Do We Really Need To Choose Between Economic Growth and Cleaner Air?

If current trends hold, green jobs In California will outpace nation by end of decade
By Victoria Pike Bond |

Surprisingly, environmental leader California has a smaller ‘green economy’ than the average U.S. state and would need to add many thousands of environmentally friendly jobs to catch up. The good news is it’s on track to do just that, according to our latest White Paper, part of the UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development's ongoing research about the state’s green economy.

The study projects that California will outpace the United States as a whole in its concentration of green jobs by 2030. Moreover, the state will be close to attaining a specialty in green jobs by the end of the decade, a workforce condition that is key to attracting investment, innovation, and further job creation.

While a greener economy will require phasing out employment in traditional energy industries such as oil and gas, an analysis of the entire labor force indicates that replacing those jobs with green energy jobs can be a net-positive, adding to California’s total employment and improving average wages. “The transition to a greener, cleaner economy is not at odds with job creation,” ”said Dr. Patrick Adler, Research Manager at the Center for Forecasting, and one of the report’s authors.“This is critical to understand because California is facing dual generational challenges right now – ensuring economic resilience following the shocks set in motion by the pandemic and decarbonizing the economy.” The state needs to reduce carbon emissions 40% below 1990 levels in order to meet its own mandated reduction targets by 2030.

The study’s authors estimate that California’s current green labor force includes an impressive 372,984 workers but the state would need to add over 58,000 more green jobs by decade’s end to reach the U.S. state average in terms of concentration. However, if current trends, which show employment curving upwards in key green industries such as Motor Vehicles, hold, the state will realistically achieve that and more. The Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) industry in particular could bring more than 63,000 jobs to California.


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The UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development publishes White Papers on a wide variety of economic issues. Diverse in topic, these reports are intended to shed light on important economy-related debates and emerging trends. The Economy White Paper Series is produced entirely by the Center’s nationally renowned economists and researchers.