Leaders at COP28 say environmental protection initiatives can create more jobs for youth

Leaders at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP28) say pursuing initiatives that protect the environment from climate change would help create jobs for many. The assurances come as concerns are raised youth unemployment in Africa has reached troubling levels.

President Nana Akufo-Addo in a speech to the World Climate Action Summit during the conference in Dubai said the government had an ambitious vision for a resilient Ghana that prioritises job creation, whilst restoring the environment.

“It is a vision to strengthen our economy, protect and restore our abundant forests, meaningfully reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, boost our cocoa production, position us as global leaders of sustainable timber and scale up our tourism potential, and at the same time being able to create jobs and livelihoods for our people,” he said.

“Ghana will strengthen its strong foundation in accessing international carbon markets and lead Africa in generating high quality and high integrity carbon credits… I’m delighted to announce that Ghana signed an agreement with the LEAF Coalition for the sale of up to 5 million tons of credit of high-quality forest carbon credits to public and private sector buyers for the sum of $58m,” President Akufo-Addo added.

He thanked the United Arab Emirates for supporting Ghana with the sum of $30m to promote sustainable agriculture forest reforestation ecosystem services and sustainable livelihoods for local communities.

President of the European Union Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen said renewable energy creates new and good jobs and urged the world to invest in clean energy initiatives. “Today, there are more clean energy workers in the world than fossil fuel workers. Since 2019, in all regions that saw declines in fossil fuel jobs, clean energy jobs have outweighed these losses by far. So, the transformation of our energy system is not only good for the planet, but it is also good for our economy, and it is good for our workers across the world,” she said.

Over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth, and non-state actors, who have gathered at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP28). Hosts, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) says it is leading a process for all parties to agree upon a clear roadmap to accelerate progress through a pragmatic global energy transition and a “leave no one behind” approach to inclusive climate action.

Speaking at a session themed “Connection to Territories: Youth and Land Rights,” Board chair of AGRA and former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn expressed concern about the unemployment situation on the African continent.

“A total of 12 million youth enter the employment market each year across the African continent, but only 25% are absorbed into formal jobs, leaving large numbers either unemployed or underemployed. And yet, this youth demographic can be a driving force in addressing some of the continent’s major challenges,” he said.

He observed that financial constraints, coupled with restricted access to credit and savings, along with a lack of legal protection, pose significant barriers to youth aspiring to acquire land to venture into agriculture. “It is crucial that we address these multifaceted challenges as it will be marked as a pivotal step towards unlocking the potential that Africa’s youth hold for sustainable agricultural development,” he said.

Mr. Dessalegn said currently, a significant 54% of Africa’s workforce relies on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods, income, and employment, particularly in family farming. “The agricultural sector has a more substantial impact on youth employment compared to any other sector. Notably, within agriculture, the food economy emerges as the largest employer, encompassing various activities from farming to processing, packaging, transportation, storage, distribution, and retailing. This value chain accounts for a remarkable 66% of total employment, equivalent to 82 million jobs,” he observed.

“Transforming agriculture and food systems inclusively represents an opportunity in today’s African economies, offering the chance to generate meaningful and respectable job opportunities for the continent’s young men and women,” he added.

Joseph Opoku Gakpo, Editor-in-Chief

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