A green job is a triple win - it's good for the planet, good for the economy, and good for the people who do the job - that was the take-home message for EU Green Week 2017.
Supported by EU policies, the transition towards a circular economy starts to encourage fundamental changes across the entire EU economy. As companies develop new, sustainable business models, expand their markets and adapt innovative solutions to efficiently use resources, this can translate into more jobs, and existing white and blue colour jobs become green.
The environmental goods and services sector saw a solid performance in terms of job creation despite the economic crisis, growing to 4.2 million jobs in 2014. That is almost 1.4 million more than fifteen years ago. However, recently growth in green jobs has levelled out and equalled that of the rest of the economy. But there is a much larger potential for job creation. The Juncker Commission has made a clear commitment to sustainable economic growth, to a more circular economy, and to implementing the Paris climate agreement. The contributions of Commission Vice President Dombrovskis and Employment Commissioner Thyssen to the Green Jobs Summit demonstrated the Commission's commitment to the green jobs agenda.
New opportunities will emerge in renewable energy, recycling and waste management, organic farming, sustainable transport, the water and the maritime sector.
Seeking to explore how we can stimulate more job creation, each day of EU Green Week focused on a different aspect: green jobs in the countryside, green jobs and water, working for a greener future, green "blue jobs" for oceans and green jobs in our cities. Contributions from the ILO and Green For All highlighted that green jobs can be inclusive and a way out of poverty.
With the Circular Economy package the European Commission has given the clear signal to economic operators that we will use all the tools available to transform our economy. We will deliver on the commitments to making the circular economy happen. The proposals to boost recycling are now with the European Parliament and Council. The Commission will give its full support to conclude work on them still this year, and have ambitious yet realistic results. To improve circularity of a key resource in our economy we will present a plastics strategy later this year looking at how we could recycle more efficiently.
Our existing rules on water and air quality, nature and waste management give a real impetus to jobs and sustainable growth if applied fully. With the Environment Implementation Review there is a new tool to boost implementation of environmental rules and policies. The Commission will continue the country dialogues with Member States. In September, it will launch a dedicated peer-to-peer tool to support exchange of successful practices.
Green jobs are not limited to eco-industries. Around 4.4 million jobs directly depend on healthy ecosystems, a significant proportion of them within Natura 2000 sites. The Commission is committed to fully implement the new Nature Action Plan. One action is to involve young people in environmental volunteering through the European Solidarity Corps, which will help them develop skills useful in future employment. The Commission has put the European Solidarity Corps on a firm footing by proposing a budget for the next three years and a dedicated legal base so that the first green volunteers can start their work in nature projects this autumn.
Skills needs took centre-stage in the many debates during this week. Addressing the knowledge and skills gap, including in small and medium-sized enterprises, requires adapting curricula, training courses, and upskilling people already in jobs. The New Skills Agenda for Europe can help to do just that. The Commission is looking into extending the Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills to new sectors with a strong focus on green growth and renewable energy and circular economy.
The European Social Fund is backing these actions, and is investing in labour market activation measures, and upgrading skills. The Commission will launch a new round of funding under the Blue Careers initiative. It already successfully supports projects to equip tomorrow's maritime work force with the skills needed for a sustainable ocean economy.
But there is only so much to be achieved by the public actors. More importantly, there is a strong role for the private sector. Business such as IKEA, Suez Environment and Qualibuild who joined up to EU Green Week proved that going green makes business sense.
The European Social Partners ETUC, Business Europe, UEAPME and CEEP demonstrated their engagement during EU Green Week, and I look forward to their continued commitment to support the green transition.
Moving towards a greener, more circular economy will require significant investments. Investments are needed both at small and large scale. Again, it is for the private sector to act. Public funds can help leverage private finance into greener solutions. The Commission is committed to delivering its part. Several sources of EU funding are available to help Member States with the employment opportunities and challenges of the transition to a greener economy, including the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the Regional Development Fund and the LIFE Programme.
EU Green Week 2017 has engaged millions of actors from all over Europe in events and on social media and brought many insights and inputs for our further work. I hope you will join our efforts to ensure that these findings will now be taken up and turned into action for more green jobs and for a better future for us all.
Next year EU Green Week will be about sustainable cities. With more than two thirds of Europeans living in cities and towns this will the opportunity to continue and broaden the inspiring debate on the green transition. I very much look forward to that.