OECD climate change & job skills publications launch

(12pm 6 December 2011, Customs House)

Good morning, everyone. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities who make up our City of Sydney.

Welcome to our launch of two significant OECD reports looking at climate change and skills development - one for Sydney and another synthesising results from around the world into a Global report on Enabling Local Green Growth.

We are honoured that the OECD decided to launch the global report here in Sydney. I would like to welcome this morning:

  • Mr Sergio Arzeni, Director of the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Local Development
  • Ms Pam Christie, Deputy Director-General, NSW Department of Education, with responsibility for TAFE and
  • Ms Gabriella Miranda, OECD policy analyst and project leader.

To our two visitors, you are both very welcome to Sydney.

We should also acknowledge Ms Cristina Martinez, OECD senior policy analyst who worked extensively on the project but was unable to come to Sydney, and Mr Graham Larcombe, director of Strategic Economics, who was the local expert engaged for the project and who is here today.

I also welcome representatives of our other partners in developing the Sydney report:

  • Regional Development Australia Sydney and
  • the four TAFE Institutes in the Sydney area: Sydney Institute, Western Sydney, South Western Sydney and Northern Sydney Institutes.

And of course, we acknowledge our primary overseas partner cities and regions in this global project: London, Extremadura in Spain and Podlaskie and Pomorskie in Poland.

Finally, I acknowledge local government and Mayoral representatives from all parts of the Sydney metropolitan area.

This complex project began in 2009 when the OECD asked us to take part and put together the local partnership with the TAFES and Regional Development Australia Sydney (RDA) representing the federal and state governments.

We surveyed businesses in metropolitan Sydney to gauge the need for, and take up of, green skills in existing jobs, and the scale of emerging green jobs in various industries.

In most cases we found that the emergence of green jobs and green skills created new jobs, as well as transforming existing jobs.

Last December, an international OECD-led team of experts made a short study visit which included meetings with public and private sector stakeholders, and other organisations involved in training, workforce and economic development.

The aim was to better understand challenges and opportunities as we adapt to the greener demands of local labour markets.

The results from Sydney were combined with other local studies and experiences in other study areas, resulting in the global synthesis being launched today.

Both reports look at local employment changes; changing skill requirements; challenges and opportunities arising from our service providers and in particular ways in which we can adapt to the greener demands of local labour markets.

How we mitigate and how we adapt to climate change is one of our most important challenges if we are to have an environmentally and economically sustainable future.

We have to ensure that the requisite skills are developed to allow a smooth transition to the low-carbon economy, and to support workers in carbon-intensive jobs to find alternative, sustainable employment.

A highly-skilled green labour force of course will increase the potential for innovation and entrepreneurship, supporting Sydney to become an even more competitive city in global economic terms.

New fields of employment are likely to emerge, for example renewable energy, while others will be substituted - from fossil fuel to renewable energy, for example, or from land-fill to recycling.

The reality, however, is that most existing jobs will be transformed. We are at the beginning of a skills-education revolution.

Just as computers transformed workplaces and homes, so the climate change implications of existing products and practices will transform our jobs, our homes and our transport.

Sydney now is at the point of moving beyond debate into the practical issues of embedding sustainability into employment skills and the economy.

We can do that, however, only when the skills, knowledge and technology are in place to enable the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We therefore must have appropriate systems in place that reflect changes in the Sydney economy. That in turn requires collaboration with local businesses, and governments involved in local economic development.

Energy efficiency improvements in both commercial and residential sectors will depend heavily - at least initially - on consistent policy support and innovation.

Cities are the major source of economic growth in our global world, and also the source of our greenhouse gas emissions. However, through innovation, cities can be the agents of change.

As many of you are aware, through Sustainable Sydney 2030 we've embarked on an ambitious program to reduce CO2 emissions by 70 per cent of 2006 levels by 2030.

We are now developing a series of decentralised strategies for tri-generation, waste, water and lighting, as well as supporting energy-efficiency and active transport. We're proud of these measures and proud to be the first Council officially endorsed by the Australian Government as carbon-neutral.

Other local Councils have also embarked on a range of sustainability initiatives but for all of us, these measures rely on the skills to develop, implement and manage these changes.

As innovators, the City is well aware of the importance of co-ordinated regulatory reforms and policy settings to facilitate the necessary changes.

A number of States - and I put NSW among them - have now formulated quite comprehensive and coherent approaches to the key issues of skills and sustainability.

I believe the time is now right to move to the next phase of this skills education revolution, by recognising the need to link through partnerships and collaboration the many local initiatives and strategies being developed.

Without pre-empting the results of today's reports, it has become clear over the course of the project that local action must be backed with positive collaboration. And that means:

  • collaboration between our educational institutions
  • collaboration between all levels of government to integrate economic and sustainability strategies for a seamless transition to a low-carbon economy
  • collaboration between business and our education system to ensure the correct skills are being taught and
  • collaboration between governments and local businesses to maximise the opportunities that transition to a low-carbon economy can provide.

We would also stress the importance of new partnerships to develop a metropolitan-wide sustainable economic strategy that explicitly incorporates skills requirements; that builds a culture of innovation in Sydney in finding ways to improve sustainability; and which recognises the value of co-ordinated local initiatives.

Our long-term future depends on developing the policies and skills that will enable us to transition to a sustainable, low-carbon city. The transition is technically possible, and economically advantageous. Our challenge is to make it happen.

And, in a collaborative transition, it's now my pleasure to invite Pam to address us.