Thematic Digest: Green Transition for and with Youth

31 December 2022

This Thematic Digest highlights some of the outputs of key YouthForesight partners working on decent jobs for youth in the green economy. While answering the basic what, why and how on this issue, it illustrates why these jobs are crucial for combating climate change and supporting a just transition.

What are green jobs?

Green jobs are jobs in green businesses that contribute appreciably to maintaining or restoring environmental quality and avoiding future damage to the Earth’s ecosystems while also generating and supporting the wellbeing of people. These jobs can be stimulated through different pathways, categorized into the following four main themes: 1) the green business strategy; 2) green financing; 3) green skills; and 4) green awareness.

Going green can create jobs

Creating green jobs for young people can be a solution for a just transition and climate change. Transitioning towards a ‘green economy’ can not only create a more sustainable and healthy planet, but also provide countless opportunities for youth employment. According to an ILO report, more than 24 million of such green jobs could be created globally by 2030. While jobs in certain sectors such as carbon- and resource-intensive industries are being scaled down, these losses can be more than offset by new job opportunities.

Against this backdrop, three UN agencies, the ILO, UNEP and UNICEF, have joined forces to establish the ‘Green Jobs for Youth Pact’. This ambitious Pact is a unique partnership which aims to tackle the youth employment and green jobs deficits around the world with the support of member states, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and educators. The mission of the Pact is to promote green skills, education and jobs for all young people, to actively benefit from and contribute to a just transition to a sustainable economy, society, and planet. Targets include:

  • Create 1 million new green jobs with existing employers, with a particular focus on young women;
  • Assist in the greening of 1 million existing jobs;
  • Ensure that 10,000 young green entrepreneurs set up sustainable businesses with an estimated employment multiplier effect of 10 jobs created per start-up after 5 years.

Read more:

BeGreen Africa (Generation Unlimited)

BeGreen Africa is a partnership that aims to help green youth entrepreneurship flourish across Africa. Economic transformation and green growth depend on doing things differently, and young entrepreneurs are ideally placed to drive change through their innovation and risk-taking.

The BeGreen Africa Entrepreneurship Programme will help marginalized young people to prosper socially and economically while speeding up efforts to combat the climate crisis. The programme will give African youth the knowledge, skills and support to set up and sustain thriving green businesses – making for a healthier planet and prosperity for all.

Africa’s economic growth has so far relied heavily on resource- and energy-intensive sectors, with damaging effects on the environment. Young entrepreneurs can get innovative and explore novel ways to do business, whether by investing in new sectors or products, or using new processes, technologies or business models. But they need training, coaching and the support of mentors and financial institutions to be able to realize their green ideas.

BeGreen Africa aims to help youth-owned green enterprises and start-ups that have the potential for growth and job creation but lack the capacity and funding to achieve these goals. Together, the BeGreen Africa partners – the IKEA Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation and GenU – will work to strengthen entrepreneurial support for such businesses across Africa.

The programme aims to empower entrepreneurs by taking them on an in-depth entrepreneurial skilling journey and providing seed capital to set up or grow their enterprise. Participants will also benefit from peer-to-peer mentoring and business management training and access to networks and virtual support. 

While the programme will be open to all young people, its main focus will be marginalized youth. In particular, BeGreen Africa seeks to empower adolescent girls and young women as well as youth with disabilities to become green entrepreneurs.

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The need for a transition is urgent, given the unsustainable pressure of current economic activity on the environment

Climate change and environmental degradation hinder the advancement of decent jobs and the pursuit of social justice by disrupting millions of jobs and livelihoods. The risks and hazards associated with environmental degradation particularly affect women and vulnerable workers.

Human activity has already caused irreversible environmental change on a global scale. In 2013, for example, humanity used 1.7 times the amount of resources and waste that the biosphere was able to regenerate and absorb.

