A Word with the Experts – Kees van der Ree, ILO Green Jobs Programme

I had the chance to sit down with Kees van der Ree, coordinator of ILO’s Green Jobs Programme, and hear his thoughts on green entrepreneurship, carbon taxes, and what’s coming up for the ILO at Rio+20.

It seemed that “entrepreneurship” was the buzzword of the day, including green start-ups and businesses.  Listening to the discussions, I had one burning question: “How can the average graduate in in the United States try to start a business with so much student loan debt?”   Reports have shown that student loan debt in the United States has exceeded $1 trillion, more than the total amount of outstanding credit card debt.  That figure translates into an average debt load of $25,000 for US graduates.

Mr. van der Ree suggested that governments utilize carbon taxes to help lower the costs of starting a new business, helping young entrepreneurs. According to him, “a few cents of tax doesn’t harm consumption,” while at the same time reducing carbon emissions and “providing support for green investments.” However, as others have also pointed out, poorly planned carbon taxes can have negative economic effects, especially on poorer populations.  For that reason, van der Ree supports creating carbon taxes that are “socially sensitive,” taking into account the various needs of each population segment.

ILO will partner with UNEP to produce a major side event, “Green Jobs: A Chance for Youth.” To be held on June 15th in Rio de Janiero, the side event will explore how the growing “green economy” can help create new jobs, particularly for young people. The event is sure to include some interesting dialogue, so be sure to stay tuned!

For more info on ILO’s Green Jobs Programme, click here: eng fr es

– Matt Hamilton