Skills constraints for low-carbon transitions

Produced as part of the Governments, markets and climate change mitigation CCCEP research programme theme

Abstract of Working Paper 96

Achieving a successful transition to a low-carbon economy, in the UK and other countries, will require sufficient people with appropriate qualifications and skills to manufacture, install and operate the low carbon technologies and approaches.

The actual numbers and types of skills required are uncertain and will depend on the speed and direction of the transition pathways, but there are reasons to doubt that market mechanisms will deliver the necessary skilled workers in a timely manner.

The range of market, government and governance efforts for the provision of low carbon skills are examined, particularly for their potential to cause a slower, costlier and less employment-intensive transition.

The potential policy responses to these failures are considered, including:

  • standardisation of funding for training;
  • formalisation of transferable qualifications;
  • legally-binding targets for carbon emissions reductions and low carbon technology deployment;
  • framework contracts and agreements between actors in key sectors;
  • licensing and accreditation schemes for key technology sectors;
  • government support for skills academies and training centres;
  • support for first movers in niches;
  • increasing mobility of workers;
  • and providing a clear long-term cross-sectoral framework for a low carbon transition, including skills training.

The paper argues the importance of skills issues for the low carbon transitions and outlines the generic and low carbon specific potential causes of skills shortages, as well as the probable impact of these types of shortages.

The transition by changing existing sectoral and occupational patterns will disrupt the existing sectoral mechanisms to identify and remedy skills shortages.

The nature of the low carbon transition also means that there are pressures that could induce greater skills shortages. These shortages, in turn, could critically delay elements of the transition and increase its cost and duration.

The paper also outlines the approaches used in the UK.