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The transition to net-zero will drive significant changes for workers nationwide

The period of deindustrialisation through the 70s and 80s created rising unemployment and left significant deprivation in various regions of the nation. The transition toward net-zero will impact jobs nationwide but will not follow a similar path experienced in previous times.

The net-zero transition will involve the progress and launch of new technologies. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) predicts that over 80% of decarbonisation by 2035 will consist of new technologies or low carbon systems. The government has made it clear that it intends the UK to become a global leader in the transition toward a clean and green future. High carbon industries, in particular, will see a considerable change in technologies, processes and demand, as well as the impacts on the people working in these areas.

The transition to net-zero won’t involve a repeat of the decline of jobs during deindustrialisation. Individuals working in the ‘brown industries’, those areas reliant on fossil fuels, will inevitably experience a decrease in opportunities in the coming years. Some industries have been identified as particularly at risk due to the transition. Many employees from these industries will still be required in a net-zero future but will still have to adapt and integrate low emission technologies and a new way of working. 

Other markets will require significant changes in terms of the technologies and skills acquired. The change will be felt by those in green industries too. Technological advancements will continue to transform green markets, and responsibilities will change as environmental sustainability becomes more prominent in the working world.

Meeting our future targets requires a considerable rise in green industry jobs

Over the last decade, there’s been little change in the size of green and brown occupations, with a slight rise in green industry jobs but brown jobs remaining relatively stable. Significant changes will be needed over the coming decade if the UK can reach its emissions and net-zero targets. The Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) estimates that the UK could employ close to 70,000 people in offshore wind by 2026. The National Grid predicts we will need an additional 260,000 energy professionals by 2050 to reach net zero. To understand how the UK can meet this future demand, we need to explore the existing green job market and whether people from other industries can transition to green jobs and have the support and training required to remain in the green market.

While the figure is rising, a small number of people have moved from brown markets into green industry jobs. A slow rise in green industry jobs over the last decade has been predominantly driven by employees moving from other industries into the green market rather than graduates or those out of employment. Studies show that further efforts are required to ensure people are provided with the support and training to enable the younger generation and those actively interested to have the ability to pursue a career in the green industry. 

While some brown industry jobs will change as existing employees develop new green skills and adopt other responsibilities, we can’t depend on this happening in the next few years. Reports suggest that many transitioned people are highly educated and have moved into similar roles. This shift presents a challenge, given the need to dramatically increase the number of green jobs over the coming years and to manage those displaced from other industries. The transition to a green future is possible but will require reskilling people and significant efforts from the government, businesses and their employees. 

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