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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson touts Vancouver’s increase in eco-friendly jobs, but critics question his definition and assumptions. (Darryl Dyck for The Globe and Mail)
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson touts Vancouver’s increase in eco-friendly jobs, but critics question his definition and assumptions. (Darryl Dyck for The Globe and Mail)

Eco-friendly jobs in Vancouver increase over past three years Add to ...

Green jobs are multiplying in Vancouver much faster than other jobs in the economy, Mayor Gregor Robertson said as he buffed up the city’s green brand one more time.

A company that manufactures heat exchangers, a local producer of craft beer, a construction company that builds projects that meet high environmental standards, an education program that teaches sustainability – all of those contributed to 19-per-cent growth in the city’s green jobs in just three years.

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“It puts to rest the tired, stale ideology that the environment is at odds with the economy,” said Mr. Robertson, as he and the Vancouver Economic Commission released a report, detailing the new jobs and the predictions for future growth.

The commission’s new CEO, Ian McKay, said Vancouver has also led the way by developing a rigorous new method for counting green jobs, one that other cities are looking at as a model.

But critics immediately took to Twitter and local media to mock the report’s definition of a green job and question some of the assumptions – a sign of the unfinished debate over what is green.

Non-Partisan Association Councillor George Affleck tweeted that he looks forward to “congratulating my Starbucks barista on his green job.” Another commenter said green jobs weren’t that green if people were commuting in from the suburbs.

And Green Party council candidate Pete Fry questioned how the city can classify the jobs constructing a new building to high environmental standards as green when the condo sits empty and replaced a heritage building demolished and carted off to the landfill. “It seems like kind of a self-serving report,” Mr. Fry said. “When we start talking about green jobs, there needs to be a holistic picture.”

Mr. McKay acknowledged it was a tricky to figure out what was green and what wasn’t. The Business Council of British Columbia has raised questions about whether that’s even possible.

Baristas, contrary to Mr. Affleck’s tweet, don’t count in the report. Neither do truckers delivering food to Safeway. Nor do local coffee roasters – their beans come from outside B.C.

Bus drivers were counted as green jobs, but only the percentage of their work that was within Vancouver. Teachers and professors had green jobs if they were teaching about sustainability. And people who demolish houses and put them in landfills are not green workers, but people who take houses apart and recycle them are.

Mr. McKay said his team looked at output – whether the product someone was making fit the United Nations definition of restoring or preserving environmental quality. So a writer sitting at home, not sullying the air by commuting anywhere, is only green if he or she is writing about ways to conduct a greener life or business. If that same person is writing about new luxury goods to buy – it’s not a green job.

Out of all those microdata, the commission reported that the city gained 3,300 new green jobs in three years, an increase of about 6 per cent a year. Although that beat the 2.5-per-cent increase in jobs nationally, it falls a little short for the city’s final target – doubling the green jobs from 16,700 in 2010 by 2020.

Still, the green economy is a small sector. As the report noted, even with the increase, Vancouver’s green economy accounts for just under 5 per cent of all the jobs in Vancouver.

But Mr. Robertson was undaunted . He said the growth was phenomenal, considering the state of the rest of the economy. And he said local consumer demand for green products, along with city policies mandating more green building practices and encouraging green businesses, should help drive future growth.

“We have made huge progress and we can’t let up.”

A look at the growth in “green jobs” by sector in Vancouver

Food

2010 – 4,950

2013 – 5,987

2020 – 11,195 (up by 87 per cent from 2013)

Green building design and construction

2010 – 3,000

2013 – 4,480

2020 – 7,347 (up by 64 per cent)

Clean technology, alternative energy, green building products

2010 – 2,950

2013 – 3,187

2020 – 5,131 (up by 61 per cent)

Green infrastructure, transportation and planning

2010 – 2,200

2013 – 2,603

2020 – 3,670 (up 41 per cent)

Sustainability services and education

2010 – 1,600

2013 – 1,701

2020 – 2,245 (up 32 per cent)

Land and water remediation and environmental consultation

2010 – 1,450

2013 – 1,400

2020 – 1,498 (up 7 per cent)

Material management and recycling

2010 – 580

2013 – 593

2020 – 889 (up 50 per cent)

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