The United Nations (U.N.) released a study, "Working Towards Sustainable Development", on May 31, 2012 prior to the Rio+20 international summit on the topic. The study was a collaborative effort of the U.N. Green Jobs Initiative, which includes the International Labor Organization, UNEP, IOE, ITUC, and the International Institute for Labor Studies.
The study predicts that a switch to a greener economy, which includes energy efficiency and renewable energy, could result in the addition of 15 to 60 million jobs worldwide. This is a gain of 0.5 to 2 percent, according to the report.
The agriculture, forestry, fishing, energy, manufacturing, recycling, building and transportation sectors are expected to see the largest job gains.
The U.N. acknowledged that the transition to a cleaner economy would result in the loss of jobs, but that this has been "exaggerated" because the jobs created would more than make up for the difference. The research suggests that the switch would have the greatest impact on industrialized countries, but that it would only affect 1% of their workforce.
The U.N. claims that the transition to a green economy will affect each country differently, which means we need more country-specific studies. However, emerging and developing countries are expected to see the largest net gains in green jobs overall.
For example, a $30 million investment in REDD+ (reduced deforestation and degradation of forests) in developing countries could add 8 million full-time jobs.
Additionally, a greener economy could improve incomes in developing countries, which could help to alleviate poverty. This is especially true for small farmers who reduce environmental impact and boost productivity - a strategy that has already proven successful in Madagascar and Uganda.
Since 1.3 million billion people in developing countries have no clean modern energy, the transition could also grant access to energy and boost social inclusion.