Post-pandemic ‘green shift’: Transport sector could create jobs

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A bus driver in New York City wears a mask to protect himself against the coronavirus [UN Photo/Evan Schneider]

NEW YORK, USA – Transforming the transport sector to be more environmentally-friendly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, could create up to 15 million new jobs worldwide and help countries move to greener, healthier economies, according to a UN-backed report published on Tuesday.

The study argues that recovery from the crisis cannot mean a return to “business as usual” for a sector that accounts for more than 60 million jobs globally. Instead, it provides an opportunity to advance the collective effort to achieve sustainable development for all people and the planet, by 2030 through the SDGs.

“Pursuing the goal of an environmentally sustainable and inclusive society requires a structural transformation of the economy, including both changes in the products and services on offer and production processes”, said Catherine Saget, team leader at the international labour organization (ILO), which co-authored the report.

“This structural transformation, which would include the transport sector, has the potential to create decent work and protect workers and their families if it is accompanied by suitable policies.”

The report — Jobs in green and healthy transport: Making the green shift’ – is the work of the ILO and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), with the support of the Partnership on Jobs in Green and Healthy Transport – part of the transport, health and environment pan-european programme.

It examines the employment implications of four “green transport” scenarios in nearly 60 countries, in North America, Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, which are UNECE members.

The scenarios – which envisage an accelerated expansion of public transport, and the electrification of private passenger and freight transport – are compared with a “business-as-usual” approach.

The authors found that if half of all vehicles manufactured going forward were electric, an estimated ten million more jobs could be created worldwide; nearly a third of them in the UNECE region. Additionally, nearly five million more jobs could be created if UNECE countries doubled their investment in public transport.

These measures could also spark job creation outside the transport sector. For example, reduced oil spending could lead to a rise in spending on goods and services, while electrification could boost job creation in the renewable energy sector.

Other potential benefits include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, air and noise pollution, and traffic congestion.

“The inland transport sector is key in the economies of our region, both regarding its share of GDP and employment”, said UNECE executive secretary Olga Algayerova.  “This study highlights some of the key opportunities to transform the sector and make it greener, healthier and more sustainable”.

She described the report as “a call for governments and the sector itself to make the right choices and invest massively in public transport and green technologies to seize these opportunities.”

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