We have to stop climate change, and we have to do it quickly. To do it, we will need 150 million new jobs globally for at least twenty years. There are now campaigns in several countries fighting for mass government programs for climate jobs. Most of them started with union support, and all of them are trying to build an alliance of unions, environmentalists, ngos, and faith groups. Here is a short explanation of what we want:
About three quarters of the warming of the world comes directly from burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas. To hold back climate change, we need to stop burning those fuels. To do that, we need to have another way to heat and power the world. So we need to:
Cover the world with renewable energy like wind and solar power to make all our electricity.
Switch from cars and to buses and trains, and run almost all transport on renewable energy.
Insulate and convert all homes and buildings to use less energy and to heat with renewable energy.
Convert and redesign industry to use less energy and to use renewable electricity wherever possible.
(We say ‘renewable’ energy because the world will never run out of sun, wind, waves and tides.)
There are thousands of other things we need to do. But these four things will make most of the difference to cutting emissions from fossil fuels. These measures will require many new workers – our estimate is about 150 million jobs globally, each year for twenty years. Most of these jobs will be in renewable energy, construction, and transport.
About a quarter of global emissions come not from burning fossil fuels but from farming and changes in land use. To cut these emissions we need to change the way we farm, stop cutting down old forests, and plant new forests. Here too there will be many jobs.
It is not realistic to wait for the market to ‘create’ those jobs. The scale of what needs doing is too big, and we need action quickly. Instead, we will need massive government programs in each country. These programs will be different from what politicians usually mean when they talk about action on ‘green jobs’. There are four differences that are essential to understand:
CLIMATE JOBS. A green job can be anything environmental, from a park ranger to a sewage worker. When we say climate jobs, we mean only those green jobs which make a direct difference to greenhouse gas emissions.
NEW JOBS. When we say 150 million jobs globally, we are not counting all the existing jobs in public transport and renewable energy. We mean new jobs. And we want those jobs to last at least 20 years.
GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS. We don’t want governments to wait forever for the market. We want governments to start hiring workers immediately, and hire all of them within a year.
WORKERS GUARANTEE. We want governments to guarantee a new climate job to people like coal miners and refinery workers who will eventually lose their old jobs in a low carbon economy.