Temperature changes and other disruptions of the Earth’s climate are mainly caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities. CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass and industrial processes represents more than 70% of global GHG emissions. In order to reduce substantially global GHG emissions in an effort to limit the global temperature increase, 195 nations came to an accord in Paris in 2015 to commit to combating climate change and adapting to its impacts. The long-term goal of this 2015 Paris Agreement is environmental sustainability, to keep the increase in global average temperature to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Reaching this goal requires transitioning towards a green economy, in which the capacity to satisfy tomorrow’s needs is not limited by today’s resource use, emissions and waste, and which “results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” 

COP27 (UN)

On 6-18 November one of the largest events on climate change organized by the United Nations took place. COP27 aimed to deliver action on issues critical to addressing the climate emergency – from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, helping communities build resilience and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to financing climate action and addressing loss and damage in developing countries. Read more:

Green Jobs for Youth Pact and Just Transition Financing Tools (ILO, UNEP and UNICEF)

The "Green Jobs for Youth Pact" was officially launched at the first ever Just Transition Pavilion at COP27 by the ILO, UNEP and UNICEF, calling for partnerships that open access to green careers with a focus on climate-vulnerable and high-impact sectors, to create new green jobs and support young entrepreneurs. The Pact was also launched as a UNFCCC side event. Read more: Green Jobs for Youth Pact.

Watch the high-level launch: The Green Jobs for Youth Pact: Accelerating young skills and talent for green jobs
Read the high-level launch with key takeaways

What is a “just transition”?

The need for a “Just Transition” is recognized in the Paris Agreement on climate change. The transition to a low-carbon economy needs to go hand in hand with equitably addressing social and economic risks and opportunities and promoting decent work as detailed in the ILO Just Transition Guidelines.

Just Transition is a framework developed by the trade union movement to encompass a range of social interventions needed to secure workers' rights and livelihoods when economies are shifting to sustainable production, primarily combating climate change and protecting biodiversity.

Just Transition Finance Tool (ILO)

To support a just transition, the ILO, together with the London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and Environment, launched the Just Transition Finance Tool on Banking and Investment Activities at COP27. It provides practical guidance to financial institutions on integrating Just Transition considerations in their strategies and operations. Read more:

The Net Zero Generation (PWC, Generation Unlimited, UNICEF)

Green skills are needed to combat climate change and help achieve a just transition. A report by PWC, UNICEF and GenU offers a way forward for governments, businesses and youth as we set out to address how upskilling can enable young people to equitably access employment opportunities created by the climate transition and help reduce severe bottlenecks in green skills, which could act as a brake on decarbonisation and climate resilience. Read more:

Growing Green - Fostering a Green Entrepreneurial Ecosystem for Youth (CITI, ILO)

Environmental degradation and climate change pose serious threats to the future of work and are predicted to exacerbate existing inequalities. Key challenges and opportunity spaces for green youth entrepreneurs are: (i) founding and scaling businesses, (ii) incorporating and integrating environmental and green processes, and (iii) selling green products and services. Supporting green young entrepreneurs requires coordinated support from the public, private and civil society sectors, mobilization of resources, pathways to formalization, improved access to appropriate financial products, and targeted initiatives attuned to local contexts and conditions in order to be successful.

Read more:

Lack of social protectIon

One hurdle to just transitions is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused an unprecedented loss of jobs and livelihoods, exacerbating income insecurity around the world, particularly for the more than half of the global population without any access to social protection, including the 2 billion workers in the informal economy. The pandemic has contributed to increasing the financing gaps for social protection by at least 30 per cent, as countries have sought to mitigate the health and economic effects of the crisis, while revenues were falling due to lower growth and trade. Constrained by higher debt burdens, countries now face a difficult trade-off between, on the one hand, increasing much-needed public investments to overcome the crisis, achieve a human-centred recovery and facilitate the structural transformations and just transitions that are necessary to achieve the SDGs and beyond, and, on the other hand, containing debt vulnerabilities.

Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions (UN)

In September 2021, the United Nations Secretary-General launched the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions, with the ambition of bringing together member States, international financial institutions, social partners, civil society, and the private sector to help countries create 400 million decent jobs, including in the green, digital and care economies, and to extend social protection coverage to the 4 billion people currently excluded. Read more:

Education is key to reining in climate change

Education plays a pivotal role in raising awareness and sensitivity about the environment. It must provide the foundational knowledge and skills to identify and resolve environmental challenges, and shape attitudes and behaviours that lead to both individual and collective action. For children and young people today, adapting education systems to build climate resilience and develop green skills become ever more important, as green skills can foster decent jobs for youth in the green economy and support achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Rewiring Education for People and Planet (The Education Commission, Dubai Cares)

