Renewables needed to save jobs

Study by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council argues energy sector needs to switch to renewables to save jobs as well as carbon

The transition from high to low carbon energy infrastructure will deliver a net increase in global employment of 2.7 million jobs by 2030, despite the inevitable loss of jobs in declining fossil fuel industries.

That is the conclusion of a major new study released yesterday by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council, which predicts that fast-expanding renewable energy industries, as well as energy efficiency programmes, will prove more labour intensive than the conventional energy technologies they replace, helping to boost employment worldwide.

The report is partly based on research from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney and a low carbon scenario set out by Greenpeace last year which outlined how the world could deliver a nine-fold increase in renewable energy supplies by 2030.

It calculates that a global switch to renewable energy technologies would save 10 billion tons of carbon emissions and create 2.7 million more jobs by 2030, when compared to the business-as-usual scenario adopted by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The report predicts that favourable policy measures and a meaningful international climate change agreement could result in employment across the renewable energy sector rising from 1.9 million currently to 6.9 million people worldwide by 2030, while energy efficiency programmes could result in a further 1.1 million jobs. It added that the wind energy sector alone could employ over two million people within the next 20 years.

It also warns that even under the business-as-usual scenario the number of people employed by energy industry would fall by half a million by 2030, primarily as a result of a 1.4 million contraction in the number of people employed by the coal industry as a result of increased mechanisation.

Christine Lins, secretary general of EREC, said the report provided further evidence that the renewable energy sector could play a key role in tackling rising unemployment caused by the global recession. "There are already 450,000 people working in the renewable energy industry in Europe, representing a turnover of more than €45 billion," she observed. "This research proves that renewable energy is key to tackling both the climate and economic crises."

Her comments were echoed by Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, who said that governments now had a responsibility to put in place plans to ensure a "just transition" from high to low carbon jobs. "The union movement, as well as the authors of this report, believe ambitious climate action by world leaders can and must be a driver for sustainable economic growth and social progress," he added.

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