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Decoding the buzz' around green jobs

Decoding the ‘buzz’ around green jobs(By Alysia Garmulewicz via Arrow Lakes

News)Green jobshave been increasingly described as a silver bullet: a way to

raise employment, cure economic recession; and, save the environment. In a

recent study through their “Green Jobs Initiative,” the United Nations

Environment Program stated, “Green jobs…are a new and powerful force for

achieving a more resource efficient and equitable global economy that

mirrors all our aspirations for true sustainable development.” Barack Obama

has stated, “Green jobs are the jobs of the future.” But what are they, and

do they really hold this immense potential for positive change?Although green jobs have been defined and categorized in many ways, as of

yet there exists no single definition that is universally recognized.

Definitions vary with the agenda of who is studying them. For example, some

studies aim to draw attention to growing worldwide unemployment, and so

define green jobs in sectors that can contribute the most job growth. Other

studies (most in the US) aim to show ways to ‘stop shipping jobs overseas’

and so focus on sectors that promise a (green) competitive advantage back

home. However, while green job definitions vary, they all share at focus on

green employment in the technologies and infrastructure of a low-carbon

future, with some variation on what technologies should be included.Green jobs must not only have environmental credentials, but satisfy social

goals as well. The International Labour Organization has emphasized that

green jobs cannot be considered green unless they are ‘decent.’ This means

that they must be good jobs that respect workers rights with decent wages

and safe working conditions. The Canadian Labour Congress states that the

‘green-ness’ of jobs should be judged on how it contributes to the well

being of the worker and the community.A second area of importance in understanding green jobs is the difference

between direct and indirect jobs. Direct green jobs are those that are

created in new green industries such as wind turbine designers or a manager

of a new solar power company, both of which include a new specific

skill-set. Indirect jobs are standard positions created in support of new

green industries. Most studies have found that the overwhelming majority of

green jobs are indirect: in effect, they will be the jobs we see today,

like accountants, engineers, factory workers, and mechanics. However, their

skills will be put to use in an industry or sector that contributes to the

well being of the natural environment, as part of a green economy.So what is a green economy? It is widely recognized that a definition is

dependent on technological and social change. For example, what might be

considered efficient by today’s standards might not be in the future. The

United Nations report notes that, “A green economy is one that does not

generate pollution or waste and is hyper-efficient in its use of energy,

water, and materials.” But as this is still an elusive goal, measuring jobs

that contribute to such an economy would yield very little results.

Therefore, green jobs should be defined as those that contribute to the

process of creating a green economy instead of those that exist in a utopic

green end state.If green jobs are a dynamic concept, then some jobs in particular

industries will have greater potential of induce more green jobs. This is

not a new idea. When the car was first introduced, it brought with it a

whole host of new employment positions – everything from jobs as traffic

regulators (handing out tickets and setting speed limits), to car retailers

and dealers, to oil companies and gas station operators, to road

construction, traffic light maintenance, etc. etc. One new innovation

‘radiated out’ across the economy, inducing many more jobs.This leads to one of the most important insights about green jobs: they are

not all created equal. Some have the potential t