The world is gathered at COP26, the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, to come together and wrestle with a crisis that affects every country on our shared planet. We are already approaching nearly 65 percent of global GDP that has been committed by respective nations to a course of action that can hold the world’s total increase in temperature to the 1.5 degrees that science tells us is critical. As the last remaining players decide what more they’re willing to do, whether in Glasgow or beyond, we would stress that meeting the climate challenge is also an economic opportunity. No country will do what isn’t in their economic self-interest.
The good news is, they don’t have to. We don’t need to accept a false choice between jobs and solving climate change. Solving climate change means jobs, and new data prove that those jobs aren’t even what you might think of as green jobs — including fleet managers, data scientists, and health workers. Green skills are in demand globally. Everything we see from our different perspectives — one a diplomat, the other an entrepreneur and CEO — tells us that green is growth, if we reach for it together.
Reaching global net zero emissions represents the greatest market transformation — with the greatest economic promise — since the Industrial Revolution. That’s what the private sector is telling us — if we follow the money. BlackRock, with over $7 trillion under its responsibility, has committed to make climate change central to its investment strategy going forward. In spite of the havoc wreaked by COVID-19, the world saw unprecedented growth in renewable energy and green technologies in 2020. Tesla makes only all-electric vehicles. Mitsubishi is building the world’s largest zero-emission steel plant — in Austria.
These companies know climate action is a golden opportunity. And all the world can share in it. It can raise living standards and quality of life everywhere. Green talent in the workforce worldwide is rising, from 9.6 percent in 2015 to 13.3 percent so far in 2021, a growth rate of 38.5 percent. Green jobs are more than jobs installing solar panels or working on wind turbines. The real, untold story is the surge in demand for the green skills that power new jobs everywhere — double-digit growth across dozens of green skills over the last five years. The fastest-growing green skills are in ecosystem management, environmental policy, and pollution prevention. But the fastest-growing green jobs are less specialized and are found in a variety of sectors — including roles that range from facilities manager to technical sales representative.
Moreover, the demand for green skills is truly global. The need for innovation to cut emissions has influenced rapid technological change in the European automotive industry. LinkedIn data show that the share of green talent has been increasing by 11.3 percent annually for the past five years, one of the highest growth rates in green talent among all manufacturing sectors. In the East Asia-Pacific, where 47 percent of the total land area is agricultural, four countries — Australia, New Zealand, India, and Singapore — show surging demand for green skills across the sector and, with it, huge potential to slow down the effects of one of the most polluting industries, agriculture.
It is never easy to persuade hundreds of nations to join a common course, even when our collective future and the fate of our children and grandchildren depend on it. But we believe that doing so is not just our best hope to solve this planetary crisis, but also our biggest opportunity to power a new, clean economic engine for workers everywhere that will leave no one behind. We don’t have to promise that “if you build it, jobs will come.” The jobs are already coming. The skills are only growing in demand. This is the moment for data to meet determination, so that together we all make decisions for success at Glasgow and shared prosperity tomorrow.
Former US secretary of state John F. Kerry is the US special presidential envoy for climate. Ryan Roslansky is CEO of LinkedIn.