Predicting how the transition to net-zero could affect UK jobs across the country

Predicting job market skills gaps, occurring in the move towards a net-zero economy, will be easier for employers, policymakers and unions through a new jobs tracker.

Approximately 6.3 million jobs in the UK, about one in five, are likely to be affected either positively or negatively by the transition to a green economy, according to the new jobs tracker developed by the University of Leeds and other partners in the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN).

The Just Transition Jobs Tracker has identified the number of current jobs requiring significant upskilling, and those that will be in high demand, as a result of the push to net-zero emissions to tackle the climate crisis.

The data suggests that moving to a green economy has the potential to lead to an increased number of UK jobs, if jobs at risk can be upskilled appropriately. Crucially, the tool identifies the sector by sector job implications for over 200 local authorities across the country, enabling policymakers, businesses and trade unions, civil society and citizens to see how their areas could be impacted.

The tool was developed by researchers from the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN), as part of recent work on how to mobilise finance to support a green economy. It uses data based on the UK jobs market in 2019.

The tracker, published on 5th March 2021, is designed to help policymakers, employers and trade unions to prepare for the likely changes to the jobs market. The analysis was conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds and LSE’s Grantham Research Institute.

Andrew Sudmant, PCAN Associate from the University of Leeds, said: “Our research shows that as we move towards a net-zero economy, the impact on jobs will not be felt equally.

“The climate crisis presents both opportunities and challenges for the jobs market, and it is vital that we take proactive measures so that these changes help to tackle existing social inequalities, instead of worsening them.

“Our modelling suggests that around three million UK jobs will require significant change and upskilling as we move away from high carbon activities. But at the same time, a further three million jobs will see an increased demand for work, as the infrastructure for a green economy is put into place.”

The Just Transition Jobs Tracker suggests sectors such as construction, manufacturing and transport are likely to be the most affected by the net-zero transition. They could see as many as 25% of workers requiring upskilling, but also a similar number in higher demand than ever.

Upskilling is likely to require significant changes in skills and knowledge to help workers adapt to a net-zero economy. Without a committed effort to provide these new skills, many of these jobs could be at risk of disappearing.

Polly Billington is Director of UK100, a network for local authorities committed to action on climate and clean air. Commenting on the Just Transition Jobs Tracker, she said: “In highlighting just how many jobs the transition to Net Zero will affect, the PCAN Jobs Tracker really helps illuminate the opportunity to skill up our workforce, so they can be part of the Green Industrial Revolution, that is so essential for resilience and prosperity for the whole UK.

“The ambition and active involvement of local leaders is central to making the most of this opportunity. We hope this tool, alongside more devolved powers and capacity from the UK government, helps them to ensure their communities secure the economic benefits of the shift to Net Zero.”

Professor Nick Robins, from PCAN and the Grantham Research Institute at LSE, said: “The great thing about the new Just Transition Jobs Tracker is that it brings the high-level discussions about the employment implications of climate action down to earth. The places that could be most impacted range from Rochdale to Hounslow, Sandwell to North Lincolnshire. We hope that the analysis in the Tracker enables local decision-makers to anticipate the changes ahead and ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from quality jobs in growing green sectors and no-one is left behind.”

The Just Transition Jobs Tracker assessed the implications of moving to a green economy on the current jobs market. It does not provide estimates on the number of jobs that might be newly created by a green economy.

Read more about the Just Transition Jobs Tracker and explore the data in a new blog co-authored by Andrew Sudmant and Professor Robins:

Further information

  • The Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN) is an ESRC-funded £3.5m research network, set up to enable cities, towns and communities to build local action on climate change. The five-year research project, which launched on 30 January 2019, brings together the research community and decision-makers in the public, private and third sectors.
  • PCAN consists of five innovative platforms: three city-based Climate Commissions in Leeds, Belfast and Edinburgh, and two theme-based platforms on finance and climate adaptation. Business engagement is central to each Commission. The PCAN Fund (worth a total of £400,000) enables us to stimulate engagement in place-based climate action more widely
  • PCAN builds on the policy connections, networking capacity and research strengths of a core team based across its host institutions: the London School of Economics and Political Science; the University of Leeds; the University of Edinburgh, and Queen’s University Belfast.
  • There are independent Climate Commissions in Lincoln, Surrey, Doncaster, Croydon, Essex, and Yorkshire and Humber, inspired by the PCAN model, with more coming on stream all the time supported by us through the PCAN Network+.
  • Contact: @PCANcities