This report, launched at the UN Transforming Education Summit, warns that based on current progress and without a fundamental shift in the way we act as a global community, we will not meet the SDGs by 2030. Furthermore, as the goals are intimately linked and their achievement profoundly interdependent, education actors must work together with new and unlikely allies to reimagine how our interconnected systems – health, education, economic development, and the protection of our planet – can jointly deliver prosperity and peace for the present and future generations. Read more:

Reimagining Our Futures Together: A new social contract for education (UNESCO)

This report, the key reference document for the Transforming Education Summit, acknowledges the power of education to bring about profound change due to the transformational potential of education as a route for sustainable collective futures. Read more:

The role of young people

Youth have an important role in the green transition with many youth-led solutions in the space, including Global Youth Mobilisation, Youth Environment Living Labs, GenU imGen Ventures (formerly Youth Challenge) and the Green Jobs for Youth Pact. 
GenU imaGen Ventures (Plan International, UNICEF, UNDP, USAID, WOSM)

The third round of the imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge, which was launched by GenU and its partners – UNICEF, UNDP, Plan International, USAID, and the World Organization of the Scout Movement – aims to inspire more than 25 million young aspiring entrepreneurs to tackle the world’s most pressing issues by 2023, with the top ideas receiving mentorship, seed funding, and incubation. The global winners from the most recent third edition of the challenge were announced at the COP27 including innovations such as biodegradable plastic and green sanitation technologies to solar-powered lighting systems for schools and bio-briquettes. The twelve winning youth ventures represent the brightest ideas of thousands of young innovators across more than 40 countries.  Read more:

Toolkit on Pro-Environmental Youth Engagement (UN, UNEP)

This Toolkit was developed by youth for youth under the Youth Empowerment and Training Initiatives to provide hands-on guidance on how to engage and lead pro-environmental change on multiple levels: individual, local & national, international and social media. Read more:

Youth Environment Living Labs (UNDP, UNICEF)

UNDP and UNICEF Malaysia, recognizing the shared objective of empowering adolescents and youth with climate awareness and tools for action, joined hands to pilot the Youth Environmental Living Labs (YELL) programme in 2021. YELL supports young people by connecting youth environmental advocates across the nation; advocating jointly with young people; running action-learning community environmental projects; and documenting strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to inform, inspire and strengthen the movement.

Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs (YBI, The Entrepreneurs Network)

This report examines the differences between entrepreneurial behaviours of those over and under 35 and reveals that young entrepreneurs create greener businesses, promote more responsible working practices and generate a significant boost to the economy – but only if they are given the right support. Read more:

Time to take action

A strong current is to encourage stakeholders to translate all of the research and dialogue on climate change and youth employment into action. There is a lot of momentum generated by events such as COP27 and the UN Transforming Education Summit towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as 2030 draws closer. One action point is making the education of green skills widespread to instil the awareness and competence necessary to support a global “green transition”. There is a lot at stake, including the livelihoods of youth and the health of our planet, so ensuring a just transition by empowering youth to take a leading role on climate action, including through choosing green jobs is crucial to not only the success, but also the sustainability of the SDGs.

Green Rising Initiative

The Green Rising initiative has been undertaken for World Environment Day, which is celebrated on June 5. It’s a movement that encourages people to work towards sustainability, and brings people together starting important conversations about the planet.

In India, the campaign involved a celebrity wardrobe sale with Salt Scout, and a crowd funding campaign with Give India in 2022, both raising funds for the cultivation of a 10 Acre food forest in Maharashtra. Give India and Cornerstone Sport also launched #GreenUpIndia, a crowdfunding campaign to encourage donors to support this cause.

By roping in various Indian celebrities and influencers from different sectors, people across the country were delivered the message to influence change for the greener good.



Online discussion on Youth-powered Green Transition on Community Forum

Please visit the YouthForesight Community Forum to follow the online discussion on Youth-powered Green Transition, which was launched in the sidelines of the COP27. In this online discussion, community members are invited to share their insights and concerns about climate change and green transition for youth. Join the conversation today at:

The discussion page is a space for commenting, sharing knowledge or inputs on this article, please share on the Green Jobs for Youth page:


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