Half of the world’s population is 30 years old or younger, and this figure is expected to reach 57 per cent by the end of 2030. This is the largest generation of young people in history. This year’s International Youth Day highlights the importance of developing green skills for youth to ensure the success of a just transition to a greener and more sustainable world where all people - including young people - benefit equally.
Green skills include technical knowledge, expertise and abilities that enable the effective use of green technologies and processes in professional settings. They draw on a range of knowledge, values, and attitudes to facilitate environmentally sustainable decision-making at work and in life. Although green competencies are relevant for people of all ages, they are of greater importance for younger people, who can contribute to the ecological transition over a longer period of time.
“One of the main challenges we face as young people in accessing green jobs is the lack of clarity on career paths and training resources, as well as the lack of mentoring or support systems to develop a green career,” said Kristy Drutman, co-founder of Green Jobs Board, a platform that provides a one-stop source for environmental job seekers to discover and learn about green job opportunities.
According to the ILO, 100 million jobs can be created through the transition to sustainable energy sources and a circular economy scenario. However, some existing jobs are expected to become obsolete, and the benefits of the transition are unlikely to be distributed geographically or demographically unless young people are provided with the necessary training and support systems.
“The reality of young people, as diverse as it is on a global scale, has many commonalities: greater vulnerability in living conditions, lower salaries and greater difficulties to emancipate, uncertainty about the near future, unequal access to higher education, among others”, stressed Marc Collado, member of the Green Jobs Working Group of the official children and youth constituency to UN Climate Change (YOUNGO). Collado highlighted that these common experiences shape the way young people deal with the transition to a green economy in a very different way than other generations.
A successful just transition requires addressing the challenges young people face in accessing opportunities to develop green skills and incorporating these needs into countries’ development strategies through greater policy coordination, social dialogue, and collaboration.
“It is also very important to have more young people in climate decision-making spaces. We must see young people as key stakeholders in our transition to low-carbon economies”, added Fatou Jeng, Youth Climate Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General and founder of Clean Earth Gambia.
The role of UN Climate Change
In this regard, the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, highlighted that “a clearly positive - and very welcome - trend in recent years is that youth attendance at UN climate change conferences continues to grow”, and reaffirmed his commitment to push for more meaningful participation of young people in the UN climate change process, inviting Parties to do the same.
To support the development of green skills and youth engagement in climate change processes, the UN Climate Change Secretariat established youth as a key pillar of the Action for Climate Empowerment Hub and programme. In addition, the ACE Action Plan has capacity-building for youth as its core and the Glasgow Work Programme for ACE outlines specific measures for the Secretariat and Parties to enhance the capacity of youth as leaders of change.
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) is a term adopted by UN Climate Change to denote work under Article 6 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement. It provides tools to change the systems, attitudes and behaviours needed to transition to a just, low-emission and climate-resilient world. Therefore, the ACE elements of education, public awareness and training are particularly important in the context of green skills to promote these transitions.