Green jobs in Germany

Germany’s environmental technology sector today represents 16 percent of the global market. This makes the German “green economy“ not only a driver for growth and environmental sustainability, but also an important source of new employment. In 2010, the German Federal Minister for Environment, Norbert Röttgen, announced 1.8 million green jobs as part of this “green sector”.

beech trees Enlarge image (© picture-alliance / photoshot) The word “green” has recently experienced a noteable revival in the media and political arena, sometimes without quite specifying what the term truly implies. The term “green jobs” refers mainly to jobs that are related to the environment. That means they somehow contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. There are , of course, “classic” green jobs in the sectors of agriculture, forestry and horticulture. These are complemented by temporary workers, especially young people, who take a gap year after their graduation to complete volunteer work in the ecological sector.

But what is becoming more and more important today are jobs in the renewable energy sector. While a mere 94,000 people were employed in this field in 2000, Germany boasted 278,000 jobs in 2008 and even 340,000 jobs in renewables in 2010. On top of this, services in environmental technologies added another 850,000 jobs with an annual growth rate of 7.7 percent. Such services can include, for example, sustainable business as well as research and development activities, and encompass a wide variety of business fields such as “green building”, “green engineering”, wind and water, or waste and recycling.

In a long process, a whole economic “green” sector has developed in Germany over the last 30 years. The renewable energy sector has created more than 300,000 jobs in this time.

There are some basic facts and fine examples that give a clear indication of the sustainability of this development. First of all, solar technology plays a very important role in the sector. Germany is a worldwide leader in this field. In February 2011, the largest solar energy plant of sub-Saharan Africa was put into operation with German technology. This system, built by a German enterprise and supported by Germany's Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and Ministry of Economics and Technology, supplies electrical energy to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) office in Nairobi, Kenya.

Additionally, wind energy has established itself as a long-term, viable alternative energy source. In 2010, there were more than 21,000 wind power stations in Germany with 87,000 people working in them. Mädchen in einem Rapsfeld vor Windmühlen Enlarge image (© dpa / picture-alliance)

Lastly, Germany is renowned as the export world champion in the car industry and now the federal government hopes to make it the world market leader leader for electric cars as well. While there are currently a mere 2,300 of those battery-powered vehicles on the road thus far, the plan is to have one million electronic cars in operation by 2020. This branch could create another estimated 30,000 jobs.

As part of Germany’s close cooperation with South Africa in the field of green technologies, the German Embassy plans to host a workshop on the topic of creating jobs through the transition to a green economy. This workshop aims to elaborate on possible lessons to be learned by South Africa from the German experience in this sector. The event will be hosted jointly with the South African German Chamber of Commerce & Industry and is planned to take place in the second half of 2011.

Germany and South Africa share the common goal of increasing their efforts to shape an economy that protects the environment as well as the climate, while at the same time ensuring the prosperity of their people. Much remains to be done. While South Africa is currently drafting a strategy following the “Green Economy Summit” in May 2010, the German federal government plans to double the amount of “green jobs” by 2020.

June  8, 2011

© German Embassy Pretoria

Green jobs in Germany

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