France’s energy transition could create a million jobs

Tough renewable energy requirements for new buildings could create hundreds of thousands of jobs. [Marufish/Flickr]

A group of French NGOs and trade unions has proposed an alternative route to translate Paris Agreement goals into social progress and jobs. The project would be financed using new resources and green monetary policy. EURACTIV France reports.

Transforming €100 billion into 1 million jobs while saving the planet: this is the ambitious goal set by a group of associations and unions in their report One million jobs for the climate, presented yesterday (12 January) in Paris.

Launched in the United Kingdom seven years ago, the idea has since taken hold in South Africa, Norway and Portugal, where it has garnered support from across civil society.

In France, the report was developed by environmental NGOs Attac, the Climate Action Network and Friends of the Earth, with backing from the Unitary Union Federation (FSU), the Peasants’ Confederation, Emmaüs and the Human Rights League. The report was financed by the German Heinrich Böll Foundation.

“The need to establish a link between the issue of the climate and social questions was omnipresent at the COP 21,” said Maxime Combes from Attac. This perspective, which is still seen as somehow alternative, was present in both the Paris Agreement and the French energy transition law.

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Reorganising public spending

The report prescribes a new balance in public spending, to be guided by the necessities of the climate.

But its heavy reliance on public spending could be its Achilles heel. France is already one of the highest-spending states in Europe, with a public budget worth 57% of GDP. By contrast, Germany allocates 44% of GDP to its public budget.

But the resources identified by the civil society organisations to cover the cost of this new approach to energy and the climate would not come from taxes. Instead the group intends to raise funds by tackling fraud and tax evasion, as well as closing loopholes for the fossil fuels industry, implementing the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) and streamlining existing financing programmes.

A pro-climate monetary policy?

The authors also mentioned the possibility of enacting a green monetary policy, or “targeted quantitative easing”. The idea would be to inject some €75bn into the financial markets to support investment in renewables and green jobs.

The group also highlighted the lack of resources currently available for renewable energies. France currently has 77,000 people working in the sector, compared to 144,000 in Germany.

According to the report, eliminating nuclear energy would destroy 76,000 jobs, while leading to the creation an extra 330,000 in the renewables sector. But the biggest winner in terms of job creation, gaining 350,000, would be the construction sector, followed by social action, with 230,000, then recycling and small-scale agriculture (organic and integrated farming).

“This is a sober proposal compared to the cost of the CICE (tax credits for competitiveness and employment),” said Julien Rivoire from the FSU. He added that the contract passed between the Socialist government and businesses had cost €20bn per year and crated very few jobs.

The expert also stressed that employees in the industries threatened by the energy transition were worried for their future, and that the change should be thought of as a process of both ecological transition and societal conversion.

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