Climate change is also a change in employment opportunities

(Estimated reading time: 3,42 minutes) Audio version of article available.

According to the United Nations, the planet is moving toward a 2.5º Celsius temperature increase by the end of the century, much higher than the 1.5 degrees set as the maximum objective in 2015’s Paris Accord. If we wish to meet this objective, this decade will be decisive. To this end, we need ambitious policies to mitigate climate change and adapt to it, both because we must address the environmental challenge and because this has high potential for creating employment. Digitisation, clean technologies, the circular economy, and more, provide a myriad of opportunities in this regard that we must take advantage of. The environmental sector in the European Union, which has been growing since the year 2000, accounted for 2.2% of the GDP and 4.2 million jobs in 2017. Globally, environmental employment is concentrated:

  • mainly in energy management (35%),
  • followed by waste management (28%),
  • environmental protection (21%), and
  • wastewater management (13%).

Moreover, according to the European Commission, if we include indirect employment in sectors that manufacture goods for the environmental industry, agriculture, and eco-tourism, the number of jobs spikes up to 20 million, 5% of the active population.


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Las inversiones en mitigación del cambio climático y adaptación al mismo, tienen que desempeñar un papel fundamental. Así, las energías renovables en 2019 dieron empleo, directa o indirectamente, a más de 11 millones de personas en el mundo, con una tendencia al alza, según estima la Agencia Internacional para la Energía Renovable. En España, el sector renovable daba empleo en 2020 a más de 90.000 personas, según su patronal. Y si atendemos a la previsión del Plan Nacional Integrado de Energía y Clima, el cumplimiento de los objetivos climáticos generará un aumento neto de un cuarto de millón de personas empleadas por año, tanto en energías renovables como en comercio, industria y construcción.

Investments in mitigating climate change and adapting to it must play a fundamental role. In this vein, renewable energies in 2019 provided direct or indirect employment to over 11 million people around the world, with an upward trend, estimates the International Renewable Energy Agency. In Spain, the renewable sector provided employment to over 90,000 people in 2020, according to employers. If we consider forecasts in the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan, meeting climate goals will create a net increase of one quarter of a million people employed per year in renewable energies, commerce, industry, and construction.

Beyond the energy sector, sustainable mobility will create employment in more efficient transport methods, such as rail, collective and/or public transport, provision of mobility services, and new mobility-related businesses, such as carsharing and bicycles. The International Labour Organization predicts that the use of public passenger transport and freight transport services will increase job creation in the sector. Based on these predictions, electrification in Europe and by 2050, 50% of new vehicles could entail 600,000 new jobs in the transport sector alone, and up to 2.9 million when accounting for indirect employment in other sectors.

Other measures to adapt to climate change can create many other jobs by 2050. For example: The European Commission is proposing a forestry strategy that includes planting at least 3 billion trees by 2030, whose development in Spain could create thousands of job positions.

All these opportunities require an essential element in order to take advantage of them: availability of qualified labour. And to this end, we must work on two lines of action: first, training young people in these disciples, and second, and very essentially, on re-training experienced professionals to move from carbon-intensive sectors to sectors that are not.

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