly, FAO and UNECE, in their discussion paper titled “Green Jobs in the Forest Sector”, figured the green forest jobs into seven areas that include energy production, agroforestry and mountain forestry, forest management, inventory and planning, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, health and recreation, and education and research.
In the technical report by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in December 2019 titled “A National Jobs Strategy for Bangladesh”, it is encouraged to provide incentives for investment in “green jobs” and rational adoption of new technology. It was mentioned that initiatives that are focused on the creation of green jobs could be given priority.
Structural transformation in employment
We can see new possibilities in the field of CSA that can create green jobs in a number of areas. For example, research and development are important in identifying and developing climate-resilient agricultural practices. This can create jobs for scientists, engineers, and other technical professionals. Likewise, CSA practices need to be disseminated to farmers and other agricultural stakeholders, which can create jobs for extension agents, trainers, and other paraprofessionals.
Again, monitoring and evaluation to track progress and identify areas for improvement can create jobs for analysts, data scientists, and other professionals with quantitative skills. In this connection, business development is also important to provide products and services related to climate-smart agriculture, such as organic fertiliser, water conservation technologies, and climate risk insurance. This can create jobs for entrepreneurs, marketers, and other business professionals. In addition to these direct jobs, CSA can also create indirect jobs in a number of other sectors, such as manufacturing, transportation, and retail.
Some specific green jobs are already being created through CSA and CSF in Bangladesh. Mushroom cultivation is one of those that creates jobs for mushroom growers, pickers, and processors. Similarly, bio-slurry production from livestock manure and other organic materials creates jobs for farmers, technicians, and marketers. In this connection, sericulture creates jobs for silkworm farmers, reelers, and weavers.
Organic farming is also a sustainable agricultural practice that does not use synthetic pesticides or fertilisers. It is a climate-smart alternative to conventional agriculture that creates jobs for farmers, consultants, and marketers. In this way, pesticide-free vegetable cultivation, beekeeping, rainwater conservation, conservation of forests and biodiversity, nursery, afforestation, social forestry, and agroforestry create jobs for farmers, foresters, and other professionals.
Skill development for green jobs
Considering the new possibilities, skills development and an institutional framework are largely needed to strengthen the delivery mechanisms of existing institutions. As per the ILO paper titled “Skills for Green Jobs in Bangladesh”, a skills shortage is prominent among agricultural workers, sustainable agriculture specialists, and precision soil conservation technicians in agriculture.
The paper mentioned that greening shifts in these sectors remain weak, primarily due to inadequate policy and institutional support. Considering this observation, it recommended putting the right policies, institutional framework, commitment, and immediate reinvestment in place to bring about the change needed for greening the economy.
FAO, under its Country Programme Framework for Bangladesh 2022-2026, has proposed to accelerate sustainable and inclusive agro-economic growth with increased and equitable opportunities for decent jobs and opportunities to improve employability and entrepreneurship, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalised people.
FAO is willing to support the government’s efforts to ensure inclusive, gender-responsive, and environment-friendly agro-economic activities to create more green jobs that lead to green growth and decent livelihoods.
IFAD also included in its Country Strategic Opportunities Programme 2023–2028 for Bangladesh the promotion of inclusive and resilient livelihood opportunities for smallholders and microentrepreneurs to strengthen climate resilience through infrastructure and climate-smart agriculture.
As per the climate change initiatives of Bangladesh, the government has researched the development of drought, cold, waterlogging, diseases, pests, and salt-tolerant crop varieties to cope with the changing climate. Besides, achieving the objectives and targets of the 8th Five-Year Plan will require Bangladesh to undertake a range of diverse activities to promote sustainable agriculture and green growth.
To achieve upper middle-income status by 2031 and mainly to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution, upgrading hard and soft skills will become mandatory.
Finally, societal change initiatives are essential for CSA and CSF’s success. Therefore, on the one hand, massive campaigns and advocacy are needed to focus the issue towards agricultural and forest folks. On the other hand, technical upgradation of their behaviour is equally important.