Renewable Energy Benefits Environment, Economies

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Renewable energy, if properly adopted, could create better-paying jobs, improve international trade balances, and promote industrial development around the world.

That's according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) called "econValue – The Socio-economic Benefits of Solar and Wind Energy." The report says fears of widespread job loss and other economic distress as a result of recent decisions by many governments to set caps on carbon emissions are unwarranted.

In fact, it says, a shift to renewables could actually benefit individual workers and economies as a whole.

The document examines the "macroeconomic variables" of how wind and solar energy affect not just the environment, but also the economy and society as a whole. These variables include how installing and maintaining renewable energy projects affect everything from jobs to gross domestic product.

The report, produced by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), shows political leaders how to exploit opportunities offered by renewable energy through investment in these technologies, as well as training new workers and researching improvements in the technologies.

"As many economies are still recovering from the global financial crisis, renewable energy offers an opportunity to grow economies, improve energy security, enhance energy access, and mitigate climate change," IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said in a statement.

"Policymakers around the world are exploring ways to stimulate social and economic growth through the renewable energy sector, and this report is an important step to support them on this path," he added.

The econValue report was issued before the White House's June 2 announcement of new regulations aimed at reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. One day later, China said it would begin to impose unspecified cuts in carbon emissions in 2016.

One frequent objection to the U.S. plan has been that it will kill jobs and weaken the economy, especially in states with robust coal industries. The econValue report concedes that mining jobs will be lost, but will be offset by clean-energy jobs.

Added benefits, it said, would be improved public health from less air pollution, lower costs for energy and less stress on the nation's electricity grid.

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