Transitioning to a Green Economy: Radical Transformation or Building Upon Existing Skills?
11 Pages Posted: 16 May 2022 Last revised: 15 Sep 2022
Date Written: April 29, 2022
Transitioning to a “green” economy will require many industries to change their activities, raising concerns about the elimination of occupations and the need for significant retraining of the workforce. These concerns have increased resistance to a green transition from some sectors of society. Yet if skills embodied in current economic tasks can be reapplied to activities that facilitate a green transition, the retraining challenge might be lessened. Using a new taxonomy of sustainable economic activities – those that can contribute to climate change mitigation or adaptation – we estimate the number of US, German, and Canadian workers already employed in industries that are equipped to undertake sustainable economic activities. While the fraction of potential green workers varies considerably across metropolitan areas, in each country over one third of workers could conceivably contribute to a green economic transition by applying their existing skills to new activities. This represents more than 47 million workers in the US. Thus, a transition to a green economy may require more that firms reconfigure their workforces than individual workers reconfigure their skill sets.
Keywords: green transition, workforce, labor skills, energy policy, decarbonization, metropolitan areas
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