Net-zero transition to disrupt 10m UK jobs

29th January 2021

Web p5 hires shutterstock 1441933274

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • sea ice loss ,
  • Fossil fuels


Chris Radway

Up to 10m high-carbon jobs will be disrupted by the UK’s transition to net-zero emissions during the next three decades, with poorer communities set to be the most impacted.

That is according to analysis by think tank Onward, which highlights how two in five jobs in the UK’s poorest regions are in high-emitting industries, compared to less than one in four in London.

The East Midlands has the highest proportion of jobs in such industries, at 42%, closely followed by the West Midlands at 41%. London and the South East have the lowest proportion, with 23% and 34% respectively.

Of the 10m workers forecast to be replaced or retrained by 2050, more than half are in the North, Midlands or Scotland. Moreover, the seats that make up the so-called ‘red wall’ in the North and the Midlands, which will form the key battleground at the next election, are likely to suffer the highest levels of disruption of any constituencies.

The researchers warned that there will increasingly be geographic, political and economic trade-offs that need to be better understood and mitigated if net-zero is to be delivered successfully. “It demands a plan that is not only practical, but which smooths the transition for those people and places whose livelihoods are based in the carbon economy,” said Ted Christie-Miller, author of the report.

“The UK has an historic opportunity in advance of COP26 to develop lasting policies that can not only deliver net-zero, but which can carry the support of voters and companies through a titanic transformation of our economy and society.”

MPs warned last year that failing to move quickly and raise climate ambitions could lead to the UK missing its net-zero target while worsening existing inequalities.

Working with a cross-party group of politicians, Onward will spend the next nine months researching how to decarbonise industries, retrain and upskill workers at risk of disruption, and create regulatory and financial conditions for innovation. It will use statistical research, polling and focus groups and engage with a wide range of stakeholders, led by Caroline Flint, who served as shadow energy and climate change secretary for four years, and Dame Caroline Spelman, who was environment secretary for two years.

“I look forward to working with Dame Caroline Spelman and the wide range of contributors,” said Flint. “The challenge of net-zero is immense – the deadlines are rushing towards us. In cleaning up our act, no community should be left behind. They will all have to be part of the journey and share the benefits.”

Read the full analysis at

Image credit: Shutterstock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Young people struggling to secure green jobs

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close