In his first address to a joint session of Congress last week, President Joe Biden framed his climate change agenda as a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity, speaking directly to blue-collar workers. He promised that his focus on the environment would result in “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
But what will those “jobs, jobs, jobs” look like? Although the investment in combating climate change will inevitably lead to more new jobs, many existing jobs — in the fossil fuel industry, for example — will begin to trickle away.
A look at climate-related roles
But it’s not a zero sum game, as many of the “new” jobs will require workers with experience in the “old” industries in order to be successful.
The climate-focused jobs will span multiple industries. Here’s what some of those roles might look like:
- Plugging defunct oil and gas wells
- Reclaiming abandoned coal mines
- Installing solar panels
- Car charging port mechanic
- Electric retrofitting
- Wind turbine mechanic
- Water treatment supervisor
- Battery technician
- Electric vehicle mechanic
- Electric truck driver
- Drone pilot
- Smart window installer
- Deploying carbon-free electricity generating resources
- Retrofitting homes and commercial buildings
Biden’s vision for green jobs
During his campaign, Biden’s climate agenda included the goal of creating 10 million new jobs in clean energy industries, and now the American Jobs Plan aims to help enable that. The new jobs are built into Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan. Along with a focus on climate-smart technology, the plan calls for a $16 billion investment to plug countless defunct oil and gas wells and reclaim abandoned coal, hardrock, and uranium mines. The Biden administration says that program alone will put hundreds of thousands of people to work in union jobs.
The plan also set a 2035 deadline for every US state to generate all electricity from energy sources that don’t produce carbon emissions linked to climate change. This transition alone would trigger a massive spending boom in both wind and solar power, at least doubling the pace of investment that is now underway. This shift could also result in a huge jobs boom, potentially dispersing opportunities for energy-related jobs to states across the country. Specifically, in his speech to Congress, Biden said the American Jobs Plan will “put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy-efficient buildings and homes.”
Climate change and job creation go hand in hand for Biden. Now he just has to gather support. Along with his remarks to Congress, Biden spoke to 40 world leaders during a two-day climate summit in late April, emphasizing the economic opportunities that would open up as a result of taking action to combat climate change.
Biden specifically focused on job opportunities on the second day of the summit, saying, “Today’s final session is not about the threat that climate change poses, it’s about the opportunity that addressing climate change provides.”
But getting there won’t be easy.
Clean energy jobs increased by about 2% in 2019 and 4% in 2018, according to a report from Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals. Building on those gains, for Biden to create just one million new clean energy jobs in his first four years, there would need to be a 6.7% annual increase, and that’s after the economy returns to pre-Covid levels of employment.
CNN’s Matt Egan, Holmes Lybrand and Ronald Brownstein contributed to this report.