(Bloomberg) -- The UK said the number of “green jobs” associated with the push toward net zero fossil fuel emissions fell, a blow to the nation’s ambition to lead the way on the transition to protect the climate.

The number of green jobs slipped back by 3.5% between 2018 and 2020 to 526,000 and barely grew over a five-year period, according to data from the Office for National Statistics released Wednesday.

The Conservative government put climate at the heart of its agenda in time to host the annual round of United Nations talks on the issue in 2021 but more recently has walked back some of its most aggressive targets under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Officials had hoped that investing in green technologies could both improve the environment and create jobs, but the data so far haven’t backed that up.

The figures will add to concerns that the UK’s climate push is floundering with delays to the phasing out of gas boilers and the ban on new diesel and petrol car sales. It also underscores the challenge facing the opposition Labour party after it promised to create swathes of new green jobs if it wins power in a general election widely expected next year.

The ONS defined a green job as employment in a role that “contributes to protecting or restoring the environment, including those that mitigate or adapt to climate change.” Among the jobs included were nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, low carbon transport and renewable energy.

While green jobs in energy efficiency products and repairs fell between 2015 and 2020, roles in renewable energy jumped 41% to almost 35,000.

However, a much larger group of workers report that part of their job is green. More than a quarter of workers described part of their role as a “green job,” and 4% said that all or most was related to green activities. Workers in Wales and Scotland were more likely to describe part of their job as green than in England.

A survey by LinkedIn found that the UK has a smaller concentration of workers with green skills in its finance industry than many other developed countries, including Germany and the US. It also revealed that more workers are leaving the UK’s fossil fuel industry than entering it but that the decline is decelerating.

--With assistance from Eamon Akil Farhat.

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