The United Nations Environmental Protection and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, describe Green jobs as jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, reduce energy, materials and water consumption through high-efficiency strategies, decarbonize the economy and minimize or altogether avoid all forms of waste and pollution.
Based on the above definitions, I can say that environmental protection is an important aspect of economic growth and development. Since sustainable utilization of resources forms a key component of environmental protection, Kenya as a signatory to many environmental treaties e.g. the Ramsar convention on wetlands has no option but regulate on the utilization of resources from the natural resource base.
The Kenyan constitution dictates that the state shall ensure sustainable exploitation, utilization, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources. It also provides for the establishment of environmental Impact assessment, environmental audit and monitoring of the environment (Currently being carried out by the National Environment and Management Agency NEMA established under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 1999). As such, we can comfortably say that unlike in the past, we have a basis for the creation of green jobs guaranteed by the most supreme law of the land.
In The East African Cooperation, which Kenya is a part of, the country produces 40% of the total Gross Domestic Product. Coming back home, it is crucial to note the role that agriculture plays – acting as the backbone of the economy which is proven by its contribution to the country’s GDP which currently stands at 24.2%. Of this, the biggest contributors are the horticultural industry and the black tea business.
Why give the above statistics? Why single out agriculture of all other contributors to the economy? First, the above statistics show the crucial role that Kenya plays in the development of not just us but the wider East African Bloc. Secondly, the reason I have singled out agriculture is that of the enormous effect it has on the environment and its ripple effect on the realization of a green economy. Among these being pollution of water catchment areas whose source is mostly non- point, air pollution mostly from aerosols and reduction of the quality of our soils due to continued overuse of agricultural inputs mostly inorganic fertilizers.
Green jobs would play a major role towards the realization of Kenya’s vision 2030. This is informed by the fact that despite Kenya’s great potential, many sectors still remain untapped while others are greatly underutilized. The greatest and senior most responsibility of a government second from protecting its people is poverty reduction which equals economic empowerment and improved in the state and quality of the livelihoods of its citizenry.
Environmental protection is the backbone of all economic development. This is because based on the definition of the term environment (that which surrounds) economic development requires a medium for it to be a reality since its realization cannot be in a void. Also, protection of natural resources through regular monitoring of levels of utilization means sustainability of these resources ends up being guaranteed which translates to the future viability of the resource in terms of their utilization.
How can green jobs spur economic development in Kenya?
Since they entail the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, this means that natural heritage sites, natural forests, wetlands, Ramsar sites, coastal beaches, and other marine ecosystems would be under tight supervision. Also, biodiversity in terms of animal species protection would also be guaranteed through this venture. The above act as important tourist attraction sites and their protection would translate to more tourists visiting the country. Based on the fact that the tourism sector dominates the Kenya services sector which contributes about 63% of the country’s GDP, this would mean that protection of the above would play a big role in economic growth and development. Eradicating poaching, illegal logging and illegal harvesting of game products would be a great step in achieving the above.
A boost in tourism means more jobs for the citizens meaning a reduction in unemployment levels and also uplift in the economic standing of the people of Kenya.
Green jobs also entail jobs that deal with the provision of clean energy for the citizens of Kenya. These forms of energy include wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, and hydroelectric power. As it is currently, the most common form of energy is that derived from petroleum products. This is a leading source of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere key being Carbon IV oxide. The resultant effect of this form of increased emissions is global warming and later on climate change.
Global warming and climate change have adverse effects on our country key among them being drastic changes in climatic conditions which in the past have had enormous effects on the agricultural sector which contributes greatly to the Kenyan economy. This is mainly because our agricultural practices mainly depend on rainfall. A reduction in the amount of rainfall means less harvest which later on leads to great economic losses, loss of human and livestock life and a generally negative effect on the environment as a result of the development of desert-like conditions.
According to Robert Mburia, a climate change specialist, the economic cost of drought in the period from 1998 to 2000 cost Kenya an approximate $2.8 billion due to livestock loss and other reasons stated above. The greatest effect of drought was felt in 2011 where inflation rose to 15%due to a high cost of food and the skyrocketing of oil prices.
Introduction and continued use of green energy would as such to a great extent limit and mitigate against the above negative effects meaning that the economy would be always cushioned against the same.
Green jobs also talk about reducing the amount of waste produced by a country. This is a goldmine in the making since through the four principles of waste management that are; REDUCING waste produced, REUSING some of the products, RECYCLING the used products ad REGENERATION of the waste products, apart from the provision of jobs, wastage would be reduced saving the country lots and lots of money. Regeneration of waste through incineration to produce electricity would be a source of energy for the country in addition to providing employment opportunities for the people.
Waste management which is guaranteed by the above principles is an important component of environmental protection, rehabilitation, and remediation in that it reduces levels of pollution in the environment thus ensuring biodiversity.
Lastly, disasters have become a common occurrence in modern-day livelihoods and societies. Kenya has not been spared by the wrath of nature having experienced various disaster types from landslides to floods to droughts and famine. Apart from these being as a result of changing climatic conditions and global warming, human negligence and carelessness has also played a part maybe not in the cause of the disaster but in its severity and also on the levels of vulnerability and susceptibility of the people affected by these calamities.
This can be witnessed through the increasing cases of deforestation, uncontrolled extraction of mineral resources, wetland destruction, poaching, uncontrolled population increase and the continuous destruction of important water towers and catchment areas. This has had a negative effect on the environment not only through its effect on biodiversity loss but also its effect on the sustainability of resources extracted from the same.
Through the loss of lives, a great economic potential is lost; destruction of farms by floods means great losses to farmers; biodiversity destruction means less tourism activity; infrastructure destruction by landslides and earthquakes translates to more economic losses et.al… Disaster occurrences also mean that the government has to divert funds otherwise meant for development to respond to the emergency in an effort to alleviate human suffering.
Since jobs oriented towards environmental protection can avert all the above economic losses, what does Kenya stand to lose by placing a key interest in them and prioritizing on their introduction and uptake? I say NOTHING. In fact, there is so much more to gain!