Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Green Jobs, Environmental Sustainability & Industrial Relations

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Green Jobs, Environmental Sustainability & Industrial Relations

Article excerpt


The forces associated with globalisation were connected with profound changes to jobs, work and workplaces. On the negative side there were job losses, redundant skills, increased industrial disruption, regional downturn and falling living standards. On the plus side there were new jobs, new skills, rising living standards and regional growth. This process of industrial restructuring and disruption was experienced across most of the developed and developing world. Governments attempted to ameliorate and limit the negative side of the process through tariffs, subsidies, tax breaks and adjustment schemes; they also resort to encourage the positive side of the process with a similar mix of incentives and assistance.

Industrial restructuring is central to the process of industrial relations as trade unions seek to maximise employment and wages; employers seek to maintain returns and protect investments; and governments seek to maintain jobs and living standards, and limit the negative side of industrial restructuring. However, a new form and a new type of restructuring is confronting work, employment and workplaces. It also has its positive and negative sides. This is the restructuring associated with moving towards a green economy that uses renewable energy, reduces carbon emissions and generates green products and processes. Once again social partners are faced with the same major challenges and trade offs as they grapple with the restructuring and adjustment associated with the transition to a green economy. Once again, this adjustment impacts on all economies and all sectors. However, like earlier adjustments its impact across industries, nations and workers will be uneven. In this paper we consider the challenges and opportunities for industrial relations partners that are present in the transition to a green economy.

Global Warming: Persistent & Ubiquitous

Despite strong pockets of climate scepticism, there is no doubt that the planet is warming and that carbon emissions have a role to play in the warming process. The evidence is clear on the direction of change and its consequences. There are doubts over details, the extent of change, the timing, the implications for particular regions and countries and over the appropriate remedial action that should be taken. The Economist (2010a) commented: "the fact that the uncertainties (around climate change) allow you to construct a relatively benign future does not allow you to ignore futures in which climate change is large, and in some of which it is very dangerous indeed. The doubters are right that uncertainties are rife in climate change science. They are wrong when they present that as a reason for inaction."

The scientific consensus is that the process of climate change and global warming is with us and that many parts of the globe are being or will be adversely affected. The failure of the UN Copenhagen summit on climate change demonstrated the difficulties associated with arriving at a global consensus with global action and pre-established targets for all countries. Rather than being a rebuff to the very process of climate change the Copenhagen outcome represented all the difficulties associated with arriving at a binding global agreement on action to address climate change. The key issues were the distribution of the adjustment process: who should be responsible and what should be their contribution; and the timing of the adjustment: what is a realistic and suitable time to achieve targets that are not only attainable but contribute towards a slow down in warming and emissions?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) attributes climate change to the additional impact of anthropogenic activity over natural climatic variables and during the same time period. The IPCC (Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change) definition however does not differentiate between human and natural activity nor specifies comparable time periods. …

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