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The global struggle against climate change must be fought – and won – in the Asia Pacific

28 JUNE 2023: The Asia Pacific region is one of the most physically exposed regions in the world when it comes to climate change with temperatures rising twice as fast as anywhere else in the world. On top of that, a new report released by Deloitte Asia Pacific shows our region faces the added risk of high employment in industries that will face disruption from the low emissions transition.

The Deloitte Economics Institute estimates 43% of workers in Asia-Pacific are employed in vulnerable industries, such as agriculture, conventional energy, manufacturing, transportation and construction. In Australia the figure is 26%, just over one quarter of our workforce. How leaders invest in the development and resiliency of their workforce will determine if the climate challenge is won or lost.

But while our region has the most to lose from inaction on climate change, it also has much to gain from investing in green innovation and decarbonisation. With an abundance of natural, human and technological capital, the Asia-Pacific region is uniquely positioned to capitalise on growth opportunities and create jobs.

The new report Work Towards Net Zero: The Rise of the Green Collar Workforce in a Just Transition outlines Deloitte’s Green Collar workforce policy agenda, demonstrating how Asia-Pacific governments can lead the way in tackling the climate crisis, while increasing resilience of those most vulnerable and ensuring equitable employment outcomes.

Key findings of the report:

  • If Asia-Pacific economies rapidly decarbonise and make the transition work for all, 180 million jobs can be created by 2050
  • Strong climate action could deliver $47 trillion to Asia-Pacific economies by 2070
  • 80% of the skills required in the short-medium term to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 already exist.

Will Symons, Deloitte Asia Pacific Climate & Sustainability Leader said: “Asia Pacific is exporting decarbonisation to the world, from renewable energies to innovation, and climate technology. The transition is already underway, and the success of global decarbonisation efforts will rely on the skills and expertise of the workforce across the region.By ensuring we prioritise this, we can avoid significant losses, promote economic growth and generate up to 180 million jobs in the region.”

The report highlights Australia's efforts to develop large-scale renewable energy projects, such as wind farms and solar power plants, as well as investing in the workforce of the future. These projects have helped to increase the country's share of renewable energy and create jobs in the construction and maintenance sectors.

The Queensland Government has already invested $50 million in training infrastructure to support the growth of renewable hydrogen, the Victorian Government opened Australia’s first renewable energy training tower at Federation University in March 2022 to provide a skilled pipeline of workers and the Australian Government has launched several initiatives to support the development of green skills, including the Green Jobs Corps program.

Dr. Pradeep Philip, Head of Deloitte Access Economics said: “Our analysis shows that 80% of the skills that will be required for jobs in our increasingly decarbonised economy already exist. It’s clear that these skills and the Green Collar workforce will be the driver of the transition—not a consequence of transition.”

Ensuring a just transition with public policy

The World Economic Forum warns that policy, investment choices and business practices will determine whether workers, companies and economies will thrive or be stranded in the low emissions transition. A focus on skills will be critical to enable workers to drive a just transition.

“How governments act individually and collectively to support these workers to adapt, contribute and thrive as our economy transforms will be one of the biggest determinates of equality in the coming decades. No country can do it alone, but together it is possible to influence a just transition where the benefits far surpass the cost,” Dr. Philip said.

Investing heavily in renewable hydrogen

Additionally, Asia-Pacific governments are investing heavily in renewable hydrogen. Deloitte’s latest Green Hydrogen: Energising the path to net-zero report states that the emerging green hydrogen market is set to help reshape the global energy map by the end of the decade which will create US$1.4 trillion in the market by 2050.

In 2030, Deloitte predicts that Asia will capture 55% of this market, driven by skyrocketing demand in China, India and Indonesia. China and Australia are targeting global leadership in hydrogen production and exports, while Japan and South Korea are leading in the research and use of green hydrogen. With strong pools of technical and engineering talent, Asia-Pacific is well placed to build a skilled hydrogen workforce, but significant investment in training and education will be required.