‘More jobs will be created by the energy transition than lost’ –IRENA

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By 2030, the global economy will create more green jobs than the number lost during the pandemic if investments in renewable energy are increased in line with sustainability targets set under the Paris Agreements, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has said.

In its new Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual review 2021, complied in partnership with the International Labour Organisation, IRENA predicts that some 25 million new green jobs will be created by 2030, surpassing the 7 million lost due to the pandemic.

In addition, IRENA expects some 5 million workers who lost their positions as a result of the pandemic to find new jobs in the same occupation in another industry.

Following the 1.5ºC pathway will result in the creation of some 38 million new positions within the renewables sector and 43 million by 2050, according to IRENA. Of these, the solar segment will account for a lion’s share with 19.9 million, followed by the bio-energy sector which is anticipated to create 13.7 million new positions.

IRENA found that despite the negative impacts of the pandemic in 2020, the number of jobs within the renewable energy sector increased to 12 million in 2020 up from 11.5 million in 2019. China and the solar industry accounted for a majority share of the new jobs created in 2020.

China accounted for 39% of the total jobs in the renewables sector in 2020 whilst the solar segment reached 2 million jobs. The hydropower sector stood at number three with 3 million positions and the wind sector at number four with 1,254 jobs.

However, during the launch of the report, Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA, highlighted the need for governments to introduce policies that encourage renewable energy investments in a just and inclusive manner. He emphasized the need for the inclusion of women and underrepresented communities in decision making and job creation and placement.

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La Camera, said in 2020 “women accounted for one-third of all jobs, better than the conventional sector but not enough. The energy transition needs to be an achievable one, just and inclusive.”

“For it to be successful, the energy transition needs to tap a diverse of talent and gender.”

La Camera urged governments and energy stakeholders to invest more in educating women with STEM skills and ensure their job training and placement is a key focus.

He reiterated: “Renewable energy’s ability to create jobs and meet climate goals is beyond doubt. With COP26 in front of us, governments must raise their ambition to reach net zero. The only path forward is to increase investments in a just and inclusive transition, reaping the full socioeconomic benefits along the way.”

Martha E. Newton, deputy director-general of policy at the International Labour Organisation, added: Going beyond the number of jobs is critical to achieve the social-economic benefits of renewables, freedom, equity and security.

“A wide range of policies are required to ensure social protection, workers rights, inclusion to support female participation in the energy transition”

Other key findings of the study include:

  • COVID-19 caused delays and supply chain disruptions and impacted jobs differently in various countries and end-use.
  • Liquid biofuels employment decreased as demand for transport fuels fell.
  • Off-grid solar lighting sales suffered, but companies were able to limit job losses.
  • Women suffered more from the pandemic because they tend to work in sectors more vulnerable to economic shocks.

Read the full report here.