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Employment and industrial conversion in the context of just transition

Among renewable energies, photovoltaics is a key ally for local and quality jobs.

Climate change puts governments and society in need of urgent action in line with the recommendations of the Paris Agreement to transform the prevailing economic model, moving towards a more sustainable system based on renewable energy. This aspect is particularly fundamental in our country, where many sectors of our economy, such as agriculture, livestock, forestry and tourism, are greatly affected by the consequences of global warming.


This necessary and radical transformation must focus on improving production processes and implementing solutions to achieve a decarbonized world, which will generate significant employment opportunities. In this process of change, it must be intended that this new employment is environmentally sustainable, local and of good quality, but without leaving behind the workers of the old productive model.

Along these lines, the Government published the Just Transition Strategy, which is in line with the conclusions of the International Labour Organization on just transition and which also fulfils the commitment to incorporate policies aimed at transforming modes of production and consumption towards sustainability agreed by the 194 countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In order for the transition to be truly “just”, it is essential that it complies with some fundamental principles. In the first place, it is essential to take into consideration all the actors affected by the change of economic model, providing solutions to the workers of the old productive model, so that they can be relocated to other sectors and become an active part of the labor market again. This aspect is especially important in those geographical areas that have historically based their economy on activities related to highly polluting sectors, such as mining, and that run the risk of becoming areas of high unemployment or depopulation.

Secondly, special attention must be paid to equal opportunities between women and men, so that the conversion of production models carried out within the framework of the transition contributes to promoting equal employment.

In addition, betting on a system based on renewable energy allows us to contribute to solving the problems generated by energy poverty, since self-consumption facilities can be used, as is already happening in different countries from the U.S. to China, as an instrument to solve this problem.

With these principles as a basis, it will be possible to set in motion a just transition and take advantage of the job creation opportunities that are opening up. With regard to the relationship between energy transition and employment, the European Commission has estimated in its “Clean Energy Package for All Europeans” 900,000 new jobs, resulting in a 1% increase in GDP.

If we focus on the Spanish context, we see how the unemployment rate stood at 15% at the end of 2018, while unemployment among under-25s stood at 33%. Many of these unemployed are also long-term. We are in the lead among the developed countries with the highest level of temporary hiring (27.5%) and workers. Although there has been an improvement in the unemployment rate in Spain in recent years, the last few years have not been used to create jobs in a sector such as renewable energy in which Spain is among the technologically leading countries. The Spanish economy has continued to link growth with the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which is a drag on its competitiveness, especially in the long term.

Sustainable jobs can be generated thanks to the refurbishment of buildings, the implementation of renewable energies and the development of storage, electric mobility or the development of alternative fuels.

Among renewable energies, photovoltaic technology is a key ally in the creation of local employment and quality, thanks to its high degree of flexibility that allows it to be implemented in both large solar parks and small facilities. And this phenomenon of job creation also occurs in mining areas such as Asturias, regions historically linked to a polluting production model. The adjustment between new jobs generated and jobs lost is not always easy, but it can be favoured with a greater diffusion of new employment opportunities and with formulas such as the call for auctions of specific projects for areas affected by the closure of CO2 emitting plants. As a study carried out by the Spanish Photovoltaic Union in 2017 shows, boosting photovoltaic technology in this Autonomous Community means boosting productive activity in the manufacture and marketing of components, as well as in engineering and installers. According to our study, in 2017 the photovoltaic sector in Asturias employed 1,890 people, between direct and indirect jobs, numbers that will increase significantly as the installation of new photovoltaic power in our country is promoted.

In conclusion, we have the possibility of carrying out a transition that not only allows us to preserve our planet for future generations, but also does so in an inclusive and fair way, respecting and considering all the actors involved, without leaving anyone behind. Let us take advantage of it.



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