Queensland could add 1 million clean jobs to its economy if the state’s transition to net zero is well managed, new modelling shows

Queensland could add 1 million clean jobs to its economy if the state’s transition to net zero is well managed, new modelling shows
Queensland could add 1 million clean jobs to its economy if the state’s transition to net zero is well managed, new modelling shows. Photo: Getty Images
  • Queensland’s transition to net zero could see 1 million new jobs added to the economy by 2050, modelling shows.
  • It suggests 81% of the tasks performed in QLD’s carbon-heavy workforce will see demand in the clean economy.
  • Climate Council economist Nicki Hutley said early investment in training and education will be crucial.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

A well-managed transition to net zero could see Queensland’s largely carbon-centric workforce find a home in the clean economy, while adding as many as 1 million new jobs by 2050. 

Economic modelling released by Deloitte on Thursday found demand for clean energy jobs in Queensland will grow at a rate of 2.5% every year until the end of the decade, before growing the state’s labourforce from 2.6 million to 3.6 million by 2050. 

What’s more, the report found, was that some 81% of the tasks performed by workers in Queensland’s carbon-centric economy will continue to see demand once the state undergoes decarbonisation. 

That prediction is based on the hypothetical growth of emerging industries, like hydrogen and biofuels, which the modelling suggests will continue to grow, even as emissions-intensive industries continue to operate, before being phased out completely. 

Nicki Hutley, an economist at the Climate Council, said that early planning and investment in education and on-the-job training would be crucial to ensuring Queensland’s workforce gets the most out of the state’s transition to net zero. 

“Today, 80% of the tasks needed in Queensland’s future clean economy are already being performed,” Hutley said. 

“For example, an electrician working in a coal mine can relatively easily upskill to work in another industry, such as a hydroelectric plant,” she said. 

Deloitte’s modelling suggests that workers across Queensland’s high-emitting industries would have, on average, four alternative career pathways in a clean economy with the skills they already have. 

It’s suggested that, for the most part, most of Queensland’s labour transfer could be handled by industry. But for those left in the lurch, the report found, public policy will be pivotal. 

Climate policy, at both state and federal levels, has long been a bugbear for voters in Queensland.

Electoral folklore would suggest that Labor lost the 2019 election thanks in large part to its position on climate, and Adani’s Carmichael Coal which, at the time, was promising jobs to the masses. 

Labor’s anti-Adani position in 2019 saw Liberal MPs Michelle Landry, George Christensen and Ken O’Dowd each record swings of up to 15% in the mine’s local seats which, at the time, were considered marginal. Since then, the LNP has considered them safe. 

And as Anthony Albanese’s Labor government heads into the federal election next year, with Australians tipped to head to the polls in May, close attention will be paid to how he tries to coax Queensland’s carbon-heavy labour force. 

Regardless of the outcome, experts say Annastacia Palaszczuk’s largely popular Queensland government — which secured yet another term late last year — needs to incentivise the transition and start planning early. 

Dr Amanda Cahill, CEO of The Next Economy, said Palaszczuk’s immediate focus should be on supporting businesses and training providers in upskilling the state’s coal-dependent workforce. 

“The Queensland government can make sure workers have access to training opportunities to not only develop skills across a range of clean industries, but also address current skills and labour shortages across regional Queensland,” Dr Cahill said. 

“Planning well and planning early will result in better outcomes for workers, businesses and the broader state economy,” she said. 

“In fact, if we plan early for the economic transformation, every region in Queensland could enjoy clean economic growth and more job opportunities.”

Whether they’ll be able to secure the lofty remuneration packages made available to them by coal, though, remains to be seen as the green economy finds its feet. 

In its submission to the Senate Inquiry into Job Security, the Minerals Council of Australia said the median weekly earnings for full- and part-time workers in mining were $2,325 in 2020, double the median for all industries, which was $1,150 for the year. 

Deloitte’s modelling tries to address what has become a major sticking point for much of the state’s labourforce, by pointing to clean economy jobs that will earn workers a similar wage. One example offered up by the firm was for electricians, who would have “76%” of the skills required to work in the clean economy, and could earn a “similar average wage”. 

Wages modelling wasn’t provided, but an electrical engineer at BHP in Australia would earn around $120,000 a year, according to Glassdoor. 

For drillers, miners and shot firers, Deloitte’s modelling suggests jobs would immediately be available to them in “Chemical, Gas, Petroleum and Power Generation Plant[s],” which the firm suggests could even see these workers end up with a “wage increase”. 

There are roughly 36,600 people working as drillers, miners, and shot firers in regional Queensland. According to Deloitte, it’s expected that 650 of them will need to transition into a new job as a result of waning global demand for fossil fuels over the next nine years.