The theme of International Youth Day observed on August 12 was ‘Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World’. According to the UN, “half of the people on our planet are 30 or younger, and this is expected to reach 57 per cent by the end of 2030”.
Similarly, according to the UNDP Report 2018, “64 per cent of the Pakistani nation is younger than 30 and 29 per cent of Pakistanis are between 15 and 29”.
It is pertinent to actively involve the youth in the process of developing green skills to safeguard our planet from the devastating impacts of climate change, and lead it on the path of sustainable development. Many countries around the world have submitted their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in which they have set timelines to reach net zero carbon emissions targets. To meet their targets, nations have to work to reskill their workers, especially the youth, in the green economy.
Europe is aiming to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. To meet that goal, an estimated 18 million people will need to be reskilled. The US is also ready for green growth with green jobs forecasted to comprise 14 per cent of total jobs in the economy by 2030. To develop green skills among the youth in Pakistan, we need to adopt a policy approach based on two steps: education and job opportunities
The first step is to impart education, deliver knowledge and create awareness among the youth of Pakistan about green skills. This step requires initiatives from early childhood. Parents can teach their children to protect and plant trees. Children can be motivated to plant trees on special days like birthdays, Independence Day, etc. Parents can encourage their children to adopt the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Similarly, basic information about climate change and environmental challenges should be part of the syllabus at the primary level. At senior levels, complete topics and subjects can be introduced on climate and environmental issues. Schools and colleges should conduct competitions at district, provincial, and national levels like debates, paintings, projects, etc.
Specialized subjects and scholarships can be initiated at higher education levels to attract youth to get specialized education in these areas to acquire green skills. There should be awareness campaigns, seminars, and conferences at educational institutions to deliberate and formulate strategies keeping in view the international trends of green education in the educational sector.
The second step is to create job opportunities in the green economy to utilize the green skills of the youth. According to an ILO report, 24 million new jobs will be created globally by 2030, provided sustainable practices are adopted and implemented. The future of our planet depends on a climate-resilient and resource-efficient economy. The education and skills acquired will be of no use if the supply of jobs does not meet the demand in this sector in Pakistan. To invest the best minds in green projects within Pakistan, we need to generate jobs along with education and skill development.
The government of Pakistan is already taking many steps towards green projects like solarization, hydropower projects, electric vehicles, and restoration of the forestry sector to give employment. Green jobs can be further expanded in areas like environmental & wildlife conservation, sustainable agriculture, and green transport. These jobs can include public transport drivers, green infrastructure planners, sustainable agriculture experts, and many more.
Another important future area is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the green economy. Pakistan should also focus on educating the youth in the area of AI to meet future demands, especially in navigating green projects. We need to take steps for career counselling of youth during academic years to apprise them about opportunities in the green economy.
The adoption of a futuristic approach and the developing of green skills in the youth of Pakistan will produce many benefits. First of all, it will help combat climate change which has become the biggest threat to our planet, and especially to Pakistan. It will boost the adoption of mitigation and adaptation strategies to reduce the negative impacts of climate-led disasters. It can play an important role to conserve biodiversity and sustain our ecosystem. It will further lead to sustainable growth creating a balance between consumption and production patterns.
Such initiatives will enhance the green economy, creating job opportunities for the mushrooming young population. Otherwise, Pakistan can face a demographic burden that can increase unemployment and inflation.
Taking steps to keep in view the futuristic approach and investing in developing green skills among the youth of Pakistan through education and creating job opportunities is the need of the hour. Such ideas can protect from the devastating impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, promote sustainable growth and strengthen economic activities.
The writer is a graduate of University of Oxford in Public Policy. She tweets @zilehumma_1
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