"Green jobs" to outweigh losses from climate change

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Climate change is creating millions of “green jobs” in sectors from solar power to biofuels that will slightly exceed layoffs elsewhere in the economy, a U.N. report said on Thursday.

Union experts at U.N. climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, said the findings might ease worries among many workers that tougher environmental standards could mean an overall loss of jobs for many countries.

“Millions of new jobs are among the many silver, if not indeed gold-plated, linings on the cloud of climate change,” Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) said in a statement.

“New research reveals that these jobs are not for just the middle classes -- the so-called ‘green collar’ jobs -- but also for workers in construction, sustainable forestry and agriculture, engineering and transportation,” he said.

The study of “Green Jobs” around the world said that measures to promote ethanol in Brazil, for instance, had created 500,000 jobs. In China, 150,000 people were employed in solar heating, a sector with sales revenues in 2005 of $2.5 billion.

And it said that renewable energy programs in Spain and Germany, such as in promoting wind power, had “already created several hundred thousand jobs.”

The environmental industry employed more than 5.3 million people in the United States in 2005, according to a UNEP statement that did not give a breakdown by sector.

“There’s every indication that there will be a net gain (in jobs) but probably not a very large net gain,” Janos Pasztor, a senior UNEP official, told a news conference in Bali.


“The labor intensity of renewables is higher than those of fossil fuels or nuclear power,” he said. Jobs could be lost in coal mining, for instance, if the world sought to shift away from fossil fuels.

The study did not try to estimate the total number of jobs that could be created or lost by measures to combat climate change, which U.N. reports project will bring more droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising seas.

“The fears that this will turn into a job killer...are unfounded,” said Peter Poschen, a development specialist at the U.N.’s International Labor Organization. “There is a huge opportunity for ‘green jobs’.”

“Fear of job or livelihood losses...continues to pose a barrier to greater worker involvement,” said Lucien Royer of the International Trade Union Confederation, grouping workers in more than 100 nations.

He welcomed the study as confirming past economic theories about net gains in jobs linked to combating global warming.

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