March 2, 2024

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UTM: Leading the Green Skills Transition for a Sustainable Economy

In today’s world, the urgency of environmental sustainability is shaping business and policy decisions, directly impacting our lives. Rapid urbanization and the pressing challenges of climate change demand immediate changes in our daily routines, from how we live and commute to how we interact with nature and this extends to our energy practices as well.

As global commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement drive efforts to limit temperature increases to 2°C or, ideally, 1.5°C, we face a transition to a greener economy. While this transition may disrupt labour markets, it also promises substantial job opportunities in the coming decade.

The Imperative for Sustainable Energy

The urgent shift to sustainable energy sources is compelled by international agreements such as the Paris Agreement, economic diversification goals, and energy security imperatives. Simultaneously, businesses confront a shifting market landscape where carbon-related costs could reshape economic dynamics and competitiveness.

The energy transition also holds the potential to catalyze economic growth by capitalizing on global market opportunities. It offers a chance for global communities to revitalize their economies while prioritizing sustainability, contributing to GDP growth, job creation, and meeting consumer and business demands.

Within the industrial sector, adopting sustainable energy sources can enhance manufacturing efficiency and productivity, leading to increased profits over time. This shift reduces manufacturing waste, waste heat generation, and power consumption, fostering high-precision engineering with enhanced accuracy and repeatability.

Shifting toward low carbon-emission, clean energy sources is crucial to reducing carbon emissions in national power systems. Striking a balance between sustainability, security, and affordability while addressing the energy trilemma is essential for a more robust and eco-friendly power ecosystem. Numerous initiatives can advance the adoption of low-emission renewable and clean energy sources, including large-scale solar projects, hydrogen utilization, and bioenergy generation.

The Potential of Green Jobs: Key Drivers of Change

The demand for green skills is outpacing supply, potentially leading to a shortage, according to the Global Green Skills Report 2023 by LinkedIn. The workforce saw a 12.3% median increase in green talent share between 2022 and 2023 across 48 nations.

Job postings requiring green skills increased even faster, by a median of 22.4%.Green skills and jobs exhibit resilience during economic instability, with green talents being hired more than their counterparts since March 2020. The expansion of green skills is driven by the transition to a more eco-friendly economy in all sectors, including high-carbon-emitting industries like oil and gas.

Climate change and environmental technologies are expected to be significant drivers of global job growth, with wide adoption across industries. Automation and augmentation, particularly with AI applications, will play an important role in the future job landscape.

Impacts: ESG and the National Policy

The Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework serves as a benchmark to assess organizations’ sustainability and ethical practices. It encompasses energy efficiency, climate change strategy, workplace safety, community engagement, and ethical governance.

The transition to a Green Economy aligns with the ESG framework, fostering sustainability efforts within businesses. To support Malaysia’s journey, the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) aims to expedite the country’s move towards a cleaner, more robust future through renewable energy and green mobility initiatives.

NETR includes flagship projects like Integrated Renewable Energy Zones, Solar Parks, Hydro-Floating Solar PV, and more. These initiatives align with the Ekonomi MADANI framework, demonstrating Malaysia’s commitment to future generations.

Writer (left) with UTM Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Datuk Dr Ahmad Fauzi Ismail during the ASEAN Higher Education Conference 2023 at Bandung, Indonesia deliberating on “ASEAN as a Green Job Educator Hub for Sustainable & Resilient Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)”.

A Greener Future in Demand

Green jobs are surging across sectors and industries, offering substantial GDP growth and employment opportunities. The transition to green initiatives can generate millions of new jobs globally, particularly in clean energy, efficiency, and low-emissions technologies.

Emerging green positions provide opportunities for those without prior green experience. New roles like energy specialists and sustainability managers are in demand, encouraging employers to consider candidates with related skill sets.

Universities and educational institutions must prioritize STEAM skills, fostering digital skills like communication, information handling, and problem-solving. UTM offers courses related to Green Skills and promotes sustainable community-based learning and innovation projects, contributing to global sustainability efforts.

The courses that UTM offers comprise a Master of Science in Safety, Health & Environment, Master of Sustainable & Environmental Science and Master of Sustainable Systems.

UTM is also actively promoting sustainable community-based learning through our community lab and engaging in innovation projects related to green transition and sustainability in our courses.

As a leading research university in Malaysia, UTM is dedicated to advancing knowledge in Green Energy and Green Mobility, driving innovative solutions for global challenges.

 

By Prof. Dr Mohd Shafry Mohd Rahim

The writer is a Professor of Image Processing at School of Computing, Faculty of Engineering, UTM Johor Bahru, and was recently appointed as UTM Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International). He is also currently the Acting Director for the Office of Strategy and Corporate Affairs.

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