Green jobs bonanza

A million green jobs could be generated in Australia with an ambitious environmental policy, according to a new report released by the ACTU and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The two organisations jointly commissioned the research to explode the myth that strong action on climate change will destroy industries and jobs.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the current global financial crisis has not diminished the importance of the climate change challenge and, in fact, is an opportunity for Australia to consolidate its foothold in green industries.

‘This is no time for a go-slow approach. The report shows Australia must act swiftly to make the most of its natural advantages or our economy will be left behind,’ she said.

ACF Executive Director Don Henry said Australia is well placed to lead an economic renewal based around clean industries and green jobs.

‘It’s up to government to lead the way with a strong 2020 target to cut greenhouse emissions and ambitious environmental policies to drive investment in green industries like solar and wind energy and green infrastructure, such as new railways,’ he said.

Based on an analysis of 30 green industries globally, the report said Australia should focus on six sectors: renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable water industries, biomaterials, green buildings and waste recycling.

Sharan Burrow said government policy settings and private investment are needed immediately to reach a target of nearly a million green jobs by 2030.

‘By establishing a strong domestic market in these sectors, Australia will also develop the skills and expertise necessary to compete in the international green energy market, which is currently worth $US1.4 trillion dollars.’

The report can be downloaded from the ACTU website www.actu.asn.au.

More green thinking needed in health

Liz McCall, a Nursing Unit Manager at Byron Bay Hospital, said there are plenty of opportunities to raise our game environmentally in the health system.

‘We have recycling containers for paper but we can’t put the paper towels in because they have polypropylenes in them. They don’t decompose so you can’t recycle them. The amount of plastics we are using is frightening.

‘We have multi-purpose instrument packs made from low-grade stainless steel. You can’t sterilise them so the manufacturer can’t guarantee their safety. So you use them only once then chuck them.

‘It’s bizarre,’ said Liz.

‘When we are building new hospitals we need to think about pro-active environmental design.

‘It’s a good opportunity to use solar energy and have skylights to reduce the amount of electric lighting but they usually don’t do it because of the costs. We need to be more forward thinking,’ she said.

Global green markets

  • Global green markets are projected to double from $US1.4 trillion a year to $US2.7 trillion by 2020.
  • Sustainable energy accounted for 23% of new power capacity globally in 2007.
  • The renewable energy sector employs about 2.3 million people globally.

The Australian experience

  • Australian’s green economy is currently estimated at $15.5 billion, employing 112,000 people.
  • Australia is best positioned to succeed in the six key markets: renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable water systems, biomaterials, green buildings, waste and recycling.
  • Australia’s renewable energy industry provides about 15,000 jobs and has annual sales of almost $2 billion. It could employ up to 500,000 people by 2030.