The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Beyond the Banks: Bail Out the Environment, Create Jobs


As capital markets around the world are being rescued by national
governments, global unemployment is reaching record levels and the
labor market is expanding by tens of millions of workers each year. In
the face of the twin challenges of stagnating economies and climate
change, stimulating green industry is more important than ever,
according to a new assessment released by the Worldwatch Institute.

"It's time for a bailout for the environment: one that creates jobs, is
global in scope, and can help rebuild communities amidst the ashes of
the current economic crisis," says Michael Renner, co-author of the
report, Green Jobs: Working for People and the Environment, written in collaboration with Sean Sweeney and Jill Kubit of Cornell University's Global Labor Institute.*

Green jobs are not only about renewable energy employment.
Reengineering buildings, transportation systems, agriculture, and basic
industry all have the potential to create jobs that help reduce
humanity's carbon footprint and protect the environment. The report
provides an overview of green jobs by sector:

  • In China, renewable energy technologies employ an estimated 1 million people in the wind, solar PV, solar thermal, and biomass industries.

  • The building and construction
    sector employs more than 111 million people worldwide. Retrofitting the
    European Union's residential building sector to cut carbon dioxide
    emissions by 75 percent would lead to some 2.6 million new jobs by

  • Jobs in manufacturing fuel-efficient cars remain limited in number. Public transit
    offers a greener alternative. In the United States, transit agencies
    employed some 367,000 people in 2005. An estimated 900,000 people are
    employed in urban public transport in the European Union.

  • The steel, aluminum, cement, and paper industries
    are highly energy-intensive and polluting. Worldwide, more than 40
    percent of steel output and one-quarter of aluminum production is based
    on recycled scrap, rendering the estimated quarter million jobs in
    these two sectors at least a "shade of green."

  • Recycling programs create as many
    as 15 million jobs worldwide, but can entail dirty, undesirable, poorly
    paid, and even dangerous work, particularly in developing countries. In
    Brazil, over 90 percent of recyclable material is collected by scrap
    collectors who have organized themselves into a national movement with
    500 cooperatives and 60,000 collectors.

  • A study of 1,144 organic farms in
    the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland showed that organic
    farms employed on average one-third more employees per farm than
    conventional counterparts. In the Dominican Republic, organic farms are
    reducing the movement from rural to metropolitan areas with local
    employment opportunities.

  • Nearly 1.2 billion people depend on agroforestry
    for subsistence and income, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin
    America. Planting trees on agricultural land provides multiple
    environmental benefits and can raise farm incomes.

Addressing the climate challenge in particular requires a multipronged
approach that can create jobs, according to the report. This approach
prioritizes the development of more environmentally benign
technologies; greater efficiency of energy, water, and raw material
use; altered lifestyle and consumption choices; economic restructuring;
and environmental restoration efforts. It also requires adaptation to
those changes that now seem inevitable and perhaps irreversible.

While there is significant untapped potential in the green jobs sector,
not all news is good, according to the report. Global unemployment
stands at roughly 6 percent, affecting some 190 million people. Some
487 million workers do not earn enough yet to rise above the $1-a-day
level of extreme poverty. Furthermore, green investments are found
primarily in a relatively small number of countries. Green jobs
development is still an exception in most developing countries, which
account for some 80 percent of the world's workforce.

Other issues include the rising level of informality in the global
economy, a lack of rules and standards to help ensure decent jobs, and
the fact that environmental costs are too often externalized, making it
harder for green enterprises to compete.

Integrating social and environmental aspects into the cost of doing
business and undertaking large-scale public and private sector
investments will be key to realizing the massive potential that green
jobs hold. Government targets, mandates, business incentives, and
reformed tax and subsidy policies must promote sustainable development
in order for the green labor market to take off.

"Given all of the uncertainties in today's world, it's time for a bold
commitment and international cooperation to promote green economies
that support conservation, low carbon technologies, recycling, and
local communities," says Renner. "I can't see how we'll escape our twin
economic and environmental crises if we don't."

* The report is derived from a longer, in-depth study, Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World,
commissioned for a joint initiative of the United Nations Environment
Programme, the International Labour Organization, the International
Trade Union Confederation, and the International Organisation of
Employers. It is available for download at

The Worldwatch Institute was a globally focused environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C., founded by Lester R. Brown. Worldwatch was named as one of the top ten sustainable development research organizations by Globescan Survey of Sustainability Experts. Brown left to found the Earth Policy Institute in 2000. The Institute was wound up in 2017, after publication of its last State of the World Report. was unreachable from mid-2019.