A focus on the green economy sector has created more than 1 million jobs over two years, a report released Wednesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found. 

The report, assessing the impact on environmental and sustainability projects launched by the state, also found jobs in the "green" sector composed 17% of all employment in New York prior to the pandemic in 2020.

New York has sought to encourage investments in jobs that are meant to spur the development of environmentally friendly energies and technologies as the state begins to shift from carbon-based fuels to renewable forms of energy in the coming decades.

DiNapoli called for further efforts that would focus on workforce development and educational programs to further grow this part of the state's economy.

“Climate change is driving a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resiliency. To be successful, we need trained individuals who can fill these jobs,” DiNapoli said. “The workforce impact goes beyond just wind and solar jobs as many established occupations are seeing an increased demand for skills that are useful for responding to climate change. We need to prepare our workforce to meet those challenges.”

At the same time, the report likely bolsters the argument made by conservation organizations that New York's focus on green jobs can help spur a post-pandemic recovery in the state, though the sector itself was not immune from the crisis and saw declines in employment.

“This important new report underscores why New York’s climate law has been called the most ambitious in the world,” said Peter M. Iwanowicz, the executive director of Environmental Advocates NY. “Our laws will zero-out climate pollution, improve public health, clear the air of the pollution that is making far too many sick and, as this report demonstrates, create hundreds of thousands of good jobs in the emerging green economy that is New York’s future. We appreciate Comptroller DiNapoli’s efforts to shine a light on this important issue.”

The report assessed data from the federal Department of Labor's Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics as well as the Occupational Information Network to review the impact of green jobs.

All told, green jobs in New York composed more than 17% of the state's employment in 2019, and of those positions, 85% were in occupations that were either facing increased demand or a need for updated skills. The definition applied to the sector could be broad, drawing in electricians, carpenters, mechanics, and software developers, operations managers, maintenance and repair and construction laborers.

Still, the state's shift to renewable energies is expected to draw in nearly all facets of life, from transportation to home heating. New and emerging jobs like those in solar energy and recycling composed 15.7% of the overall jobs in the sector.

And New York is also trailing other states in green jobs as a percentage of the workforce, including neighboring Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as the national average overall.

The economic disruption created by the pandemic led to a sharp decline in employment for the green sector of more than 30% in 2020, the report found.

New York has proposed a multi-billion-dollar bond act for voters to consider that would fund projects meant to help sustain infrastructure during the worst effects of climate change.

“New York continues to set the standard for fighting climate change and creating green jobs that power a clean energy innovation economy,” said Julie Tighe, the president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “As we continue to strive toward major goals in the CLCPA, Comptroller DiNapoli has highlighted a path with this Green Jobs report that can increase and sustain good-paying jobs, including many union jobs, here in New York by investing in and training the next generation for the opportunities the green economy will create. As members of the New Yorkers for Clean Water and Jobs Coalition, we know investing in the environment will result in a stronger, more sustainable economy.”