When it comes to predicting the future of green jobs globally, the numbers look impressive. Tens of millions could be created this decade in clean energy and nature protection alone, as fossil fuel industries shrink and green investment grows.
But what exactly are these new roles, where will be they be located, will they pay fairly, and what skills will be required?
Workers themselves, especially those in polluting industries, have doubts about the optimistic outlook presented by international agencies, said Nick Pesta, a senior strategy associate at RMI, a US-based energy transition think tank.
“If we don’t start answering those questions, it’s going to be hard to pull off the very good and correct goals of the just transition,” he said.
And while the spotlight is on coal, oil and gas workers who need to be reskilled in renewable energy, labour experts point to a host of emerging green occupations - from recycled fashion to carbon accounting, urban gardening and electric bus mechanics - as younger generations seek more sustainable careers.
When you’re a coal miner in West Virginia or an oil worker in Nigeria, you’re not going to feel super-optimistic because globally 12 million jobs are being created. You want to know what’s happening in your community… in your company.
Nick Pesta, senior strategy associate, RMI
In the energy sector, projections of future jobs vary, with a recent RMI report calculating that, on average, studies foresee a net gain of 25 million new jobs in clean energy this decade after subtracting losses from fossil fuel sectors.
As of 2021, renewables alone had already generated 12.7 million jobs, a third of them in the solar photovoltaics industry, according to an annual review by the International Labour Organization and International Renewable Energy Agency.
But RMI’s report noted that “unfulfilled promises of prosperity have left many people sceptical about clean energy job claims”, while solar and wind power hubs are often located far from fossil fuel extraction sites and electricity plants.
“When you’re a coal miner in West Virginia or an oil worker in Nigeria, you’re not going to feel super-optimistic because globally 12 million jobs are being created. You want to know what’s happening in your community… in your company,” Pesta said.
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