How Rio de Janeiro is using green jobs to help solve larger social issues

By 2030, 40% of jobs in Rio de Janeiro will be green ones that contribute to tackling climate change and offer fair wages, worker protections, and benefits. How will this target be achieved?
How Rio de Janeiro is using green jobs to help solve larger social issues
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By 2030, 40% of jobs in Rio de Janeiro will be green ones that contribute to tackling climate change and offer fair wages, worker protections, and benefits. This is the target we have set for ourselves in our Climate Action Plan to deliver on our commitment to invest in high-impact climate actions that create jobs that are good for people and the planet, improve livelihoods and reduce inequalities. 


Rio’s commitment is in line with C40 research that shows that investing in urban climate action in C40 cities could result in 30% more jobs, compared to a “business-as-usual” approach. In Rio alone, over 900,000 green jobs could be created and supported across its supply chains by 2030. These jobs bring a host of socio-economic benefits alongside the climate ones, from lowering air pollution to saving health care costs to providing well-paid, decent and meaningful employment.


study conducted this year by C40 Cities has estimated that the share of existing green jobs in Rio is currently over 11% with more than 240,000 green jobs in the city. Electricity generation, transportation and waste management are the leading sectors with the highest shares of green jobs. At present, data availability only allows us to measure formal employment, but we know that the total number of green jobs may be much higher in sectors where informal employment rates are high, such as waste collection and the food sector.

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Rio and Brazil are facing significant yet not unsurmountable challenges. While the unemployment rate has been falling steadily, reaching a new 9-year low at 8%, roughly 40% of the labour force works informally. The most common informal sectors—domestic work, market trading, waste picking, street vending, and home-based services and production—are also ones at highest risk of employment insecurity, job losses and perpetuating existing inequalities for women, migrants, and low-income residents, as shown by the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Generational cycles of poverty manifest in a variety of ways, most prominently in a lack of education, training, and opportunity. These barriers still exist across Rio but are especially prevalent in the city’s large and sprawling network of informal settlements, or favelas, where operations and economic activities primarily depend on informal labour.


To repair these inequalities, we have rooted our approach to good green jobs in human-centred solutions and ensuring equitable access to decent work for all, especially those most vulnerable and marginalised. Brazil’s commitment to this cause is underscored by President Lula’s launch of a global campaign for decent work at the United Nations General Assembly and by Rio’s firm dedication to facilitating a just transition.


Other cities across the world are working to overcome similar challenges and achieve the same goals of a fair and equitable transition to a green economy. City-to-city collaboration is key to unlocking action, which is why in September our city hosted an Inclusive Climate Action Academy with 8 other cities from Latin America, Africa and North America and key global institutions to exchange best practices and hasten the momentum amongst cities to deliver a fair transition for all.

Already, more than 1,800 cariocas have traded in hundreds of tonnes of recyclable waste in exchange for a social currency that can be used by more than 100 businesses.

One important initiative we have showcased to other cities is the Recicla Comunidade programme, which supports residents in informal settlements to earn income by collecting recyclable waste such as paper, metal, and plastic and exchanging it for credit. Already, more than 1,800 cariocas have traded in hundreds of tonnes of recyclable waste in exchange for a social currency that can be used by more than 100 businesses. The establishments accepting this currency range from markets and bakeries, to building supply stores and even boarding houses, resulting in a wide range of local businesses and communities benefiting from the support. 


The benefits are already becoming apparent. The Asa Branca community is starting to be recognised publicly for the great work it is doing locally, benefiting the whole of Rio’s waterways and generating a 70% reduction in waste and a dramatic improvement in the water quality since joining Recicla Comunidade.


Another example of the tangible benefits of connecting employment to environmental sustainability is RevoluSolar, a shared solar power generation system in one of the city’s poorest communities, the Babilonia favela, where residents suffer high electricity prices and poor grid services. The program, a civil society initiative supported by the City of Rio,  not only reduces carbon emissions and lowers energy bills, but also trains dozens of locals as electricians and solar installers. Workers and community members learn about solar power, receive professional training and feel empowered to play their part in generating good, green local jobs and improving residents’ livelihoods in the favela.


The City of Rio is also supporting solar energy roll-out and workforce development through the Carioca Solarium, which is a solar energy farm built on a former landfill in partnership with communities, set to deliver 3,500 jobs. To ensure that the project enhances gender equity, the city is assessing ways the project could better contribute to improving the representation of women in Brazil’s energy sector. 


In 2021, the city also launched Reviver Centro, which is designed to bring new purpose to Rio’s central business district after the pandemic saw the area empty out. The project includes converting offices into residential rental units and mixed-use buildings, retrofitting existing infrastructure to consume less energy and emit less pollution and waste, building cycle paths, installing public art, creating parks, and revitalising public spaces—all of which are done by people in green jobs. 


Rio’s path towards a 40% green workforce by 2030 is undoubtedly ambitious. However, as we have witnessed through ongoing initiatives, this goal is well within our reach if the public and private sectors and civil society unite to build a fairer, more resilient city. Mayors and city leaders around the world stand united in action to accelerate the just transition to clean energy while creating good, green jobs and better lives for everyone.

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We work to improve quality of life and achieve more inclusive societies in cities of all sizes, while addressing a range of issues – from managing urban expansion and congestion to encouraging innovation and environmental sustainability.

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