Global renewable energy jobs will grow fivefold from 4.4 million today to 22 million by 2050, with more than 85% of those gains in the wind and solar sectors, according to an international team of academics.

Jobs in the fossil-fuel sector will, at the same time, fall from 12.6 million to 3.1 million, with about 80% of the job losses related to oil, gas and coal extraction, the researchers write in a study published in the journal One Earth.

Overall, the number of jobs in the energy industry will grow from 18 million today to 26 million in 2050 — with 84% of those in renewables, 11% in fossil fuels and 5% in nuclear — under the report's “well-below 2°C” (WB2C) scenario.

“Climate policies are often pitted against job losses in national politics; however, our results show that, while the majority of fossil fuel jobs could be lost as those sectors decline in WB2C scenarios, in many parts of the world (although not all), these jobs could be offset by gains in renewable energy jobs,” said the report authors, which was made up of researchers from Canada’s University of British Columbia, the European Institute on Economics and the Environment in Milan, Italy, and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“In particular, there would be a large expansion of renewable manufacturing jobs, which could lead to competition to attract and expand solar and wind industries.

“This is an important finding as current fossil-fuel dependent countries with substantial fossil-fuel extraction jobs who face job losses in sectors like coal mining or others could promote the domestic renewable energy equipment manufacturing sector to create a large number of domestic jobs.”

Regions likely to benefit from the energy transition include Southeast and South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Indonesia, the US, Brazil, India, Japan and South Korea.

“In absolute terms, the Middle East and North Africa, and the US might gain over 1 million jobs in 2050 in the WB2C scenario compared with today, while other regions show more modest gains,” the report authors stated.

“In the case of these regions, future job losses are in their relatively low-job-intensity fossil-fuel sector (meaning fewer people are employed). However, these regions also have high renewable energy potential (with higher job intensities in the renewable energy sector) resulting in higher job numbers in the future overall.”

A recent report from think-tank REN21 concluded the world’s governments are missing a “civilisation changing” opportunity to switch tracks away from a fossil fuel-dominated global economy facing a climate crisis by shifting financial backing to support an accelerated build-out of renewables while turning off the taps on oil and gas.