China’s fast-growing green economy could provide millions of new jobs in the coming decade, according to a study from the Worldwatch Institute.
The environmental research group estimates that 4.5 million green jobs will be created in 2020 alone, in the energy, transportation and forestry sectors – but one of the report’s authors has warned that the country lacks many of the “basic and crucial” statistics to track its green economy, making estimates difficult.
“It’s fair to say that China has started tracking the green economy, but there is still a long way to go,” said Haibing Ma, China programme manager and co-author of the Green Economy and Green Jobs in China: Current Status and Potentials for 2020 report.
The Chinese government has made an initial effort to calculate the country’s “green GDP” but Ma said the methodology “remains largely unclear, nor is the calculation and reporting process transparent”.
In trying to calculate the potential for green jobs, Ma found inconsistent methodologies used by the Chinese national and regional governments, challenges tracking the many smaller businesses that likely have a significant impact on job creation, a lack of industry trade organistions to monitor employment growth, and difficulty in separating out green sub-sectors from larger, fast-growing industries.
For example, he said: “We were surprised to learn that there is no reliable data on the total number of solar panel and solar water heater manufacturing companies in the country. It also isn’t clear which governmental or industrial entities should be responsible for collecting such data.”
Key findings of the study, which the institute describes as “the most thorough effort known to date to explore China's green jobs potential”, include:
• China's solar photovoltaic industry is projected to create an average of 6,680 direct jobs annually between 2011 and 2020.
• China's wind power industry, including both power generation and manufacturing, is expected to generate approximately 34,000 green jobs annually between 2011 and 2020. The industry has provided an average of 40,000 direct green jobs each year between 2006 and 2010.
• China is expected to add as many as 220 million new vehicles between now and 2020, with 16.7 million of those being either hybrid or electric vehicles produced in China.
• High-speed rail in China could create an average 230,000 jobs annually between 2011 and 2020.
• Beijing's urban rail system alone could create 437,000 jobs each year by 2020.
• China's afforestation sector employed as many as 1.8 million full-time workers in 2010. Between 2011 and 2020, afforestation activities could offer as many as 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs annually.
The report also identifies key lessons learned in China's green development. In some cases, inefficient implementation has led to unintended economic or environmental costs. Roughly one-third of China's installed wind capacity has difficulty connecting to the grid, causing millions of dollars of investment loss.
Ma wrote the report with Jiahua Pan and Ying Zhang, researchers from the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
By. Christopher Cundy
Source: Environmental Finance