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Opportunities abound in shift to low carbon economies


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Across the globe, some economies have varying levels of dependence on carbon


By Antony Mutunga

Intensifying weather events demonstrate that urgent changes are needed to tackle climate change. Global economies must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shift towards a low-carbon economy. This is crucial as the risk brought about by climate change are being felt throughout all industries and global markets.

There is a need to limit global warming to below 2° C above pre-industrial levels to avoid climate change’s most destructive impacts. With the world facing high inflation, minimum opportunities, and a looming financial crisis, adding more climate risks would lead to a catastrophe. Transitioning to a low-carbon economy stands out as a solution for the world economy to avoid disasters in the future. In fact, according to a report by the United Nations, shifting to a low-carbon economy can unlock new jobs and opportunities and put the world back on track.

The UN report by the Katowice Committee of Experts highlights the need for countries worldwide to focus on and implement just transition and economic diversification strategies. The concept of a “just transition” recognizes that a shift to a more sustainable economy can significantly impact workers and communities currently dependent on fossil fuels. It means transforming the economy and economic system to be as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities, and leaving no one behind.

According to James Grabert, Director of Mitigation at UN Climate Change, countries need just transition and economic diversification policies that are comprehensive, inclusive, and based on social dialogue and stakeholder engagement to ensure no one is left behind.

Across the globe, some economies have varying levels of dependence on carbon. Different economies worldwide will be required to re-allocate labor resources from carbon-intensive industries to alternatives that focus on green energy. It is the only way to preserve opportunities and reduce the impacts it will have on communities. Human capital must be carefully considered in the transition by offering training and skill development initiatives to ensure a just and fair shift.

Already many countries have started the transition towards a low-carbon economy. For instance, in Denmark, a former shipyard has been transformed into an industrial park, housing 100 different companies in the renewable energy sector. When the shipyard closed, over 3,000 workers lost their jobs in 2012. However, once the industrial park started coming together, over 2,500 people have been employed across the 100 companies operating on the now completed industrial park, while an additional 3,000 people are employed in local industry and hospitality supporting the site.

In Africa, countries started the transition early enough, as the continent suffers much from the impact of carbon emissions despite only being responsible for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Countries like Nigeria are to benefit much from just transition. The country with the largest population in the continent is facing a decline in agricultural productivity due to climate change; worse, about 70% of Nigerians depend on warming or fishing.

Through the concept of just transition, the country can acquire new production methods and see new opportunities. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has already launched a joint project with Friends of the Earth Nigeria on just transition in two sectors – agriculture and petroleum. The idea has been to build a shared understanding and political agenda between Nigerian trade unions, civil society, and communities regarding a just transition.

On the other hand, others like Kenya have already been working towards 100% reliance on green energy, as the country already generates more than 75% of its electricity from renewable energies. Solar and wind energy investments have created many new opportunities for its citizens.

According to the report, there is no one size fits all approach to the transition; every country must have a strategy. The reality is that every country will need to prioritize the transition and include policies to its support to ensure a fair shift. “These policies need to be integrated into national climate action plans, as well as in national adaptation plans, to avoid exacerbating inequality,” said James Grabert. (


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