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The European Commission held a meeting in Brussels this week to examine the impact of climate change on employment. Bringing together about 300 policy makers and experts, this latest edition of the Restructuring Forum addressed various issues, including: how many jobs will be lost and how many created due to climate change; how skills and qualifications will have to evolve; and what role the social partners can play to help.
As a prelude to the EU's 2009 Green Week, the event brought together delegates from trade unions, employers and governments, as well as experts to analyze how climate-change policies will affect the labor market and what can be done to smooth the transition to a low-carbon economy.
The official purpose of the meetings was to spread awareness of the changes that can be expected and the new skills that will be required in the medium term to meet the needs of adjusting to a low-carbon economy. The main aim of the EU is to provide a platform for employers and trade unions to learn from other organizations that have internalized this challenge and taken positive measures to anticipate change.
Israel could learn from Europe on how to disseminate information on practices that have been used to embrace change and come up with innovative solutions, notably using new technology. Israeli companies should strive to engage a wide audience throughout the European Union, including the current participants in the Restructuring Forums (social partners, representatives of public authorities at different levels and experts), to take stock of its expertise and know how about the Green Economy and advanced agriculture technologies.
Climate-change policies affect an ever-increasing share of the economy. Brown jobs may be lost, and green jobs created, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Reducing the carbon footprint of the economy means that the vast majority of employees will be affected one way or the other. Mostly, they will have to learn "green skills" to do the same jobs with less carbon dioxide.
The Restructuring Forum looked at job creation; for example, in the various renewable-energy sectors or resulting from improved building insulation. For instance, a recent study by the European Commission put the net number of jobs created by reaching the target of 20 percent for the share of renewable-energy use in 2020 at 410,000. It also looked at job losses, such as in energy-intensive industries or in relation to international competition.
There are many opportunities for Israeli companies and initiatives, through early adoption of innovative new technology, to place themselves ahead of global competitors that are slower to anticipate change.
Conversely, a failure to anticipate by European firms may lead to hasty, reactive and forced later adjustment, which could damage companies and leave their employees inadequately prepared, or trained, for alternative employment.
It will be interesting in the future to examine how jobs that are neither lost nor created will need to adapt, particularly in terms of skills and qualifications required from employees. To prepare for the future, economies including the European ones should address issues such as research and training needs, the potential for job transformation by the employees themselves and regional aspects.
Ari Syrquin is the head of the International Department at GSCB Law Firm.