Comment: tackling skills shortage essential to meeting climate goals

Skills drought could put targets in new IPCC report out of reach


Posted By:

Craig Burnett


The Sixth Assessment Report released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for urgency in tackling the climate crisis – but a worldwide skills shortage puts efforts to reach this goal in danger.

Leaders in business and government will undoubtedly respond to the report with pledges to do more, go faster and raise their ambition. But grand plans will come to nothing without greater support for green skills.

The report rightly points out that increased funding and greater political comment, including new institutional frameworks, tools and policies, can protect our planet and its people.

But these new commitments cannot achieve anything unless they help prepare people to carry out tasks at the heart of the green transition – such as installing efficient boilers in the UK, and renewable energy technology in off-grid communities around the world. Frontline organisations also need the backing for skills in supporting roles, from sales to IT and HR.

LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Green Skills Report suggests that while low-carbon sectors are growing, the flow of skilled workers is not keeping pace. It finds job postings on the platform requiring green skills had grown roughly 8% a year since 2015, but green talent (workers with skills and experience relevant to low-carbon roles) grew at roughly 6%.

Meanwhile, long-standing workforce inequalities remain – holding back the emergence of inclusive green economies. LinkedIn’s report suggests the number of men with relevant skills and experience outnumbered women by almost two to one.

We call for:

  • Prioritisation of green skills and training by climate-focused funders and investors, and by governments (national, regional and local) around the world.
  • Closer co-ordination between the public sector, businesses and training institutions – ensuring courses and qualifications match the needs of frontline organisations
  • Action to boost skills in disadvantaged communities and among marginalised groups – recognising that investment in skills brings immediate social benefits beyond lowering emissions.
  • Replication of the proven innovation making enormous progress in this area.

Pioneering work includes that of Uganda’s SENDEA Academy, a collective of local renewable energy enterprises working together to upskill staff – in areas from engineering to finance and logistics. The group has formed close links with government and local colleges, and more than 100 people have been trained so far.

In the UK, Manchester’s Carbon Co-op has provided builders with accessible and practical training to boost home energy efficiency. Crucially, Carbon Co-op’s support also includes linking builders with potential customers – bridging the gap between training and real-world action.

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These proven grassroots approaches, and others like them, can thrive with investment and policy support from those in power.

Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb says: “This IPCC report underlines the need for urgent climate action, and highlights pathways to a zero-carbon future. But if we attempt that journey without action on green skills and training, in the UK and around the world, we’ll simply be wandering in circles.

“Currently we have a serious skills drought. This means boosting the number of renewable energy engineers, tradespeople who can create energy-efficient homes, and those in other key roles. And it means ensuring every job, inside and outside the climate sector, is as green as possible.

“We know the destination. We know we need to get there fast. We know we need to get there together. But none of this is possible without a serious commitment to green skills.”

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