A new phrase has been popping up more and more frequently over the past few years – it’s the ‘green job’. You may have also heard green economy get thrown around liberally too, by governments and activists alike. You might even have used these phrases yourself. But one question remains – what does it all mean?
Good question. The thing is, no one knows. Or, at least, no one agrees (no surprises there). Broadly speaking when people talk about green jobs, they are talking about jobs that will be created, or ‘upgraded’ by the transition to a low carbon economy. Beyond that, it’s all up for grabs.
For some, the term ‘green jobs’ conjure up images of young men and women in green hard hats; for others, it’s about hi-tech jobs that require an engineering degree. President Obama includes employment created by the nuclear and carbon capture and storage sectors in his definition of green jobs, whereas Caroline Lucas MP would run a mile from that, for all her talk on the subject.
The downside of this disagreement, is that when we hear politicians, or think tanks, or campaigners talk about how many green jobs will be created by the transition to a low carbon economy, they are all talking about completely different things and using different methodologies to get to those figures.
We can see this illustrated most clearly by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union’s Group’s petition, which eschews the term green jobs entirely and calls for One Million Climate Jobs instead.
The upside of this vagueness? As I said, it’s all still up for grabs. There is still time for us to decide what we want the terms ‘green job’, or ‘green economy’ to signify.
I’m working with the East London Green Jobs Alliance, on a jobs programme that will take young, unemployed people from the local area through a training scheme and into apprenticeships in solar installation or home retrofitting.
I’m doing this because, for me, a green economy is one that gives opportunities to those who need it most, as well as cutting carbon. A green job is one that provides meaningful, dignified work to those who need it, a living wage and opportunities for career progression, as well as having stewardship of our environment at the core of it.
I have hope that this programme will not only give some young people the chance to get into employment, but will have a ripple effect, educating their friends and family about green issues and inviting the local community to be part of a environmental movement that has, up until now, been more focused on organic food and hybrid cars than the very unsexy topics of fuel poverty, health impacts of waste incinerators and other examples of environmental injustice.
So that’s what I’m up to. Every month I will be updating you on my progress with the project and tackling other issues related to green jobs and the green economy. It would be great to hear what you think – what do you think should be included in the definition of a green job? What potential do you see in the government’s Green Deal? No one else has the answers, so perhaps together we can come up with a few!