Why Green Jobs Plans Matter and Where US Cities Stand in Implementing Them

By Joseph W. Kane and Adie Tomer (Brookings Metro)

Preparing a climate-ready workforce requires an all-hands-on-deck approach among public and private leaders across the country—including federal policymakers, state community college systems, and individual employers—but these capacity-related gaps often come to ground in U.S. cities and regions.

The rise of a green economy has also brought a renewed focus on green jobs. To put all this public and private capital to use, the country needs a sizable workforce to construct new power plants and transmission lines, modernize older buildings, and plan and deliver more resilient communities. Ideally, the transition to a green economy should offer durable and growing career pathways while it cleans the air, protects American neighborhoods, and grows U.S. industries.

Many cities continue to make bold climate pledges, including commitments to achieve net zero emissions and protect the most vulnerable. They also play an active role in workforce development, including by funding educational and related training programs. But without a coordinated, comprehensive plan to retrain and recruit workers in well-defined, green-related careers, city leaders will be unable to achieve their climate ambitions.

This brief assesses 50 large cities’ climate action plans (CAPs), which ideally should encapsulate many of the elements essential to local infrastructure workforce development.

This research brief does not aim to precisely define green jobs, especially amid continued debates among policymakers and researchers on how to isolate, measure, or forecast such employment figures. Rather, this brief seeks to address the information deficits limiting local and regional planning about green jobs

Attached document published July 2023

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