What would you pay for 400,000 new green jobs?
This New Green Deal is gonna cost
Good news emerged from the recent Low Carbon Summit hosted by bailed-out £10bn loss-making bank, RBS. Peter Mandelson got covered in custard, and the government announced a new industrial strategy.
Apparently 400,000 new "environmental sector" jobs will be created by 2017, according to Gordon Brown, who reckoned 1.3 million people would by then be working in "green" jobs. According to Mandelson, "The huge industrial revolution that is unfolding in converting our economy to low carbon is going to present huge business and employment opportunities."
But what are these jobs - and how did they get that number?
In order to make the argument for the 'Green New Deal', the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) commissioned Innovas, a market analysis consultancy, to research the size of the green economy.
Innovas identified three fundamental areas of economic activity in the ‘Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services’ (LCEGS) sector – ‘Environmental’, ‘Renewable’, and ‘Emerging Low Carbon’. These break down into 4 further levels, only one of which is detailed in the documents published by BERR.
Each sector was surveyed to establish how many it employed, and its value and growth over 2007-2008. This growth was applied to the employment baseline to project the number of jobs in the LCEGS sector by 2015. So far, so rosy. But what lies beneath these figures, and what assumptions are behind these growth projections?
Garbage in, garbage out
Take the LCEGS ‘Waste Management’ and ‘Recovery and Recycling’ sectors, which together promise nearly 25,000 new jobs. In 1996, the Landfill Tax was introduced, creating substantial revenues for the Government, and ‘incentives’ for alternative disposal, including recycling. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the Landfill Tax earned £900m in 2007-8.
In 2007, the tax on a tonne of rubbish was £24, but the existing £3 escalator was raised to £8 so that the tax on a tonne of rubbish will be £48 in 2010. Under the EU Landfill Directive, local authorities are subject to fines of £150/tonne for exceeding their allowances. This increasing expense has forced widespread and unpopular changes to refuse collection services. Regulation has been one half the story of this sector’s growth. BERR speculated last year that "up to £30bn will need to be invested across the [waste management] sector by 2020" including £5-6bn by 2013 to achieve environmental targets for the disposal of municipal solid waste, "and a further £4-5bn to reach the 2020 target." With a current market value of £11bn, it would be a surprise if £30bn investment, expensive targets and punitive measures over the next 11 years didn’t yield a (roughly) 25% increase in the size of the market. So if 25,000 extra jobs in these sectors are created, it will be at the cost of £1.2m per job. Not bad for the bin men, but terrible for us lumbered with the interest on PFI loans, inadequate refuse collection, and rising council taxes, for no tangible benefit.
Green growth or just mould?
Citing Innovas’s report, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband said that the global green sector is already a three-trillion-dollar industry set to grow by fifty per cent. Agriculture accounts for 4 per cent of the World’s GDP of around $70tn. Is it plausible that the world’s ‘green’ economy is larger than the agricultural economy? These big numbers raise questions about the meaning of 'green'?
"We try to create as wide a definition as possible", says John Sharp, MD of Innovas Solutions, "because that way we can capture the supply chain. We don’t count things like toilet roll and stationery."
But it includes the manufacture, installation, supply, and distribution of battery testing equipment, and nearly the entire chain from development to decommissioning and decontamination of nuclear power stations.
History lesson for Charles
"The first step to creating sustainability is to get rid of this passion for growth."
Blimey, do you work in local government? Are you also incentivising stakeholders to become predictors of beaconicity?
The passion for growth is a legitimate human desire to make life less miserable than when it was 50 or 150 years ago.
We don't want to "create sustainability" and we don't need to. Resources means stuff we use, and stuff we can get at it with current technological and economic constraints. Humanity has always made better use of existing resources and invented new ones. So resources are only finite if we fail to invent replacements. I am guessing you are not wearing a bearskin suit or working under a torch powered by animal fat.
The rest of your argument just sounds like you're feeling guilty. Guardian reader perhaps?
By all means if comfort makes you want to cry - find a nice cave, mate and have a good sob. But since you're advocating making most people poorer, and having less leisure time and comforts - don't be upset if we tell you to hop it.
Real Greening is cheap
The absolute greenest thing anyone can do is to grow their own food and cut back on agribusiness consumption.
Cost of creating job: spade, seeds, sack of compost... maybe $40.
Even if you go for the government gravy train option it can't cost more than about $15k.
There are really a few problems that work together:
Over consumption: Some years back we moved from a production constrained economy to a consumption constrained economy. The only way to "grow" was to increase consumption. Of course the governments like this because it shows up as improved GDP (the broken measure they use to think they're doing good things).
People being satisfied with a 23 yo washing machine is really bad for business because it cuts down on consumption. Therefore make crap stuff that is almost impossible to fix and advertise to people so that they feel inadequate if they have an old car/fridge/whatever.
Old cars, fridges, washers etc were very simple and pretty easy to fix: a worn belt or washer etc. The modern stuff is built of unserviceable components and designed for a limited lifetime.
It would be nostalgic to say that old cars were more reliable. THey are not - modern cars are far more reliable, but when modern cars do break down they're close to impossible to fix on a DIY basis.
The first step to creating sustainability is to get rid of this passion for growth. THis can only be achieved by finding fulfillment in non-consumer ways.