Meeting Paris Agreement climate targets could create 8 million jobs

Research highlights benefits of keeping global temperature rise below 2°C

Activists from the environmental organisation Greenpeace project a slogan on a coal power plant. Reuters
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Net jobs could increase by eight million by 2050 if the world keeps temperature rises below 2°C as set out in the Paris Agreement, a new study has found.

Utilising a global data set of “job footprints” in 50 countries, researchers calculated how hitting climate targets would affect workers in the energy sector. They said the jobs boost would primarily come via the solar and wind industry.

Johannes Emmerling, one of the authors of the report, which was published in the journal One Earth, said around 18 million people currently work in the energy industry. But that figure could rise to 26 million if the world hits its climate targets, he said.

“Manufacturing and installation of renewable energy sources could potentially become about one third of the total of these jobs, for which countries can also compete in terms of location,” said Mr Emmerling, an environmental economist at the Milan-based RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment.

He said that “the energy transition is increasingly being studied with very detailed models, spatial resolutions, timescales and technological details”.

“Yet the human dimension, energy access, poverty, and also distributional and employment implications are often considered at a high level of detail. We contributed to this gap by collecting and applying a large data set across many countries and technologies that can also be used in other applications.”

The researchers' modelling showed that 84 per cent of those jobs would be in renewables by 2050, 11 per cent in fossil fuels and 5 per cent in nuclear energy.

While fossil fuel extraction, which currently makes up 80 per cent of fossil fuel jobs, would decline steeply, jobs in this area would be replaced by solar and wind manufacturing positions.

“Extraction sector jobs are more susceptible to decarbonisation, so there needs to be just transition policies in place,” said co-author Sandeep Pai of the University of British Columbia.

“For example, the mobility of manufacturing jobs will be useful in areas where decarbonisation is rife. In many cases, fossil fuel workers also hold political influence because of their history and high rates of unionisation among others, so as we move to low carbon sources, it is important to have a plan in place for the general acceptability of climate policies.”

The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, says the goal is to limit global temperature rises below 2 °C from pre-industrial levels, although ideally the increase would be limited to 1.5 °C.

Updated: July 23, 2021, 3:57 PM