Where are the green jobs?

Lead Organiser for the Alliance, Hanna Thomas, wrote the following post for the 10:10 site. Click here to go to the original post!

Last month I asked what (the bleep) is a green job? This month I am moving on to… where are they?

In 2008, Obama promised the creation of 5 million green jobs over 10 years. However, as time goes on, more and more people are claiming that they are nowhere to be seen.

Just a couple of weeks ago The New York Times reported that three years on the number of jobs created has failed to live up to that promise, quoting a study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution that found clean-technology jobs account for just 2 percent of employment nationwide.

As time goes on, more and more people are claiming that the promised green jobs are nowhere to be seen.

Although the article has had strong rebuttals from Grist and Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins of Green For All, that’s certainly the impression I got when I visited California earlier this year with the IPPR West Coast Green Alliances exchange. There we were told that the market for solar and other renewables was simply saturated, and that the demand wasn’t there to keep it growing. The failure of the senate to pass cap-and-trade legislation has also been blamed, as the policy might have driven the development of new technologies.

But enough about the States. What’s the situation here in Blighty? Well. Chris Huhne has stated that 100,000 jobs retrofitting homes could be created by the Green Deal that will be rolled out late next year, and 250,000 jobs by 2030. However, when Dave Purdy, the Head of Insulation and Delivery at DECC was questioned on the validity of these numbers a few weeks ago, he stated that DECC was not ‘hung up on job figures or concerns about whether we hit targets’. He also expanded that the Green Deal is not specifically designed to create jobs but more about cutting carbon emissions from households – jobs are the end product and not the means or core objective.

Translation: don’t expect these jobs to materialise any time soon.

The bigger picture

It’s enough to make a green jobs organiser despair, let me tell you *shakes head and sighs*. However, all is not lost. It is heartening to realise that green jobs aren’t just jobs in clean energy or insulation. It’s great to see organisations, like Green For All, widen out the green jobs definition to encompass jobs in sustainable food production, horticulture, and water management.

The term ‘greener job’ is also gaining ground, acknowledging the fact that in the transition to a clean economy we’ll all have to incorporate the values of environmental stewardship into our work. For instance, Capacity Global have launched a programme that will green up the health and beauty industry, inspired by a programme in Oakland, California that empowers nail salon workers to green up their salons and replace the hazardous chemicals that are affecting their health and damaging the environment.

It’s nice to remember that the numbers aren’t actually representing the true scale of the change that’s underway.

So in a roundabout way, it’s nice to remember that green jobs in these other sectors are not being ‘officially’ counted, as they don’t fit into the narrow definition of ‘clean technology job’ that the U.S. government adopted. We can take comfort in the fact that the numbers aren’t representing the true scale of the change that’s underway.

Eyes on the prize

While we’re doing that, it is of course still fundamental to push government to do all it can to get this clean energy economy moving. We need large-scale investment into R&D and we need greater clarity and stability around the Green Deal so that organisations have time to establish training pipelines, and so local communities can maximise the social and economic benefits the Green Deal could offer.

It is one thing to create the jobs, but it’s another to ensure that the young and unemployed who are in such need of these opportunities will be ready to do it. If the government hem and haw too long before pinning down the details, our workforce won’t have the skills required to actually deliver.

So, you heard it, government. You don’t want to keep a girl waiting, do you..? *Drums fingers*…


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