Jhannel Tomlinson and Eleanor Terrelonge | Prepare youth for a climate-resilient, poverty-free future
Climate change is the ultimate magnifier, which means it has the effect of worsening the societal issues challenging our development. One example of its magnifying capabilities is its impact on poverty. Climate change is expected to drive up to 130 million people into poverty over the next 10 years, wiping out development gains, according to the World Bank.
With an estimated 23 per cent of Jamaicans living in poverty, we must partner with young people to tackle climate change through advocacy collaborations and emerging jobs and employment opportunities to bolster mitigation efforts.
YOUTH IN CLIMATE CHANGE AND THEIR RELEVANCE
According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world today, accounting for about 16 per cent of the global population. Though youth are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, they are significant allies in advancing climate action. The 2013 publication Youth in action on climate change: Inspirations from around the World confirms: “Young people are actively engaged at local, national and global levels in raising awareness, running educational programmes, conserving our nature, promoting renewable energy, adopting environmentally friendly practices and implementing adaptation and mitigation projects. The work undertaken with and by youth is crucial in influencing governments to come to an agreement on a new climate change regime … .”
Young people are crucial participants in the conversations and decisions that will decide their future, because they constitute a critical mass in driving society ahead and addressing the climate crisis with the urgency that it requires.
YOUTH IN GREEN JOBS
Youth have a deep concern for the planet’s future and a personal commitment to environmental causes, which is helping to drive action on the green and blue economies. We must ensure they are adequately educated, upskilled and mentored to drive the future of these emerging areas of work. Notwithstanding, there are early and encouraging signs of Jamaican young people developing nature-based solutions driven by education, science, and technology.
Some examples of young Jamaicans working in these areas include Honai Beez Apiary and Kee Farms. The Honai Beez Apiary programme, founded by Adrian Watson, provides economic and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people through beekeeping. This environmentally friendly livelihood helps young people to positively contribute to biodiversity while generating income for themselves.
Meanwhile, Kee Farms is a company run by young people who are leveraging the blue economy for innovative solutions to tackle the climate crisis. Kee Farms is an ocean farm working with local fisherfolk to develop sustainable practices that will lead to carbon sequestration, job creation and ocean regeneration.
The green and blue economies provide new opportunities and career paths for young people. In recent years, the blue economy has been rising in prominence. We have seen the emergence of a number of jobs centred around sustainable use of the ocean and its resources, e.g., coastal and marine tourism, shipping and logistics, and aquaculture. We have also seen conventional academic studies such as marine biology and biotechnology coming to the forefront.
The transition to these climate-friendly jobs is not as challenging as widely perceived. In fact, many jobs in the blue and green economies are modelled after current professions. Green jobs will significantly rely on traditional skill sets and resemble existing jobs, perhaps with new duties and requiring upgraded abilities. For example, engineering is a field which is widely applied in the conventional energy and manufacturing sectors and the built economy. There are new engineering opportunities within the renewable energy and green transportation sectors, as well as emerging potential for jobs in environmental engineering and urban and rural planning.
Transitioning to these emerging jobs may be as simple as a shift in mindset. It sometimes requires thinking of old careers in new ways, or finding new solutions to old problems. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, this shift to a sustainable future requires the investment of resources by the public and private sectors in education and training, funding and, in some cases, social intervention.
NEW SKILL SETS
However, in many cases, accessing jobs in the blue and green economies will require new skill sets and training. Not all young people have equal access to the resources needed to support the specialised training or long-term schooling needed to fill some of these roles. The jobs within the blue and green economies must also be able to provide the sustainability and financial security needed to be a long-term solution for young people.
The truth is that we have to do a better job of communicating opportunities for participating in climate action in ways that are accessible to young people. Young people need to know that green and blue jobs are solid, established career paths. In turn, employers must also understand and appreciate the need for young people to survive in the current economy, while also preparing for a climate-resilient future.
Both on land and on sea, young Jamaicans are already making their mark to chart a new sustainable future by tackling new frontiers. Despite these efforts, there is still the need for a shared objective to invest in our youth through the prioritisation of green and blue jobs by way of existing and future programmes and policy instruments. In line with the calls to action from the ‘Ready Set Recharge’ webinar in 2020, under the umbrella of UNDP’s ‘Ready Set Great’ youth in development series, we hereby reiterate the following demands:
• Greater emphasis must be given to the future world of work. This must include skills development and vocational training to support the transition from school to work, with a focus on green occupations associated with renewable energy, eco/agritourism, fisheries protection, and sustainable urban and rural planning.
• Priority must be given to enhancing synergies between the education and employment sectors, in order to boost the likelihood of youth integrating into a sustainable labour market via innovation and entrepreneurship.
• Increased allocation of resources is needed, with a focus on investments in clean physical infrastructure; building efficiency retrofits; investments in education and training to address immediate unemployment caused by shocks and stressors; investments in natural capital for ecosystem resilience and regeneration; and investments in clean research and development.
Prioritising blue-green employment will enhance social cohesion and provide sustained economic gains. Youth involvement and employment must be a priority. We must provide the youth a voice in policy discussions, which must become the rule, not the exception.
Jhannel Tomlinson is co-founder of Young People For Action on Climate Change. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Eleanor Terrelonge is director/founder, Jamaica Youth Climate Change Council. Send feedback to email@example.com.