Nature-Based Solutions and a Just Transition: Understanding the Jobs, Skills and Training Requirements for NBS to Contribute to the Green Economy

Mabon, Leslie (2023) Nature-Based Solutions and a Just Transition: Understanding the Jobs, Skills and Training Requirements for NBS to Contribute to the Green Economy. LET IT GROW, LET US PLAN, LET IT GROW. Nature-based Solutions for Sustainable Resilient Smart Green and Blue Cities. Proceedings of REAL CORP 2023, 28th International Conference on Urban Development, Regional Planning and Information Society. pp. 535-544. ISSN 2521-3938

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This paper evaluates potential for nature-based solutions (NbS) to contribute to a just urban transition, through fair and decent work for people in cities with industrial or high-emitting economies. The idea of a just transition –a move to a zero-emission and sustainable society that does not leave behind the people and places whose jobs and livelihoods rely on high-emitting industries – is gaining signficant attention in international scholarship and policy, including urban policy. However, although there is increasing awareness of the “green jobs” opportunity associated with energy, understanding of the potential for new jobs associated with NbS in the urban economy is more limited. At the same time, there is also a growing acknowledgement that successful urban NbS interventions will require long-term stewardship. Developing a workforce with the skills to maintain and enhance NbS is thus critical if multiple benefits are to be realised. The role of nature-based solutions in a just transition, and skills requirements for NbS stewardship, are explored through the case of Glasgow in Scotland, United Kingdom. Glasgow is a valuable case as it is a post-industrial former manufacturing and shipbuilding city, which has in recent years suffered deprivation and public health. From an urban planning and policy perspective, city- and national-level climate adaptation and transition plans have given impetus towards a just recovery and transition towards resilience for the Clyde Corridor and for the Glasgow City Region more widely. Glasgow is thus valuable for understanding the jobs, skills and training requirements for NbS, in that it is (a) at a stage where there is a clear policy and planning vision of what NbS deployment in the city region might look like; and (b) home to a large workforce who are likely to need retraining or up-skilling in response to the climate change challenge. A typology of jobs requried to realise a just urban transition through NbS is developed from review of international scholarly literature, and is used as the analytical framework for the paper. Key job areas that are identified include jobs in construction, land-based sectors, civil engineering and cross-cutting sectors to support societal transformation. Governmental statistics are then used to identify opportunities for particular neighbourhoods or sections of the workforce to benefit from training or upskilling, so that NbS jobs may contribute to just resilience for Glasgow. Existing skilled workers in sectors such as manufacturing and utility supply, which are projected to see declines, may be able to re-skill to support embedding NbS into new-builds and retrofitting in the construction industry. Expanding ‘skills passports’ to encompass NbS jobs may support this. Data also suggests, however, that in construction- and land-based sectors, there is an ageing workforce and a coming need for replacement labour. Particularly in employment-deprived areas, qualifications in construction, civil engineering and land-based sectors may provide younger people with vocational-level qualifications with an opportunity to develop a sustainable career pathway that will support stewardship for NbS. Moreover, the significance of cross-cutting skills at community level should not be underestimated as support for putting NbS implementation and stewardship into practice. Reflecting on the urban just transitions and urban NbS policy literature more widely, based on insights from Glasgow City Region, I argue there is a need for particular attention to, and emphasis on, NbS jobs that may be available to sections of the workforce that may be more likely to struggle to find work as traditonal industries are wound down. In other words, there remains a need for more understanding of adaptation and resilience jobs for those with vocational qualifications, alongside the planning and management-type jobs that are perhaps better understood. There is also a need to ensure that understanding of the skills and capabilities for NbS stewardship are integrated into univeristy and college curricula for sectors such as construction and civil engineering, and to protect and update curriucla in areas such as land management and urban ecology Fuller spatial data on workforce skills and adaptation job requirements will help to better understand how the NbS urban green economy opportunity links to the existing and future workforce.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: climate adaptation; just transition; nature-based solutions; resilience; urban policy
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Depositing User: REAL CORP Administrator
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2023 10:38
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2023 17:29

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