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Creating green employment pastures

Submitted by on 18 Feb 2011 – 11:19

By Elisabeth Schroedter MEP

Chris Huhne, the British Climate and Energy Minister, in September 2010 announced that the British Government will initiate a “Green Deal” ensuring the insulation of 26 million homes in the UK. Raising the energy efficiency of British homes will help meet CO2 reduction targets and opens up a huge job potential in the construction sector. Minster Huhne promised to create 250, 000 jobs in green industries. The Green New Deal is a concept we Greens have long been fighting for, as an integrated approach to fight the economic, social and ecological crisis.

The positive side effect of the expansion and the promotion of the renewable energies and energy efficiency sector are enormous. One Greenpeace study estimates its global green job potential at over 8 million. By taking the lead in shifting to a sustainable economy, Europe can gain first mover advantage and ensure that a substantial share of these jobs will be created in Europe. Greening jobs is a necessity when we take the EU’s commitments to CO2 reduction and sustainable development seriously. And the transformation to a more sustainable economy will create new jobs and protect jobs in struggling sectors. Take for example the metal industry: the production of wind turbines requires high quality steel. By more and more engaging in the production of these turbines, the industry is accessing new markets and prevents large set offs.

The key message of my report is that most jobs are potentially green jobs. By adopting the  encompassing ILO definition, the EP stated clearly that the term green jobs covers not only job profiles in renewable energies, recycling or waste reduction, but every job that contributes to sustainable  development; green jobs save energy, use renewable energies, protect natural resources and the ecosystem, and avoid waste and air pollution.

The greening of jobs calls for an ecological transformation of production and working methods in all jobs segments and thus offers equal potential for job creation in new highly-skilled segments and in the middle and low-skilled ones. Training and retraining for ecological transformation is a responsibility of employers, employees and the state alike. The report calls for a right to training for all workers to equip them with the necessary skills for green jobs. Following the successful example of the Blue-Green-Alliance in the US, we in Europe also need to work closely with social partners to ensure a social just transition and decent working conditions for all jobs.

In Germany, 250, 000 new jobs were created in the renewable energy sector on the basis of the EEG (Erneuerbare-Energien- Gesetz, Renewable Energy Act) in 2008. Including indirect effects on employment, the Act ensured ongoing job increases since it entered into force in 2000. Even moderate forecasts estimate 400, 000 more employees by 2020. To open up this huge job potential, it was crucial that the EEG set out a 10 year framework, creating reliable conditions for both entrepreneurs and workers. My report calls on EU member states to learn from this experience and set up long-term framework conditions, ecological standards and financial incentives that will give employers and workers the necessary security to invest in ecological transformation. Minister Huhne’s proposal points in the right direction.

With clear political commitment and the right decisions, we could start exploiting the green job potential immediately. Some member states have already 10 years experience, others such as Spain and the UK are quickly catching up. Belgium, like the UK, advocates the huge potential for job creation in the construction sector. In preparing my report, it became clear that the job potential in this sector is even higher than in renewable energies, and that the combination of traditional skills with green skills in this sector will be key. The Belgian EU presidency made the creation of green jobs a priority of their term. I hope that the Council Conclusions in December will set out a commitment for a green jobs strategy and call upon the Commission to deliver on its pledge to outline how to maximise the potential of the green economy in Europe.