Over the last year, labour markets in Latin America and the Caribbean have faced an unprecedented unemployment problem.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), an estimated 34 million jobs have been lost across Latin America and the Caribbean due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This crisis is mostly affecting young people, women, and adults with lower qualifications. In addition, more than five category 3 hurricanes occurred in the region further adversely affecting economies that were already struggling.
There is an increasing need for new jobs and skills that will help boost local economies and, in turn, the resilience of the region.
With the potential for US $18 billion of investment in the upcoming decade to meet the region’s energy needs, the renewable energy sector is ideally positioned to offer these opportunities.
Investors, project developers and operators have the necessary tools to build resilient infrastructure in the region, through training, decarbonisation and community engagement which will grow the overall economy.
Building on the available workforce
A focus on training is critical to boosting the number of skilled workers in the region and a focus needs to be made on those skills most compatible with the renewables sector.
By supporting access to training programs in schools and universities, we can strengthen and diversify the skills of local jobseekers.
By helping grow the existing pool of highly skilled workers, investors will be able to benefit from, not only the valuable solutions they will be able to bring to the table, but also the local knowledge necessary to make the projects successful.
This will also help instil a strong knowledge of renewable energies into the local communities, providing them with the insight necessary for them to take on future projects.
Investors and other actors in the renewables sector should also be working closely with NGOs and organisations such as the Clinton Foundation, which is raising awareness of climate change through educational programs for young people.
These educational projects help to grow young peoples’ understanding and knowledge so they can take part in tackling environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity.
Another important requirement is to embed skills transfer opportunities by working with professional organisations that foster the exchange of ideas among various sectors in the region.
By doing this, we can offer renewable energy resources exchange programmes geared towards educational improvements that provide long-term, sustainable upskilling for the work of the future.
An example of an initiative that has helped local communities in the US is the Tree City programme, which has strengthened and sustained urban forests across the country in partnerships with its foundation members and partners.
By playing closer attention to tree planting, management and care, communities are able to enjoy profound environmental benefits, including lower urban temperatures and cleaner water and air.
The value of eco-tourism and local preservation programs
However, education and upskilling are not the only things renewable energy investors can do to strengthen local communities’ knowledge and awareness.
Educators, promotional bodies and governments should join together to raise awareness of efforts to combat climate change by promoting eco-tourism in the region.
Eco-tourism will not only create a better understanding among local communities of the means by which they can individually help to save the planet, it also creates a strong promotional tool when it comes to attracting foreign visitors, which will be hugely beneficial post-pandemic when countries around the world will be open again and can enjoy a tourism boom.
One example of a country that has included eco-tourism in its wider decarbonisation strategy is Costa Rica. With a goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Latin American country is working towards promoting eco-tourism as well as preserving and expanding its tropical rainforests and promoting sustainable farming.
According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), this decarbonisation plan will bring US$41 billion in net benefits within three decades through tourism, energy savings, reduced cost of accidents and time wasted in congestion, and improvements in ecosystem services and agriculture yields.
In fact, according to the United Nations, Latin America and the Caribbean could save $621 billion by 2050 by creating this sort of strategy to decarbonise their energy and transport sectors and could create up to 7.7 million new permanent jobs.
Inward investment is crucial for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean working towards decarbonisation. Governments in the region can deploy policy initiatives to attract inward investment, particularly for renewable energy infrastructure.
This could include passing ESG-focused regulations and support mechanisms that encourage investment in renewable energy. From the investor side, early engagement with local communities can build sustainable relationships and create long-term benefits for both parties.
Having continuous exchanges with local communities adds a certain buy-in. This combined with access to training activities is essentially another level of security on the assets.
Investing in the future of our planet is a necessity and investing in renewable energy production to reduce the effects of carbon emissions is one of the required solutions. Decarbonising economies is essential for the future resilience and strength of local economies Latin America and the Caribbean.
This should provide a clear path for investors to realise returns on their investments and engage in the social aspect of renewable energy projects. This must include upskilling workers, providing educational resources, and contributing to a reduction in environmental impacts connected to all economic activities across the region.
David Delaire is managing and ESG director at MPC Renewable Energies GmbH