In the discussion around climate change, there has always been the question of what happens to the thousands of people employed by fossil fuel reliant sectors. A new study published by One Earth journal suggests that working towards keeping global temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius could create a global jobs boom for the energy sector.
The study claims that jobs in the energy sector could grow from 18 million currently to 26 million by 2050, under its “well-below 2°C (WB2C)” scenario. Under the WB2C scenario 84% of those jobs would be associated with the renewables sector, 11% would relate to fossil fuels and 5% would be in nuclear.
The decline in fossil fuels would see jobs related to the sector fall from 12.6 million today to just 3.1 million by 2050, with about 80% of the job losses associated with fossil fuel extraction. Renewable energy jobs would surge from 4.4 million currently to 22 million by 2050, with over 85% of those gains in the solar and wind industries.
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“In particular, there would be a large expansion of renewable manufacturing jobs, which could lead to competition to attract and expand solar and wind industries,” states the report.
According to the report this is an important finding “as current fossil fuel dependent countries with substantial fossil fuel extraction jobs who face job losses in sectors like coal mining or others could promote the domestic renewable energy equipment manufacturing sector to create a large number of domestic jobs.”
While the report found jobs in the solar and wind manufacturing sector would likely boom under its WB2C scenario, with jobs in the sector to total 7.7 million in 2050, it noted that China currently dominates the sector.
However, it claimed this “might” change in the future, with some countries of being vocal over self-sufficiency and promoting domestic renewable energy manufacturing.
Fossil fuel exporters could face jobs decline
A number of fossil fuel exporting nations are also likely to suffer more under the WB2C scenario, with the report finding Mexico, Australia, Canada, South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa as regions likely to see job gains experienced as current policy settings disappear with stronger climate change policies.
“Most of the current energy sector jobs in these exporting countries are in the extraction sector either in coal mining or oil and gas exploration and production,” the report notes.
“As the demand for fossil fuels falls in the WB2C scenario, these exporting countries would lose employment in their extraction sectors, which is not compensated by an increase in renewables energy jobs.”
China is also likely to lose out in net jobs terms regardless of whether climate policy remains the same or is strengthened to meet the study’s WB2C scenario, due to the loss of employment in the coal mining sector, the report suggested.
Regions to see job boom from climate change
Regions likely to benefit from stronger climate policy, however, include South-East Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Indonesia, the US, Brazil, South Asia, India, Japan and Korea.
“In absolute terms, the Middle East and North Africa, and the US might gain over a million jobs in 2050 in WB2C scenario compared with today, while other regions show more modest gains,” the report states.
“In the case of these regions, future job losses are in their relatively low-job-intensity fossil fuel sector (meaning fewer people are employed). However, these regions also have high renewable energy potential (with higher job intensities in the renewable energy sector) resulting in higher job numbers in the future overall.”
The report also noted that while Indonesia, South-East Asia, Brazil, India, and South Asia all had a large number of jobs associated with the fossil fuel sector, it found the increase in energy demand, and massive deployment of renewables that would be required, would lead to an overall rise in jobs.