The skills gap in the green economy will rise to seven million workers by 2030, risking a slowdown in the energy transition that could imperil a 1.5°C climate stabilization target, warn researchers at the Boston Consulting Group.
This massive global shortfall could translate into a global temperature rise of 0.1°C by delaying production and installation for critical renewable energy projects, say researchers at the BCG Henderson Institute. “This green skills gap is especially acute in solar, wind, and biofuels technologies—key pillars of the energy transition.”
While there’s still time to close the gap, a “mismatch between geography, skills, and timing” will pose challenges, said lead author Johann Harnoss.
“People are not where they are needed most, the ones that are in the right place still have meaningful work and don’t feel the urgency to move, and those who move into green energy find they need entirely new skills,” Harnoss explained. “Large-scale upskilling is a key part of the solution, so is skills-based legal migration.”
BCG recommends that countries build migration partnerships for mutual benefit. “Early programs, for example between Nepal and Germany, show promise, but require access to impact-based financing to scale,” BCG writes. Visa schemes may also need to be revisited and revamped.
In-demand jobs will include solar panel installers, on- and offshore wind farm operators, welding and metal technicians trained to work in large-scale solar energy plants, fire protection and occupational safety technicians, and engineers for solar and battery technology.
Contributing to the looming shortage is the fact that labour just hasn’t been very much on the minds of the people crafting the energy transition, BCG contends.
“Topics such as sustainable finance, infrastructure, and technology innovation are rightfully top of the agenda at New York’s Climate Week and COP 28,” said study co-author Janina Kugel, BCG senior advisor on people. “But the people dimension tends to be overlooked,” and “fixing this will be key to meeting the world’s net zero targets.”
BCG acknowledges that “about 40% of the required workers will need only limited training,” pointing to the United Kingdom’s US$17 million fund to retrain 4,000 oil and gas workers as a successful example. But “other reskilling programs are often quite expensive and don’t always scale well.”
Much of the green jobs deficit is in heavy-emitting countries, making it even more urgent to redress the gap, BCG says.
Of the seven million missing jobs, “70% (five million) are located in the 10 largest carbon-emitting countries, led by China, the United States and Germany, followed by Japan and South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Russia, and Kazakhstan,” the consultancy writes in a separate report. “France, which occupies 11th place in the ranking, is expected to be short of around 130,000 workers by 2030.”