The coal industry is undoubtedly one of the world’s largest energy sources. According to statista.com, coal has been the second-largest energy source consumed in the world since at least 2019. The sector accounted for over a quarter of the energy consumption in 2022. Along with oil, natural gas, and petroleum, coal is considered a fossil fuel.
Fossil fuels are unrenewable energy sources and have been proven to do damage to the atmosphere, which causes climate change. The negative impacts caused by fossil fuels and the fact that they are unrenewable have set cause for a global shift away from them as the primary energy source and towards more sustainable and favorable energy sources. Switching energy sources has led to an increase in job insecurity for all of the coal workers; projections say that up to half a million workers could lose their jobs by 2035.
The effects of the energy transition impact many countries, but the two that are affected the most are China and India. Over 1.5 million people in China and 300,000 people in India are employed at coal mines. The layoffs could lead to a quarter of these workers being laid off by 2035. This many workers leaving their jobs in such a short time could adversely affect them economically and socially. There are no plans to phase the workers out or transition them into other positions, leaving many families reliant on the mines without income. The mining towns- which rely on coal companies for taxes, wages, and, in some instances, hospitals and schools- in these countries will also be negatively affected by the transition out of coal.
The coal industry is a vast industry that many families depend on. While the world continues to try and strip its reliance on fossil fuels, plans should be implemented to help transition the workers to newer positions. China has some ideas in place already. The Industrial Special Fund was put together to help reopen workers in the steel and coal industries. This is only seen as the first step, though it only provides the families with around 6,000 dollars USD. GEM, the global energy monitor, believes that the likes of Spain should be used as a role model when it comes to transitioning into renewable energy. Spain plans to entirely phase out the use of coal by 2025, which is ahead of what was once scheduled. Restoring the unused mines to their natural habitat is just one way to provide new jobs to the former workers.
The coal industry, a primary global energy source, is facing a decline due to its environmental impact. The shift toward cleaner energy alternatives has left coal workers vulnerable, with up to half a million jobs at risk by 2035. China and India, heavily reliant on coal, are most affected, with millions of jobs on the line. Transition plans pose economic and social challenges for these workers and their communities. While some countries, like Spain, are taking steps to phase out coal, it’s crucial to prioritize worker support and put successful models into action for a smoother energy transition and reduced social and economic disruption.