Investment in climate action at the local level could create 800K jobs by 2030, report finds

26th November 2021 - 16:00

A report by the Centre for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action, Queens University Belfast and the Place-Based Climate Action Network for UK100, finds that investment in climate action at the local level would see over 800,000 green jobs across the UK by 2030, rising to 1.38 million total jobs by 2050.

The report presents a synthesis of existing work relating to the economic benefits of local climate action. It offers cross-sector insight into how investment in local climate action can lead to tangible emission reduction but can also create good quality green jobs, economic opportunities, important social co-benefits and level up areas across the UK as we seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Economic Benefits of Local Climate Action, authored by Sean Fearon, John Barry and Kathryn Lock, presents a clear evidence base that highlights not only is Net Zero transformation possible, but also that the costs of inaction are immense. It was published in October 2021 by UK100.

Key insights

  •  Investment in climate action at the local level would see over 800,000 green jobs across the UK by 2030, rising to 1.38 million total jobs by 2050.
  •  For every £1 invested in climate mitigation and protecting communities from the impacts of extreme weather events a further £9 is saved.
  •  If UK businesses reduce carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2030 instead of 2050, then society (including the private sector) would escape costs equivalent to £1.1 trillion.
  • One in five workers, and 6.3 million jobs in total, will be affected by the transition to a Net Zero carbon economy across the UK, with around three million workers requiring upskilling and around three million in high demand.

Other additional benefits


  • The savings from climate action and the costs of climate inaction need to be included in making decisions. For example, for every £1 invested in energy efficiency measures, the NHS can save £0.42 (amounting to annual savings of £1.4 billion in England alone).


  •  At present, congestion in towns and cities across the UK costs the economy around £11 billion every year. Every £1 million of investment in sustainable transport infrastructure can create 12.7 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the UK economy.
  • For every kilometre of greenways and cycle paths constructed 1.6 FTE jobs can be created directly, indirectly and induced.
  • Commuters who opt to cycle using dedicated cycle lanes (where they exist) instead of cycling on the road in often congested urban centres take half as many days off as others, resulting in a £13.7 billion boost to the UK economy, equivalent to about £36 million per UK local authority.

Nature-based Solutions

  • At the scale of afforestation recommended by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), 30,000 hectares of woodland afforested through capital investment would generate £366 million in value  added, totalling just under £1 million in gross value added (GVA) per UK local authority.

  • Depending on how and where trees are planted in urban areas, a conservative estimate of the economic benefit per tree over 50 years ranges from £1,200 to £8,000.

  • Property values benefit from an increase in green spaces in towns and cities – studies show increases between 5% and 18% in property values in greener and more afforested streets.

Buildings, Energy and Poverty

  • If sufficient investment across the UK was committed to retrofitting UK homes up to at least EPC C level of energy efficiency performance by 2030, then some 150,000 jobs could be created across the UK, bringing proportionally bigger benefits to regions where underemployment is highest.
  • Investment in building energy efficiency measures across local authorities totalling £8.5 billion could deliver additional economic benefits equivalent to £92.7 billion. 
  • It is estimated that UK households could save £7.5 billion in energy expenditure, through energy efficiency measures.
  • Retrofitting can free up additional consumer spending capacity, acting as a demand boost for local economies.

Economic shift

Professor John Barry of Queen's University Belfast and co-Chair of the Belfast Climate Commission, said: “It is in the very difficult context of COVID-19 that local authorities must consider the meaningful, lasting and interrelated benefits of decarbonising across all sectors, confronting the climate crisis, and harnessing the economic opportunities of local climate action. Fortunately, this economic shift can unlock correspondingly significant social and economic benefits for our society.

"If done correctly, and in the time frame suggested by climate science, we can not only avoid the worst consequences of climate change but capitalise on the huge economic and other co-benefits of urgent transformative climate action at scale. Our report clearly shows that ‘building back better’ from the pandemic is to green and climate proof our societies and local economies.”


A key challenge and constraint on local authorities realising the multiple benefits from decarbonisation and climate adaptation measures, especially in housing and transportation and nature-based solutions, is a lack of capacity and resources. The findings of this research support those from UK100 Power Shift report and back up National Audit Office (NAO) reports from December 2020 and July 2021, which call for greater powers and transfer of resources from national Government to local authorities, along with greater clarity of roles and responsibilities, a view also echoed by the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission.

Read the report: The Economic Benefits of Local Climate Action

Image: Unsplash