Some 800,000 jobs across Europe will be wiped out following the adoption of EU climate change legislation last year, warned Poland’s Solidarno?? trade union.
Jaros?aw Grzesik, deputy head of energy at Solidarno??, said Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic would suffer most because of their reliance on coal for electricity production.
“We’re going to lose jobs in states where coal is used,” Grzesik told a conference organised by Confrontations Europe, a think-tank, citing EU countries located on the bloc’s eastern border. “But Germany, the UK and Scandinavia will also suffer,” he told the conference, held on 23 June in Brussels.
Poland relies on coal for 58% of its overall energy needs (the figure jumps to 95% for electricity) compared with 26.2% for Denmark and 23.6% for Germany, according to 2006 statistics from the European Commission. Estonia (56%) and the Czech Republic (45%) are also heavy coal users.
According to Grzesik, the EU’s climate change laws, which require the power sector to reduce CO2 emissions or buy pollution credits on the European carbon market, will push coal industries to relocate to countries where pollution is not regulated.
“In Poland, production will move away to Ukraine, a few kilometres away from our borders,” Grzesik predicted, deploring the fact that the Polish government and the European had provided “no analysis” of the impact of the EU’s climate legislation on industry delocalisation.
He also warned the move would force electricity prices up, possibly pushing low-income households into energy poverty. “After the package, energy will represent 15% of household costs in Poland,” Grzesik said, up from 11% currently.
Green jobs: Myth or reality?
The trade unionist poured cold water on the notion that job cuts would be offset by the creation of new “green jobs” in emerging sectors such as solar or wind power. “Yes, there will be new jobs, but these will mainly be for young people,” he said.
“According to our estimates, there will be 800,000 job losses for the whole European Union,” Grzesik indicated, a figure that will not be compensated by the estimated 200,000 new jobs, he said.
“In Europe, without a doubt, it is a problem,” said Philippe Herzog, a French economist and founder of Confrontations Europe. “We have not found a balance yet between the definition of European objectives [on climate change] and the implications for jobs.”
“It is obvious that countries on the eastern border have problems given their energy mix,” he added, saying the EU had a role to play “in terms of cohesion”.
However, while questions related to difficulties created by the EU’s climate legislation “are legitimate”, Herzog said these “should not hide the fact” that green legislation “opens a potential for sustainable growth”.
“Do not forget that trillions of euro have to be invested in energy and transport” in the coming decades, Herzog stressed, saying these represented a huge opportunity for European companies. But he warned that “skills shortages everywhere” are hindering growth prospects in the clean technology sector.