Canada’s green jobs surged to new heights during the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) of Canada shows.
According to a new report published on March 31, more than 34,000 environmental jobs were added to the Canadian workforce in 2020, with most opportunities driven by a demand surge in Ontario and Quebec.
This new growth, which represents a 5% increase from 2019, brings the total number of Canadian environmental workers to 689,900 and offers a promising outlook at a time when participation in the labour market shrank due to the severe economic downturn brought about by the pandemic.
Kevin Nilsen, ECO Canada’s CEO, told CBC that renewed interest in the environment — both from consumers and the government — along with ever-expanding interest in green initiatives and environmental sustainability, have all contributed to this evolution.
A report from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Economics also highlights that proximity to the United States has expanded job opportunities for Canadians to areas such as carbon capture technologies, clean energy, and electric vehicles.
Nilsen added that demand for environmental workers would likely continue to increase as time goes on, benefiting all provinces and territories as Canada transitions to clean energy as part of its plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. By 2029, the environmental sector is expected to grow by an additional 8%, providing new jobs to young graduates and opportunities for employers to address skills shortages, the ECO report indicates.
But while the clean energy sector has a bright future ahead, oil and gas industry workers have expressed concern about their jobs becoming less secure, particularly as the government looks to adopt more ambitious targets to combat climate change and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
According to a report from TD Economics published on Tuesday, strong federal and provincial transition plans are needed to prevent up to 75% of Canadians employed in this sector from losing their jobs in the near future.
Nilsen contends that retraining transitioning workers will be vital in providing viable opportunities as the industry continues to undergo structural changes, a sentiment shared by Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan.
“Combatting climate change requires people who know what they’re doing,” O’Reagan said in a statement to the Globe and Mail. “The people who built our oil and gas sector are the same people who will lower emissions. The same people who will build renewable energy. Simple as that. We need them.”
If done correctly, Canada’s transition to a green employment economy could stand as further proof that the fight against climate change can benefit communities in the long term. This approach is at the heart of Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World, which provides a blueprint for world leaders to recommit to the United Nations’ Global Goals as the world recovers from COVID-19.