Last month on Earth Day, leaders from more than 170 nations signed an international accord addressing the global threat of climate change. The Paris climate agreement laid out the steps countries, including the U.S., China and India, are committing to take to reduce carbon emissions.
People know climate change threatens the planet but don’t feel it in their everyday lives. A recent report should help change that thinking. Clean Jobs Midwest by Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs, shows how critical clean energy and energy efficiency are to our economy. The report highlights the positive effect federal policies addressing climate change can have on job and economic growth.
Clean Jobs Midwest found that there are more than 568,000 clean energy and energy efficiency jobs in the Midwest region. The number of clean jobs in Missouri has increased more than 30 percent in the past year, from nearly 40,000 to more than 52,000.
Kansas has more than 27,000 clean energy jobs. In the Kansas City area nearly 15,000 people hold clean energy and energy efficiency jobs.
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Diving deeper into the numbers, we see that energy efficiency, which includes the installation and maintenance of HVAC efficiency systems, advanced building materials and LED lighting, is the largest employer in our region with nearly three quarters of all clean jobs. Clean energy includes the generation of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and low-impact hydropower. It’s also advanced transportation in electric, hybrid, natural gas, hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles.
This growth has led Midwest businesses to be bullish on the future. They predict job growth of 4.4 percent over the next 12 months, resulting in 25,000 new jobs across the 12-state region. In Missouri, the projected growth rate leads the entire region at 8.3 percent. Businesses in Kansas anticipate a 2.3 percent increase.
Perhaps the most important finding in the Clean Jobs Midwest report is that business owners said support by officials for state and federal policies that send strong market signals to investors and consumers are critical to future growth. Specifically, half of business owners surveyed believe that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan will lead to even more business opportunities and investment.
I happen to be one of these business owners and I know that the Clean Power Plan lets investors know that our nation is committed to finding new and innovative ways to provide power and reduce our carbon emissions and that they can lend their support to businesses providing these goods and services. For too long, we’ve listened to policymakers in Washington, D.C., Jefferson City and Topeka tell us policies to reduce carbon emissions are “job killers.”
The Clean Jobs Midwest report and the strong job growth in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors proves otherwise. We are hiring but we can put even more people to work with the help of policies like the Clean Power Plan and with the support of leaders who understand that what’s good for the environment can also be good for the economy.
The Clean Jobs Midwest report can be found online at www.cleanjobsmidwest.com.
Joe Spease of Overland Park is CEO of WindSoHy, an Overland Park-based energy company, developing innovative, large-scale renewable energy projects.