Climate Action

Is Clean Energy the Answer to Job Growth?

Fossil fuel jobs are shrinking, and not because of regulation. The oil, coal, and gas sectors have seen some of the largest declines in employment since the start of the pandemic. It takes more than half of the employees to produce coal now compared to the 1980s. In fact, the coal industry has lost 58% of its jobs between 1980 and 2015. While the amount of fossil fuels burned hasn’t changed drastically, the decrease in fossil fuel jobs due to increased mechanization in the industry not only reduces emissions, it encourages more employment in the clean energy industry with similar wages. This trend in clean energy employment is anticipated to expand, outweighing the decline in fossil fuel jobs.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that by making the transition to renewable energy, those in the fossil fuel industry will lose their jobs. A report published by Global Citizen suggests that retraining workers dependent on fossil fuels will be an alternative approach to ensuring their jobs are secure while simultaneously strengthening the shift towards cleaner energy.

The International Energy Agency defines clean energy workers as those in sectors like bioenergy supply, electricity grids and storage, electric vehicle manufacturing, and energy efficiency. Global employment in the energy sector has risen above pre-pandemic levels, with over 12 million citizens currently employed in the renewable energy sector worldwide.

More than 65 million people worked in the global energy sector in 2019, with clean energy jobs accounting for more than half of these employment rates. Of the 1.3 million new energy jobs generated between 2019 and 2021, nearly all of them were in the clean energy sector. 

Most regions throughout the world have already employed over 50% of their workforce in clean energy. At this rate, the United States could add 4.5 million jobs per year over the next ten years. Solar power has and continues to be a strong sector in the clean energy industries, providing 4.3 million jobs in 2021 alone. The installation of solar panels — along with the retrofitting of buildings to make them more energy efficient — remain labor-intensive activities that aid in creating more jobs for Americans — and indeed, worldwide. 

The International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario claims that we’d need to create 14 million new clean energy jobs globally by 2030 in order to keep on track with the goal of zero emissions by 2050. In this scenario, 16 million workers would be switched to new roles relating to clean energy. With the increased consumption of energy from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels, demand for clean energy jobs in the United States is expected to rise, demonstrating that the country is making proper strides to meet the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. 

The country is still going to need energy, whether it comes from renewable sources or fossil fuels. That’s still going to make employment in the energy sector necessary– the only difference is how many people will be employed. If the world continues to expand jobs in the clean energy sector, we will have a greater chance of meeting the exponentially growing demand of energy globally. To put it simply: more clean energy jobs leads to more clean energy for citizens all over the world.  

The advancement of clean energy initiatives in addition to the growing decline of fossil fuel jobs marks a tipping point in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach the 

objective of net-zero emissions by 2050.

EARTHDAY.ORG’s Invest in Our Planet theme that surrounds the transformation of economies and businesses to more green jobs in the energy sector is proving to be the most logical step towards global prosperity and conservation.