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Cleaner, Greener, and Richer

GENEVA – In the past, action to combat climate change was viewed largely as running counter to economic growth, with “going green” implying a sacrifice of prosperity for the sake of the environment. Today, we know better. By taking action to mitigate climate change, companies are promoting sustainable growth and creating high-quality employment.

The United States, for example, has added 1.2 million “clean” jobs to the economy since January, according to a new study by the Ecotech Institute. Since last year, employment has risen by more than 115% in the solar industry, and jobs related to energy efficiency have increased by over 50%.

In China, the International Renewable Energy Agency reports that more than 1.7 million people are already employed in the renewable-energy sector. And the Global Climate Network estimates that seven million additional jobs could be created if government targets for wind, solar, and hydropower are met. Worldwide, an estimated 5.7 million people were employed directly or indirectly in the global renewable-energy industry in 2012 – a figure that could triple by 2030.

Of course, the expansion of renewable energy alone is not enough to combat climate change. Smarter ways of managing the planet’s natural assets – such as forests, freshwater supplies, soils, and biodiversity – are also needed to enhance the environment’s capacity to absorb carbon-dioxide emissions, while increasing the capacity of communities and countries to adapt to the climate change already underway.