Understanding the Meaning about Green Jobs

Given the upcoming proposals on the next generation climate policies, it is critically important to start understanding exactly what the green economy means to California’s long term jobs future. According to a recent review from the Center for Jobs and the Economy, multiple studies indicate that 2% of all California jobs are classified as green jobs.  There is evidence that California has gained temporary jobs around construction and installation of solar facilities and consulting work for government and private employers, but it appears that the green sector has not yet developed substantial permanent, middle income jobs for a long term employment base.

We need to put the numbers into perspective and understand the unique role they will play and how we can develop state policies that recognize their importance while growing the other 98% of our current jobs in other sectors.

For example, the only hard green jobs data from the state was a California Employment Development Department (EDD) survey from May 2009 to January 2010 which found that “the results also showed no discernable difference in the likelihood that a green or non-green firm would experience a net job gain.” The state should have the latest and most transparent green jobs data to help the Governor and policymakers in their decision-making.

While some green industry sectors are growing, many studies rely on reclassification of traditional jobs such as those in garbage, public transit, utilities, and government regulatory positions as “green” in order to arrive at their numbers.  This issue is critically important because major environmental and energy policy decisions will be based on these classifications and incomplete numbers. The Center noted that some reports on green jobs build their numbers by including indirect jobs, including supporting services such as “consulting, finance, tax, and legal services.”

The analysis also found that nuclear, hydro, and natural gas power jobs are treated as green jobs, including in the most recent higher estimates, although those facilities are not designated as such under the AB 32 program.  If we expect to have an accurate accounting that will guide policy-making, then we need to start with a reasoned and practical definition of a green job to be used by government and private entities.

You can find the study here.
Rob Lapsley is President, California Business Roundtable