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Green Jobs: How is our focus on climate change impacting employment patterns?

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With our heightened focus on climate change, we will experience new sustainable career opportunities and potentially transform the global employment market. 

The drive to tackle climate change and reduce emissions impacts the existing and prospects for the fossil fuel industries. The oil, gas and coal sectors employ nearly 18 million people combined, but according to the IEA, over 5 million jobs could go by 2030 if the world stays on track to achieve its net zero target by 2050. 

Looking specifically at fossil fuels paints a relatively detrimental perspective of the impact of focusing on a green future. However, the number of new opportunities generated in the clean energy market far exceeds any losses. In the same report, the IEA highlights that over 17 million new jobs could be created by 2030 in specific markets like EV manufacturing and wind turbine development, solar PV installation and clean energy construction.

Linda Freiner, CSO at Zurich Insurance Group, explains that transitioning to a net zero future will deliver new job markets and regenerate local economies. If we approach it correctly, we can create a more resilient future, providing new opportunities for businesses to succeed and creating new and exciting jobs to support a sustainable future.

What green careers will be critical in this transition to net zero?

Sustainability Professionals

All businesses today have a part to play in delivering a greener future. The sustainability officer primarily focuses on transforming business activities, reducing the environmental impact, exploring its supply chains and ensuring all products and services are sourced and used sustainably. Sustainability has become paramount for organisations, meaning all companies, big or small, have a critical role.

Renewable Energy Engineers

For years, the fossil fuels industry has always employed skilled engineers and technicians, and this experience and skills are highly transferable to the renewable energy industry. The clean energy industry is a significant employer, exceeding the employment numbers in fossil fuels in 2021. The solar industry, for example, employs 3.9 million people who mainly focus on installation. Studies suggest this figure could rise to 6.6 million by 2030, and the wind industry could experience similar growth, increasing from 1.5 million to nearly 5 million. Solar panel installers and wind turbine technicians will be the fastest-growing employment categories over the next few years.

Sustainable Buildings

The building industry continues to be a large contributor to global emissions. The World Green Building Council states that buildings are responsible for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions. With the support of new legislation, the rise of alternative, low environmental impact materials and construction methods can reduce emissions by improving energy performance and reducing the carbon footprint of buildings. New buildings will require smart technology to enable people to control and manage resources more effectively. Constructing greener properties is a huge challenge and will require many specialist positions. Reports suggest up to 6.5 million jobs in sustainable construction by 2030, making it the second fastest-growing industry after renewable energy.

Circular Economy Professionals

A study at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute explains that our economy will succeed in reusing, repairing, refurbishing, remaking and repurposing. A circular economy incorporates traditional recycling methods and more innovative opportunities in upcycling. Studies predict that nearly 6 million jobs could develop by moving away from the extracting, manufacturing and discarding process and focusing on embracing recycling, reuse and repairing.

Strengthening Green Skills

Our net zero future means we will need more professionals with green skills, which requires collaboration between government, businesses and industry professionals. Policymakers must prioritise green skills and empower and prepare the existing and future workforce. 

Business leaders should invest in training and upskilling green talent. We are reaching a critical time and need the right talent in the right places. As we continue to discuss the employment market and the future of jobs, we must put climate change at the core of these conversations.

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