This article is written by Mogesh Sababathy, a UNICEF Youth Climate Champion
Thirty years ago, we had a chance to save the planet. The science of climate change was settled. The world was ready to act. Almost nothing stood in our way — except ourselves. The planet is at a crossroads, and we are feeling the heat—literally. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres unequivocally states,
“The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”
We have long known the perils of climate change: rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and heatwaves breaking records. The question is not what we know; its why change remains sluggish. Green jobs hold the answer. They are not just a lifeline; they are the underpinning of our survival. This year’s UN International Youth Day theme, “Green Skills for Youth,” resonates deeply with the need to equip young minds with the knowledge and expertise required to step into the realm of green jobs.
Green jobs encompass a wide range of professions aimed at promoting environmental sustainability and addressing climate change, found in diverse sectors such as manufacturing, construction, renewable energy, and more. From renewable energy technicians and eco-architects to sustainability analysts and organic farmers, these roles aim to enhance energy efficiency, reduce pollution, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and support ecosystem restoration by prioritizing the health of our planet over short-term gains. According to International Labour Organization, it is crucial to highlight that the ‘green’ aspect is not solely about the end product; it also involves adopting eco-friendly production processes, such as decreasing water usage or improving recycling systems. In essence, green jobs centre on both favourable environmental outcomes and the embrace of sustainable practices. Green skills, conversely, encompass the expertise required to excel in these roles, encompassing knowledge of clean technologies, resource management, and sustainable practices.
By embracing a sustainable economy, we mitigate environmental degradation while fostering economic growth.
It is not just about saving the planet; it is about forging a more equitable and vibrant world for generations to come. Yet, this is not solely about economics, it is about a moral revolution. The role of corporations in environmental decline is undeniable. But it is not about laying blame; it is about sparking transformation. Corporations can, and must, pivot towards conscious decisions, sustainable practices, and green-collar jobs that drive progress without plundering our planet. This shift is not a mere escape from impending catastrophe; it is an opportunity to reshape industries as forces for good. The Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad also recently stated that industries should seek ways to improve sustainable practices and urged businesses to start playing a bigger role in the fight against climate change by embracing environment, social and governance (ESG) principles towards embracing the green economy. Corporate responsibility transcends profit margins; it is about leaving a legacy of reduced ecological footprints and engaged consumers.
But this transformation is not the task of corporations alone.
Governments play a pivotal role. Legislative support, policy frameworks, and financial incentives must intertwine, creating an ecosystem where green jobs flourish. Corporations need the push, and the youth need the pull. Enter the young, whose voices have become the formidable pulse of change. In a world ruled by hashtags and headlines, the youth harness this power for more than just trending topics. Their arsenal is not just a smartphone, it is knowledge that empowers, green skills that are not just “nice to have,” but “need to have.”
Here are some ways youths can harness green skills:
- Internships and Apprenticeships: Seek out internships or apprenticeships with organizations committed to sustainable practices. Hands-on experience provides valuable insights and networking opportunities.
- Entrepreneurship: Start your own green ventures. Innovative ideas, such as zero-waste stores, sustainable fashion brands, or eco-friendly tech solutions, can make a significant impact.
- Advocacy and Awareness: Join or establish environmental advocacy groups to raise awareness about the importance of green skills and sustainable practices. Social media platforms can be powerful tools for amplifying voices.
- Community Engagement: Organize tree-planting drives, clean-up campaigns, and workshops on composting or energy conservation within local communities. These initiatives foster a sense of ownership and responsibility.
Educational institutions, on the other hand, particularly higher education, hold a crucial role in shaping the green leaders of tomorrow. With the largest population of young individuals concentrated within these institutions, the potential for instilling environmental consciousness and nurturing green skills is unparalleled. By offering specialized courses that emphasize green skills, such as sustainable architecture or renewable energy engineering, institutions not only equip students with the tools to combat climate challenges and inspire them to become advocates for sustainable change but also equip them with the green skills necessary to excel in a rapidly changing job market.
Amidst this effort lies the importance of strengthening Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) strategies within existing educational frameworks. By infusing sustainability principles across disciplines, educational institutions instill a holistic understanding of the interconnectedness between the environment, society, and economy. This prepares graduates to tackle complex global issues through a sustainable lens, enabling them to drive change across diverse sectors. The result is a generation of graduates who possess the knowledge, skills, and determination to weave environmental stewardship into the fabric of their professional endeavors, shaping a world where green skills are not just desirable but indispensable for progress.
The symphony of our struggle for independence still reverberates through the corridors of time, reminding us of the power of unity and determination. Just as our ancestors fought fiercely for freedom from colonization, we are now faced with a different kind of battle, a battle for the very survival of our planet.
As we raise our voices to wish our nation a joyful Merdeka, let us channel that same spirit of liberation toward environmental protection. Merdeka! May the 66th year of our nation’s journey toward independence inspire us to forge a legacy of environmental stewardship, echoing through generations yet to come.
Youth Climate Champions Consultant, UNICEF Malaysia
Co-founder of Project Ocean Hope
PhD Candidate, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)