March 14, 2011 • 2:13 pm

“For every ‘green’ job, nearly four are lost” Christopher Booker, The Daily Telegraph, 12 March 2011.

As Labour’s Ed Miliband and Ed Balls today lay out their party’s approach to the economy, growth has been a watchword for both the Opposition and the Government.

Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker seemingly remains skeptical on the much-heralded prospects for ‘green growth’, arguing this weekend that green initiatives are killing four times as many jobs as they are creating. Can these figures really be true?

The claim rests on the findings of a “new report” published by the consultants Verso Economics in March this year. The report - ‘Worth The Candle? The Economic Impact of Renewable Energy Policy in Scotland and the UK‘ – addresses the impact of Scottish and UK government support for renewable energy development as well as the consumer impact of increased electricity costs.

Adding these costs together, it concludes that the Scottish renewables sector has been subsidised to the tune of £330 million in 2009/10, while only directly creating 1,100 jobs in Scotland. It is by calculating the macroeconomic impact of this £330 million subsidy that the report is able to estimate the number of jobs lost in the UK economy as a result, comparing this figure to jobs created in the Scottish renewables sector.

However the Verso Economics report was not actually seeking to address indirect benefits or jobs gained through investment in this sector. Further, the BBC reports a spokesman for the Scottish government arguing the report is “misleading”, saying it vastly underestimates the jobs created in the renewables sector and does not consider the impact of private investment. They argue that there is no negative impact on public services or public sector budgets from government support of renewables.

Whether or not these criticisms of the report ring true, there is another potential problem in using its findings to show a net loss of jobs across the UK. The original report does not address the entire UK ‘green’ jobs sector, but is focused on jobs created in the renewables sector in Scotland. Therefore, it is something of an extrapolation, and one in which it is difficult to have full confidence.

Conclusion:

This factcheck highlights the importance of the need for careful and transparent application of statistics where they refer to given particulars. While the Verso Economics Report does highlight possible jobs being lost as a result of investment in the Scottish renewables sector, the Daily Telegraph article has taken the statistics from the report a step further, extrapolating them to make a more general statement on overall UK ‘green’ jobs.

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