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Businesses aren't doing enough to address green skills shortages - report

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Spanish utilities company Iberdrola is displayed on wind turbines at Mt. Oiz

By Pietro Lombardi

MADRID (Reuters) - Businesses are failing to tackle a shortage of green skills among workers, risking delays in the transition to a lower carbon economy, a report prepared with the participation of Spanish renewable energy giant Iberdrola shows.

As the world transitions away from fossil fuels, a global lack of skills is emerging as a major hurdle holding back the development of greener industries.

"The green transition is threatened by business leaders' failure to develop and source green skills," the Green Skills Outlook report by Economist Impact and Iberdrola says.

The report, which includes a survey of 1,000 business leaders, looks at nine countries, including the United States, China, Britain and Spain, focusing on the energy, technology, infrastructure, transport and logistics sectors.

It defines green skills as "the knowledge, competencies, values and attributes needed to develop and support a sustainable, low-carbon and resource-efficient society", be it via technical skills, such as installing solar panels, or broader practices like corporate sustainability reporting.

While a vast majority of business leaders surveyed see skills as the main driver of the green transition, only 55% of them have put in place, or plan to, programmes for their workers to get these skills.

"This leaves a large fraction of the workforce without crucial skills training, which risks obstructing progress in the green transition," said the report.

Overall, 62% of respondents expect such bottlenecks to delay the transition, and many respondents want governments to pitch in with grants or tax relief for companies investing in green skill programmes, as well as funding for educational courses.

The research found a majority of businesses seeing more opportunities than challenges in the transition, expecting it to create more jobs than it will destroy.

Estimates by the International Energy Agency show that clean energy could create 30 million new jobs by 2030, while 13 million jobs are seen at risk in industries tied to fossil fuels.

"Skills and labour are the real key to transitioning to a greener economy and lowering carbon emissions," said Iberdrola Executive Chairman Ignacio Galan, whose firm has deployed a number of programmes for that purpose and teamed up with shipbuilder Navantia to help it diversify into offshore wind farms.

(Reporting by Pietro Lombardi Editing by Andrei Khalip and Mark Potter)