Reducing Climate Change Would 'Create One Million Jobs'

Solar panels at a solar power plant in Zhejiang province, China.
Workers walk among newly installed solar panels at a solar power plant in Zhouquan township of Tongxiang, Zhejiang province December 18, 2014. A new report highlights the co-benefits of renewable energy sector. REUTERS/Stringer

As the March 31 deadline for countries to submit their proposals for tackling irreversible climate change passes, a new report claims lives could be spared, the climate could be saved from catastrophic and irreversible change, and one million jobs could be created if green policies are initiated.

The report from the New Climate Institute (NCI) - a green pressure group - says more ambitious action to reverse climate change would yield even greater economic and social co-benefits in the form of job creation and a healthier climate.

Countries are putting forward their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) - a set of commitments which will form the basis of the agreement which the 196 nation states in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are aiming to formalise at the Paris Climate Summit in December this year.

The report used the INDCs of the EU, the U.S. and China to make predictions about job creation prospects in a growing renewable energy sector, lower death rates from reduced CO2 emissions, and money saved on reduced fossil fuel imports. Combined, the three regions produce over half of the world’s greenhouse emissions.

According to the report authors, the current INDCs do not go far enough to avoid global warming of 2C above pre-industrialisation levels - the point at which the overwhelming majority of scientists say climate change will become catastrophic and irreversible. They also set out the co-benefits of a more aggressive set of INDCs which would avoid the 2C rise.

The lead researcher and one of the founding partners of the NCI, climate scientist Dr Niklas Höhne says that governments should think more about the co-benefits of climate change mitigation policies.

“The governments that are now looking into climate action should seriously consider these co-benefits and not only look at costs and things that make it difficult to make these decisions. There are many significant co-benefits of these actions,” he says.

Based on current INDCs, Climate Action Network estimate that 1.04 million jobs will be created in the renewable energy sector - in wind, solar and hydro; 70,000 in the EU, 470,000 in the U.S. and 500,000 in China. The report cites data from the European Commission which predicts that for every job lost in the nuclear sector, two are created in renewables.

According to the NCI, with the current INDCs 113,000 lives, mainly in China, would be saved per year due to reductions in CO2 related deaths. If achieved, the more ambitious, 2C target would prevent 1.2 million deaths per year.

The third co-benefit would be the reduced bills as fossil fuel imports decrease. The report predicts the EU would save around $33bn per year following the current INDCs, and $140bn on the more aggressive trajectory.

Although the agreed deadlines for countries’ INDCs is today, only a handful have submitted their proposals. Dr Höhne says it is hoped that by September this year around 80% of the world’s emissions will be covered by countries’ INDCs, which will form the basis of the Paris Climate Summit at the end of the year.