The Benefits of a Regenerative Approach
The switch to a carbon-free economy is the biggest economic opportunity of our era. The International Energy Agency and other analysts have predicted that this wave of market-driven innovation will create two to six “green jobs” for each fossil fuel job lost. The promised jobs are already arriving — the 2022 Annual Review by the International Labour Organization and the International Renewable Energy Agency reported that renewables alone had created more than 12 million jobs as of 2021.
But as well-researched and credible as such studies are, unfulfilled promises of prosperity have left many people skeptical about clean energy job claims, a skepticism that is commonly accompanied by the belief that the future holds less opportunity than the past. Even before COVID-19, two out of three people felt pessimistic that the gap between the rich and poor in their own country would ever improve. In fact, the U.N.’s World Social Report 2020 identifies four megatrends that are contributing to growing inequality for more than 70% of the global population: climate change, technological innovation, urbanization, and international migration. As a result, narrowly framing job numbers as a direct tradeoff between fossil fuel jobs lost and clean energy jobs gained risks undermining political and popular support for the clean energy transition.
A clean energy focus also misses the bigger picture of our rapidly changing global economy, obscuring the “hidden” costs and risks within our current economic system as well as the nascent opportunities embedded in a shift to a more sustainable economy. Compounding forces — pandemics and supply chain fragilities, new technologies and networked intelligence, and climate change and environmental degradation — are creating unprecedented rates of change in the global economy. Workers, communities, and companies cannot afford to ignore the big picture of what the future holds.
We must reframe the notion of green jobs within this broader context of economic risk, opportunity, and transformation. A more holistic framing centered on the concept of regenerative capitalism, in which achieving net-zero carbon emissions is but one step toward a long-term sustainable economy, can better position communities, companies, and workers globally to thrive as part of a more equitable and abundant future. This report looks beyond analytical findings of “more jobs” to begin charting the deeper work, analyses, and stories needed to inspire a leap from a job scarcity mentality toward one of purpose-inspired economic abundance. We propose calling this shift the Great Regeneration.
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