An accelerated energy transition could potentially add 40 million jobs in the energy sector and substantially boost global economic growth by 2050, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
This optimistic projection, released in the lead-up to the UN Climate Conference COP28 in Dubai, underscores the importance of progressive policies in harnessing the socio-economic benefits of the energy transition.
The report, titled “World Energy Transitions Outlook 2023,” examines the socio-economic impacts of transitioning to renewable energy. It suggests that adhering to the 1.5°C pathway compliant with the Paris Agreement could see an average annual global GDP increase of 1.5% by 2050 compared to current energy plans. This transition is also expected to create a significant surge in job opportunities, especially in renewables, which are projected to contribute 18 million new jobs globally.
However, the report also highlights the uneven distribution of these benefits. While renewable sector employment is set to triple worldwide by 2050, Asia is anticipated to hold a majority 55% of global renewable jobs, followed by Europe and the Americas. In contrast, Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to have only 9% of these jobs, pointing to potential regional inequalities.
The report’s findings stress the need for inclusive economic strategies that address disparities in economic development and ensure equitable distribution of benefits. It calls for policy interventions that go beyond the technological shift from fossil fuels to renewables, incorporating social-directed payments, especially in developing countries.
IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera emphasises the dual need to address persistent inequality and facilitate positive transition outcomes. “The energy transition holds great promise for boosting the global economy, but to realise its full potential, we must bridge gaps in climate policy ambition and foster essential structural changes,” he notes.
The report from IRENA lays down a challenge for global leaders. It’s a call to action, urging for policies that not only accelerate the shift towards greener energy but also ensure that this transformation benefits societies worldwide equitably.
As countries convene for COP28, the message is clear: the potential for a more prosperous, sustainable world is immense, but realising it demands bold, collaborative, and innovative policymaking.