A just transition rests on effective policy frameworks for upskilling globally

February 14, 2022

The Just Transition Declaration outlines the importance of putting the skills agenda at the centre of the transition to net zero. Green job creation and upskilling has been acknowledged as being crucial in diversifying economies, allowing them to be more sustainable and resilient. Supporting the millions of workers currently working in carbon-intensive sectors is what drives a just transition. The Just Transition Declaration was launched at COP26 by 15 signatories, including the UK, United States, Canada and the EU, and their commitments build on guidelines developed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2015. Both initiatives focus on worker rights, upskilling, regulation to transition industries and social dialogue. The Declaration also recognises the impact on supply chains, and commits to advancing human rights to ensure “equitable employment across borders” and to build climate resilience into supply chains. This is essential, as businesses in supply chains are often excluded, ignored or not given sufficient resources.

The signatories state their intent to support communities in developing and emerging economies that are more reliant on carbon-intensive activities, and disproportionally affected by climate change and the transition. This is particularly prevalent, given findings from a recent report by Wood Mackenzie, which stated that, in the short term, poorer economies could suffer significant losses in economic output. While it is clear that wealthier countries should support developing countries, some NGOs believe that the approach should be more nuanced. It is undeniable that wealthier countries should dedicate efforts to support developing and emerging economies in the transition, to ensure that “no-one is left behind”. However, governments adopting comprehensive policies to support the transition and generate green jobs in their own economies, are also essential.

In the UK, a report from the Green Alliance highlighted the significant skills gap needed to achieve net zero, and called for major policy intervention. It called on the UK Government to introduce a “green skills super deduction” tax relief, as well as providing loans and grants to organisations that are providing “retraining and are embedding green skills” into their business. The report notes that a major upskilling programme will be required, given that 80% of the 2030 workforce are currently working. This follows research by the think tank Onward, which showed that while 10% of the workforce would face an increase in demand for their skills, 10% would also see their skills become less relevant. Given the UK Government’s 2020 commitment to create 2 million green jobs by 2030, it is imperative that job creation, upskilling and supporting policy is developed, implemented and monitored.

The potential implications of inaction are too great, including the inability to achieve national targets or support global goals to net zero and a just transition. Inaction may also result in parts of society being excluded from the workforce, and economic losses that are not recoupable. Access to green skills development, in the UK and globally, can unlock sustainable and inclusive economic growth – a goal that is undoubtedly desired by countries globally.

Author: Sarah Kehoe