work to challenge the climate emergency

The book. The objective appears both ambitious and essential in view of the climate emergency. By 2050, France must have achieved carbon neutrality. The consequences promise to be dizzying on the economic level.

The energy transition requires a forced decarbonization of activities which implies sobriety and technological innovation, but at the same time requires “major investments and supporting policies”. What will be the consequences of such a challenge on employment? Professor of economics at the University of Paris-I-Panthéon-Sorbonne, Mireille Chiroleu-Assouline explains what we know in her book Employment and the Energy Transition (Les Presses Sciences Po).

Throughout the pages, the author first shows all the complexity of the subject. It thus invites us to turn away from a split reading, which would present the transition sometimes as a “means of achieving wealth-creating green growth”sometimes like a “process leading to inevitable economic regression”.

She underlines how nuance is necessary, and caution as well: the scientific literature on the subject sometimes offers contradictory results. Long-term projections, moreover, often prove to be difficult. What will be, for example, the consequences of the implementation of environmental policies asymmetrically by a country or a group of countries? Economic theory advances two hypotheses: that of “pollution havens” (the relocation of activities to countries where standards are less stringent) or, on the contrary, “Porter’s hypothesis” (named after Michael Porter) according to which the regulations would have a stimulating effect on businesses and, ultimately, on employment.

Scale and speed

Despite the difficulties in sketching a prospective vision, some strong lines can still be drawn. The author thus describes the transition at work as a phenomenon close to the creative destruction (of products, businesses and jobs) theorized by Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950). That caused by the energy transition is notable for its scale and speed. Second observation: the results in terms of jobs should be generally positive, with expected progress in sectors such as hydrogen or professions such as maintenance.

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Not limiting himself to a quantitative evaluation, MMe Chiroleu-Assouline notes that this major movement could qualitatively change certain jobs (working conditions, stability, etc.) and lead to intersectoral reallocation, but also geographical (at local and international level).

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