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Jean Lambert MEP: The green jobs case for the UK to remain in the EU

Guest Blogger, 13 April 2016

The world of work is changing. With unacceptable levels of unemployment and job insecurity especially among our young people, and with traditional industries struggling, as the current crisis in UK steel illustrates, it is essential that we rise to the challenges of this changing world. Our best chance of building lasting, decent employment prospects for future generations is to get on with creating sustainable green jobs. And the UK can best do this as part of a united European Union.

I’m glad to say that the EU is already recognising the need to green our economy and the benefits of doing so. European Commission figures suggest that up to 20 million jobs could be created in the green economy by 2020. Direct and indirect employment in the wind, wave and tidal energy sectors could grow from 34,000 in 2013 to over 100,000 by 2023 within the EU. And whilst this transition is not happening fast enough for my liking, it would be fatal for us in Britain to turn our backs on it or to think that we’ll be better off ‘going it alone’.

The EU has started looking into ways to deal with resource scarcity and the current inefficient use of resources. Initiatives to build a more ‘circular’, less wasteful economy are going through the European Parliament now. Small businesses in London are already being helped to become more resource-efficient with help from European funding. EU funding is behind ‘re-use’ projects which are creating jobs in the capital and giving new life to objects that would otherwise go to landfill. And EU investments are right now going into energy saving schemes in homes and public buildings across the capital.

The UK mustn’t fool itself that we can isolate ourselves from global environmental and employment challenges or respond to them alone. Climate change and other unsustainable pressures on the environment do not respect national boundaries so we must clearly work together to find cross-border solutions. Supply chains and trade patterns are international. Being part of the EU gives British businesses, both small and big, access to a 500-million strong market. Things like progressive environmental tax reform – shifting the tax burden from employment to environmental costs – are only possible with a forum like the EU to create a level playing field.

Tackling the environmental challenges must also go hand-in-hand with creating decent, fairly paid jobs with good working conditions and sound health and safety – and this is something else that should come on a European level. EU funds can help ensure a ‘just transition’ for workers in sectors that undergo considerable change or decline. We mustn’t fool ourselves that a UK outside the EU would protect workers. The likelihood of a post-Brexit race-to-the-bottom in which our rights at work, our safeguards against discrimination, and our protection as consumers would be slashed is a very scary prospect indeed. That’s why the Greens are committed to a social Europe, with stronger protections for everyone.

Change is coming. The transition is already in motion. To benefit from decent, green jobs and to build a fair Europe based on solidarity, we must stay sitting at the table, side by side with our European neighbours, and work together to rise to the challenges of the changing world.

Jean Lambert is the Green MEP for London and has been since 1999. You can visit her website here. 

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