Skills constraints and the low carbon transition

Nick Jagger*, Tim Foxon, Andy Gouldson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Achieving a successful transition to a low carbon economy, in the UK and other countries, will require sufficient people with appropriate qualifications and skills to manufacture, install, and operate the low carbon technologies and approaches. The actual numbers and types of skills required are uncertain and will depend on the speed and direction of the transition pathways, but there are reasons to doubt that market mechanisms will deliver the necessary skilled workers in a timely manner. The range of market, government, and governance failures relating to the provision of low carbon skills are examined, particularly for their potential to cause a slower, costlier, and less employment-intensive transition. The potential policy responses to these failures are considered, including standardization of funding for training; formalization of transferable qualifications; legally binding targets for carbon emissions reductions and low carbon technology deployment; framework contracts and agreements between actors in key sectors; licensing and accreditation schemes for key technology sectors; government support for skills academies and training centres; support for first movers in niches; increasing mobility of workers; and providing a clear long-term cross-sectoral framework for a low carbon transition, including skills training. Policy relevance The article argues for the importance of skills issues for a successful transition to a low carbon economy. It outlines the potential causes of skills shortages, both generic and those specific to low carbon, as well as the probable impact of these types of shortages. By changing existing sectoral and occupational patterns, the transition will disrupt the existing market and government mechanisms to identify and remedy skills shortages in specific sectors. The nature and required pace of the low carbon transition also means that there are pressures that could induce greater skills shortages. These shortages, in turn, could critically delay elements of the transition and increase its cost and duration. The article outlines approaches taken to address these causes of skills shortages, drawing on examples from UK low carbon policy. The article ends with an argument that skills issues need to be more central to transitions debates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-57
Number of pages15
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • low carbon society
  • market failure
  • technological change
  • training and skills


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