Midlands at the Heart of UK’s High-Emissions Workforce: One in Five Workers in Polluting Industries

A recent analysis reveals that one in five workers in the East and West Midlands were employed in the UK’s highest-emission industries in 2021, surpassing the national average. These findings shed light on the regional variations in the workforce’s exposure to the government’s ambitious target of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The data, sourced from Census 2021, indicates that London and the South East of England have the lowest proportions of workers in high-emission industries, making them less likely to be directly impacted by the transition to net zero.

Key Points:

  1. Regional Disparities: Around 19% of workers in the East Midlands and West Midlands were employed in high-emission industries, more than double the percentage in London (8%).
  2. Industry Impact: The analysis identifies five industries responsible for over 80% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, with a total workforce of approximately one in six employees.
  3. Emissions Reduction: Despite the dominance of these industries, total emissions have decreased significantly since 1990, dropping by nearly half by 2022.
  4. Green Jobs: Some workers in high-emission industries may already be contributing to environmental conservation or climate change adaptation, potentially aligning with the UK’s transition goals.
  5. Local Variations: At the local level, areas such as Copeland in Cumbria and South Holland in Lincolnshire had the highest percentages of workers in high-emission industries, driven by specific industries prevalent in those regions.
  6. Demographic Trends: Workers in high-emission industries tend to be older, with around 39% aged 50 years and over, and more likely to be men. This demographic pattern raises considerations for workforce transitions and skill transferability.
  7. Occupational Insight: Road transport drivers emerged as the most common occupation within high-emission industries, making up 14% of the workforce in these sectors. However, not all jobs within these industries may contribute significantly to emissions.