Net-zero transition to disrupt 10m UK jobs

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

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