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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green Jobs: A Green Group Perspective

Jean’s speech on Green Jobs at public hearing for a roadmap towards a post-lignite era for Greece

The European Union has been developing its climate change strategy over a number of years. We have the so-called ambitious target for the reduction of emissions of 20% on 1990 figures by the year 2020 and we are in line to meet that target, partly due to the recession and the collapse of the old heavy industries in Eastern and Central Europe – that was not a planned reduction.

Now, I have just come from a seminar on climate change, where a member of the IPCC pointed out that the range of reduction their research points to as being necessary to keep the global temperature at not more than a 2° rise, is between 25-40%. So, the EU needs to do more and make a greater unconditional commitment of reductions.

Greater ambition is necessary – Greens campaigned for at least a 40% reduction in our European Election campaign last year: we are pushing Commission and Council to go for at least 30% in the EU 20-20 strategy, which is supposed to be the big strategy document for the next 10years. But targets are not enough. Throughout much of the discussion, what has struck me is how little attention was paid as to how this would work at the point of delivery – what would it mean for the workplace?

You cannot deliver low-emission energy systems, such as solar power, if you don’t have a workforce trained to produce and maintain those systems.

Back in 2007, the London Development Agency commissioned a piece of research on the state of skills in sectors relevant to climate change. It was done at the instigation of the Greens on the London Assembly (always useful to be the two votes the then-Mayor needed to get his budget through!). What it found, was that in virtually every one of the key 6 Skill -Sectors it looked at, the curriculum was not really adapted to take account of the environmental dimension.

The UK is not alone: at that time even Germany – a leader in renewables and energy efficiency – did not have a coherent training strategy.

That is why the Greens pushed for this dimension to be taken up in the EU’s revised Sustainable Development Strategy (it is in there now, but still not fully taken up) and are still pushing now. Gradually, things are shifting but it has taken persistence – questions to each new Presidency when they present their priorities to the Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL): What will you do about Green jobs? How will you develop the environmental dimension within your plans for employment? Putting questions to the training agencies as to how they will develop the necessary skills and arguing for this to be taken up in their work programmes etc.

It has been striking to Greens on EMPL that in the Commission, the interest in the development of jobs that are environment friendly and aiming at lower emissions has come from the Industry Committee, those interested in Innovation, even Agriculture but not from the section dealing with Employment. We are pushing their involvement now with what’s called an Initiative report, where the Committee has the opportunity to do a report on something it considers important and not wait for the Commission. So my German Green colleague, Elisabeth Schroedter, has just completed her report and it is hot-off the-press!

The Green Group is continuing to develop the Green New Deal concept that formed our manifesto for last year’s election and have commissioned further research about job potential.

We need to develop these jobs for both environmental and social reasons – they are not only “future” jobs, they are the jobs we need now, in a recession, to help us towards that future. Let’s look at some of the potential

…the EU’s eco-industry has an annual turnover of over €270 billion which equals more than 2% of the EU’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The eco-industry’s two most important sectors are pollution management (including technologies and services in waste management, air pollution control, soil remediation, and recycling) and resource management (including renewable energy plants and water supply).
The employment in the EU eco-industry increased at 5 percent per year in the 1990s, which made the eco-industry one of the fastest growing sectors of the EU economy. Since 2000, the smaller but more dynamic sub-sectors (such as resource management subsectors) have been the source of net new employment. This was due to the extraordinary progress made in new technologies such as solar and wind energy .
Using the widest definition, about 10 percent of the jobs in the EU are somehow linked to the environment. When the indirect effects are included this share increases to 16.7 percent17, meaning one in six jobs in the EU are in some way linked to the environment. The aim should be for every job to be a “green job” in the sense that it takes account of the environment. But Green work must also be decent work – paid at a level that people can live on, good working conditions and workforce involvement. That involvement will be crucial. The TUC in the UK has been involved in pilot projects which show how effective that can be. It is why the Greens here are supporting the Trade Unions in their call for Environmental Representatives in the workplace – just as we currently have Health and Safety reps.
According to the ETUC, Climate change challenges the energy sector directly. The transformation from fossil-based energy production to an energy sector mainly based on renewable energies and energy efficiency is a crucial issue for achieving carbon reduction aims. Municipal and decentralized structures will partly replace energy production from central plants. This is a crucial challenge for workers in this sector where green jobs can be created. Just transition must mitigate on the other hand the negative effects for employment

We have already seen massive job losses over the years in the energy sector. About ten years ago, I was one of a group of Greens who visited a lignite plant in the former GDR. (at the invitation of Elisabeth Schroedter). A new electricity plant had been built in the few years since unification, new machinery brought in and the number of jobs had fallen from 3000 to just 300. That is just one example: jobs are going in the old sectors – what about the new ones?

As I was saying – the jobs are there.

There is broad agreement among many studies that alternative energy creates more jobs than conventional sources do-in other words, a switch from oil, gas, or coal produces a net gain in employment

All predictions show that employment linked to renewable energy in Europe will grow over the next decades. High investment sums for increasing capacities of renewable energies will lead to more employment in engineering, machinery and other branches .
In wind energy, the prediction for the UK alone (if we can get the investment): is that with a 15% renewable energy target by 2020 set by the EU for the UK there could be 125,000 jobs in manufacturing: we could also find 100,000 jobs in solar installation in the UK in a shorter time frame, if we could sort out the supply bottle neck.

• Even countries with less good wind “supply” are producing jobs. Germany had some 82,000 employed in the sector in 2006, according to the Government. Spain currently employs about 33,000.

Solar Photovoltaics look very positive for the EU.

Between 2000 and 2005, the solar photovoltaics (PV) industry averaged annual growth rates of more than 40 percent-one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In the current climate, there are many who would be satisfied with a 4% growth figure!
Global production of PV cells rose to a record 3,733 MW in 2007-a more than 20-fold increase from 1998. Its output soaring, Europe has now overtaken Japan as the leading producer, but China is developing very fast.
Germany continues to dominate the installation market, with almost half the global market .Their “green roofs” programme still leads the field.
A German government-sponsored study estimated PV employment at 26,900 jobs in 2006. But in 2007, the Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (German solar energy association) put employment even higher-at 35,000 people, surpassing the number of jobs in the country’s nuclear industry. Spain follows closely behind, with more than 26,000 jobs in 2007.

As important as leadership in PV technology is, many jobs are also created in the installation and servicing of PV systems rather than in their manufacture. The technology thus holds promise for economic development and employment in many locations.

The Solar Thermal Industry is also productive.
• Germany has some 19,000 people employed in this industry. Within Europe, Germany leads solar thermal water heating development, accounting for 50 percent of the market in 2006-way ahead of Austria, Greece, France, and Italy. Spain currently has about 9,000 jobs. In 2006, the Italian solar thermal industry provided almost 2,000 full time (direct and indirect) jobs, with 3,000 jobs forecast for 2007 (assuming one full-time job per 70 kilowatts-thermal (100 square meters) installed) . Where is Greece in all this development?
So at the macro-level (power-plant equivalent) and the micro (domestic) level – the jobs are there. We want to reduce our emissions so as to help avoid the worst predictions on climate change – so the need is there. The big question is – where is the political will to lead us to this major change in the energy sector and new, sustainable jobs?

Speech by Jean Lambert MEP, at a Public Hearing For A Roadmap Towards A Post-Lignite Era For Greece, European Parliament, Brusels, Thursday 15 April, 2010.