Several months ago, The Apollo Alliance, along with Green for All, the Center for American Progress and the Center for Wisconsin Strategy, issued several reports on green-collar jobs including Greener Pathways (pdf) and Green Collar Jobs in America’s Cities (pdf). These studies were directed specifically at state and city policy makers and were released as part of the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference in Pittsburgh in March.
Defining a green-collar job as work that provides high enough wages and benefits to support a family, the opportunity to advance and build a career, and reduces waste, pollution, and other environmental risks, the list includes machinists, technicians, service workers, equipment and installation specialists, construction workers, and managers of all kinds. The guides point out that a number of America's largest cities and metropolitan regions are defying national trends in housing foreclosures, unemployment, and income stagnation, and have become new engines of job growth and prosperity through sustainability initiatives and economic development strategies based on greater efficiency in energy use, greater sensitivity to natural resources, more careful planning of housing and transportation, and smarter, managed development of businesses and jobs to meet current environmental conditions and market needs.
“The movement to make American cities more sustainable, efficient and livable is perhaps the greatest new engine for urban economic growth, innovation, and job creation in decades,” said Phil Angelides, Chairman of the Apollo Alliance Board of Directors, at the time. The city guide focuses on developing local green jobs in clean energy industries - energy efficiency, renewable energy, alternative transportation, and low-carbon fuels - laying out a 4-step process which includes a focus on transitioning low income residents into green-collar jobs:
1. Identify your environmental and economic goals, and assess local and regional opportunities for achieving those goals. 2. Enact policies and programs to drive investment into targeted green economic activity and increase demand for local green-collar workers. 3. Prepare your green-collar workforce by building green-collar job training partnerships to identify and meet workforce training needs, and by creating green pathways out of poverty that focus on recruitment, job readiness, job training, and job placement for low-income residents. 4. Leverage your program’s success to build political support for new and bolder policies and initiatives.
The State guide outlines a plan of action for state policy makers, highlighting reform opportunities to embrace the greener and more equitable promise of the new energy economy. They offer a quick reference guide to job opportunities in three areas; energy efficiency, wind power and biofuels (with an acknowledgement that “Evidence mounts that biofuels, at least in their current state, are not particularly good for either the environment or the job market. Yet the industry has taken root, is growing rapidly, and generates increasing policy interest and investment, particularly, but not exclusively, in the Midwest.”) The guide also highlights case studies from across the U.S.
And now we get further confirmation that the guides are spot on.
This week, Reuters reported that the Green-collar job market is thriving despite lay-offs across the financial and property sectors caused by the global credit crunch. This is due in part because the number of environmental impact mitigation specific jobs in businesses has tripled and jobs in renewable energy and corporate social responsibility going by 20% all in the last year. And these are often high paying jobs, often earning upwards of 34,000 pounds ($67,250) and as much as 120,000 pounds ($237,300) on the high end, according to the article.
At the same time, renewables are becoming an increasingly attractive investment sector as oil prices continue to escalate. And investments in green building continue to pay off. In April, Architecture 2030 released a study demonstrating that “a small investment of only $21.6 billion in the Building Sector would produce 216,000 permanent jobs and save 86.7 Million Metric Tons (MMT) of CO2 in a single year. This same amount invested each year for five years would net over one million permanent jobs and save 433.5 MMT.”
As environmentalists (and some politicians) have been saying for years, investment in solving the climate crisis may offer us some of the greatest economic opportunities we have seen. And it seems that mainstream economists, investors and policy makers may finally take note of the resilience the sector has shown despite a languishing economy, and realize that we must look not at what it will cost us to solve the climate and energy crises, but what we will gain by it.