A report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate says jobs lost in the US fossil fuel industry could be more than offset by job gains in renewables and construction.  Denver Post photo by Helen H. Richardson. 

Greener growth investments could generate 65 million new jobs by 2030

According to a report released by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, many officials are significantly under-estimating the benefits of cleaner, climate-smart growth.

The commission released a report on Thursday claiming bold climate action could deliver at least US$26 trillion in economic benefits through to 2030, compared with business-as-usual.

“We are at a unique “use it or lose it” moment”, said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Finance Minister of Nigeria and Co-Chair of the Global Commission.

“Policy makers should take their feet off the brakes, send a clear signal that the new growth story is here and that it comes with exciting economic and market opportunities.”

Over the past decade, technological and market progress has sparked the shift to a new climate economy.

In the wake of move, real benefits can be seen in terms of new jobs, economic savings, competitiveness and market opportunities, and improved wellbeing for people worldwide, writes the commission.

The report contradicts the positions taken by the Trump administration which has chosen to encourage coal use and withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  Trump said the Paris accord would impose “draconian financial and economic burdens” on the United States and would cost 2.5 million US jobs by 2025.

In contrast to the stance taken by the Trump administration, the report on greener growth says that US jobs in the fossil fuel industry lost in the shift could more than be replaced by employment in the construction and renewables industry.

It also highlights opportunities in five key economic systems, including energy, cities, food and land use, water and industry.  Ambitious action in these systems could deliver net economic gains compared with business-as-usual, says the commission.

The report claims greener growth would create over 65 million new low-carbon jobs by 2030 and avoid over 700,000 premature deaths due to air pollution.  It would also generate, through just subsidy reform and carbon pricing, an estimated US$2.8 trillion in government revenues per year in 2030.

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever and Co-Chair of the Global Commission said “the momentum from businesses, states, cities, investors and citizens is now unstoppable, not least because those taking bold climate action are already seeing tangible benefits”.

“But if we are to unlock the full benefits of this new low carbon growth opportunity and avoid runaway climate change, economic and financial leaders in both government and the private sector need to do even more, and fast,” added Polman.

Lord Nicholas Stern, I G Patel Professor of Economics and Government at the London School of Economics and Co-Chair of the Global Commission says that “current economic models fail to capture both the powerful dynamics and the very attractive qualities of new technologies and structures”.

As such, benefits of greener growth are “grossly” underestimated says Stern.  He adds “it becomes ever more clear that the risks of the damage from climate change are immense and tipping points and irreversibilities getting ever closer”.

The report calls on governments, businesses and finance leaders to urgently prioritize actions the following four fronts in the coming 2-3 years:

  • Ramp up efforts on carbon  pricing and move to mandatory disclosure of cliamte-related financial risks;
  • Accelerate investment in sustainable infrastructure;
  • Harness the power of the private sector and unleash innovation; and
  • Build a people-centred approach that shares the gains equitably and ensures that the transition is just.

“The purpose of this Report is to demonstrate how to accelerate the shift to this new growth path”, said Helen Mountford, Programme Director of the New Climate Economy and lead author of the Report. “It lays out the benefits of doing so, the challenges ahead, and the clear accelerators or actions, that can be taken to fully reap the rewards of stronger, cleaner, and more equitable growth.”

The report was presented to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday, one week ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.