Ensuring Just Transition is key for “leaving no one behind”

June 27, 2023

The policy dialogue Policy Dialogue on Just Transition launched the joint report ‘Navigating the Path to a Just Transition: Employment Implications of China's Green Transition’

Beijing - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Institute of Energy at Peking University co-hosted a Policy Dialogue on Just Transition in Beijing today to launch the joint report ‘Navigating the Path to a Just Transition: Employment Implications of China's Green Transition’ and promote dialogue on this critical topic.  

The report examines the employment impacts of China’s energy transition on two key industries: the coal mining and preparation industry, as well as the electricity industry. It also puts forward practical policy recommendations based on a review of international best practices. 

According to the report, 52 percent of jobs in the coal sector (1.3 million jobs) are projected to disappear by 2030 following China’s current policy trajectory. While significant, this scale of employment change is smaller than the loss of 1.4 million jobs in the coal sector between 2016 and 2021 during China's supply-side structural reform. The report also projects a decrease of 30 percent in thermal power employment in the next decade, but due to new jobs created in renewable energy, overall employment in the power sector is expected to increase. 

By providing empirical evidence, the research aims to inform policymakers on how to best balance the energy transition and social considerations. This is particularly important as China works to achieve its dual carbon goals, which will entail profound economic and social changes.

“We must ensure that a low-carbon transition is not just effective in addressing climate change, but is also just and inclusive so that no one is left behind – a core principle embedded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals”, said Violante di Canossa, the head of Policy Research of UNDP China in her welcome remarks. 

Yang Fuqiang, the senior advisor of Climate Change and Energy Transition Program at the Institute of Energy at Peking University, added that “the Just Transition goes beyond employment issues, it also involves protecting vulnerable groups, promoting economic diversification, and achieving harmonious societies.”

In his keynote speech, Professor Pan Jiahua highlighted that the net-zero transition will boost consumption of renewable energy, energy storage and other industries, creating more employment opportunities and room for economic growth as well as benefiting a wider group of the population.

Sharing insights on how to achieve a just transition, George Ronald Gray, Head of UNDP’s Inclusive Growth team and Chief Economist added that “it is critical to ensure that the employment, income and socioeconomic challenges associated with the phasing out of fossil fuels and energy transition policies at large are fully understood and carefully addressed in transition plans”. This includes the displacement of workers, income losses in poverty, risks to gender and other inequalities, including access to clean and sustainable energy, social protection, green skills and job opportunities to the potential marginalization of fossil fuel dependent carbon intensive regions and communities.

On the importance of building enabling policy and regulatory frameworks, Riad Meddeb, Director of Sustainable Energy Hub reiterated that “it is fundamental and critical to create a stable and transparent regulatory environment that provides long-term certainty for low carbon investment and can help reduce perceived risks and encourage private sector investment".

The event also convened stakeholders from different fields, including policy makers, think tanks, international organizations to discuss how China could enhance the inclusiveness of its green transition. Panelists shared their diverse perspectives, offering valuable suggestions for the country’s path forward. 

The executive summary of the report is available online and can be found here.