green industries employ more than polluters, says WWF

New study claims 3.4 million European jobs are directly related to renewable energy, sustainable transport and energy efficient goods and services

The green sector has overtaken polluting industries as a collective employer, boasting over three million "green collar" jobs across Europe according to a new study by WWF.

The study, Low carbon jobs for Europe, shows that at least 3.4 million European jobs are directly related to renewable energy, sustainable transport and energy efficient goods and services, compared to just 2.8 million jobs in the mining, electricity, gas, cement, and iron and steel industries.

Jason Anderson, head of European climate and energy policy at WWF, said that study provided evidence that low carbon policies and technologies could bring net benefits to the economy.

"The clean economy is about to take off," he predicted. "If politicians continue to support industries that contribute to climate pollution, Europe will face high costs in the future, both for the economy and the environment."

The report suggests that close to 400,000 people are employed in renewable energy activities across Europe, while some 2.1 million are involved in low carbon transport, and over 900,000 are employed in the provision of energy efficient goods and services.

A further five million people are employed indirectly by firms operating further down the supply chain for these industries, according to the study.

WWF said that the workforce for these low carbon sectors are likely to grow in the coming years as demand for wind energy, solar PV, bioenergy, public transport and green buildings continues to expand.

However, questions could be asked over the extent to which the study is comparing like-with-like, given that many carbon intensive goods, such as oil, gas, iron and steel are imported from outside the EU.

The study comes as the WWF prepares to step up calls on the EU to strengthen its climate change commitments ahead of a European Council meeting in Brussels later this week.

The EU has pledged to cut emissions 20 per cent by 2020 and promised to raise the target to 30 per cent if other developed nations such as the US agree to similar targets. However, many climate scientists maintain that deeper cuts are needed to avoid "dangerous" levels of global warming, generally defined as a rise in average temperatures of over two degrees, and China has called for cuts of at least 40 per cent by 2020.

"The Council should reemphasize Europe's commitment to taking on emissions cuts that are in line with staying below a 2 degree limit, which is not the case now," said Anderson. "As this report shows, making a strong emissions reductions commitment will also support the fastest growing and highest job contributing areas of the economy."

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