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Reality check: Green jobs greenwash?

Douglas Fraser | 09:54 UK time, Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Who doesn't love a green job? It puts the sustainability into growth. It makes you think you're earning money while saving the planet.

And it gives our politicians a warm glow too. LibDems are offering at least 40,000 by the end of the decade. Labour's offering 60,000.

While Tories and Greens are not putting a number to their hopes and plans, the SNP trumps them all by saying it wants to create 130,000 jobs by 2020, though it sometimes says it only hopes to reach that figure in total.

That may because the reckoning these parties are using starts with the assumption, dated 2009, that Scotland already had 73,000 green and low carbon jobs.

So how realistic is the target?

It depends on a report commissioned by Whitehall's energy department and provided by environmental economic consultants Innovas.

That shows that Scotland is under-performing, despite its obvious strengths in renewable power, with London and the south-east of England, doing far better.

Job replacement

Why? Well, perhaps because the report chooses to define green jobs very broadly.

If you're in the business of waste-water treatment or drive the truck that collects bottles for recycling, then you're already in a green job.

Likewise if you're making an energy-efficient design of window or door. But bear in mind that someone else's inefficient design of window or door is not going to be made, and that could mean jobs lost elsewhere.

There's quite a lot of replacement going on as well as job creation.

More than quarter of these low-carbon and green jobs are in alternative fuels, and that includes nuclear energy - not always seen as green but counted in because it requires relatively low carbon emissions, mostly in construction.

Hustings claims

Only around a tenth of the UK total of 880,000, according to Innovas, were in wind energy. And although there's growth potential there, with Scotland one of the parts of the UK that's best placed to get them, jobs growth in that report is not looking quite as spectacular as you might think from the claims made on the hustings.

The growth rates being projected suggest growth of 33,000 green jobs by 2015. Keep that rate up to 2020, and you get more than 40,000.

What that then requires are the skills to fill these roles, and lots of finance - of the private, rather than the Holyrood variety.

It's in raising that capital investment that the biggest obstacle lies to all these campaign green job targets.


  • Comment number 1.

    Having been involved in finding potential areas to become involved in this very market for a large European energy producer and distributor I can assure you that there is a great deal of interest in what Scotland has to offer in green energy development. At the heart of Europe there are a lot of influential people looking to May 5th as an indicator of what is going to be on offer from Scotland for Europe.

    Brussels demands that energy producers redistribute a portion of profits in renewables and there is the potential to allocate that portion into other markets. If the opportunity does not exist on the home market then Scotland is in pole position to pick up a good deal of this investment if the enthusiasm here remains. Some of the ideas and technologies are truly revolutionary and it is a lot more than just windmills and tidal turbines.

    Do not doubt the potential that Scotland has to forge way ahead in this sector.

  • Comment number 2.

    UK economy grew by 0.5% , what is the Scottish growth figures? and why are you not talking about them? why is reporting Scotland not mentioning them? and why is the bbc in Scotland web page not a word why?

  • Comment number 3.

    What exactly is a "green ' job ? Is it one of the overpaid non productive desk jobs in council / government offices talking about or planning recycling or taxpayer funded initiatives , or a job making something which can be sold or which will benefit the taxpayer ? Insulating homes is I believe a "green job " but how long is this type of job going to last ? The scope for insulation is finite and is much cheaper on a DIY basis if the person having the job done isn't getting it paid for by the taxpayer. There also seem to be an awful lot of people making a living as " consultants " in the so called green industry, again producing nothing except (pardon the pun ) hot air. All of the "green " industry seems to be at the taxpayers' expense, so what is being neglected or cut to pay lip service to saving the planet ? Nobody ever tells us how long our beloved windmills, which it seems do not produce much electricity are going to last before they need replacing, and at what cost. It's almost guaranteed that if the power companies see green energy as a lucrative source of profit, then the whole concept is not to the benefit of the consumer. It seems that the whole issue is being driven by the EU which never really gets to grip with the fact that pie in the sky initiatives have to be funded, and guess who has to do the funding ; got it in one , the taxpayer.

  • Comment number 4.

    Greenwash: that sums up 99 % of it better and more concisely than any other description.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.


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