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Germany provides 'green model' to protect building jobs

Germany could provide a model for using green technology to save construction jobs during a major downturn.

A report from the United Nations has highlighted the success of a strategy used in Germany earlier this decade to protect jobs by retrofiting hundreds of thousands of homes.

The report said the approach was especially important as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that retrofitting and replacing obsolete equipment in buildings has the largest potential for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030.

The report said: “Many retrofitting measures can pay for themselves through energy savings and government support for such measures is largely offset by higher tax revenue and lower government contributions to social security.

“The most ambitious such programme to date is the initiative by the German Alliance for Work and the Environment, a partnership between the Government, building employers, trade unions and non-governmental organizations launched during a recession in the building sector in 2001.

“The programme helped to retrofit 342,000 apartments with improved insulation of roofs, windows and walls, along with advanced heating and ventilation systems and installation of renewable energy equipment.”

The report said that between 2001 and 2006 the Government provided subsidies of $5.2billion which stimulated investment of $20.9bill.

This protected or created around 140,000 jobs and reduced the annual emissions from buildings by two per cent.

It argued that about $4billion was recovered through tax revenues and the avoidance of higher unemployment benefit spending.

The amount of spending was increased in 2005 by the Government to almost $2 billion annually and this led to an estimated 145,000 additional full-time-equivalent jobs in 2006.

The report said: “Retrofitting of buildings has become one of the key elements of the strategy by the German Government to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.”

The case study was included in a report titled ‘Green Jobs: Towards decent work in a sustainable, low carbon world’.

It is aimed at advising Governments on developing opportunities through green technology while minimising the impact on the environment and protecting or enhancing the life chances of populations.

The report said in conclusion: “A transformation involving the creation of large numbers of green jobs and major development benefits is possible.

“The approaches that work are known but success is not automatic. It is contingent on the
adoption and implementation of coherent policies which integrate the three pillars of sustainable development: economy, environment and society.

“Coherent environmental, economic and social policies are critical and will require commitment at the highest political level.

“This needs to be articulated more clearly and the social dimension needs to feature
more prominently in environmental policy debates, in particular the climate talks, where relative prices and industrial policies are being set and key decisions adopted about technology transfer, financial flows and investments.

“The task is complex but can be tackled by involving the main stakeholders: employers, workers and Governments.”