Invest in decarbonisation to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and lift the UK out of its economic slump, local authorities are urging the government.
A new report from the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests that a properly managed green recovery, supported by a jobs guarantee and training programmes administered at the local level, could reinvigorate the UK economy. A low-carbon jumpstart could create 700,000 jobs by 2030 and an additional 488,000 by 2050.
These low-carbon jobs could be a lifeboat for an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. The government’s furlough scheme, currently paying the wages of nearly nine million employees, has cushioned the blow for many and frozen unemployment at 3.9% since February. But with the support to be wound down from August and scientists warning of a second wave of infections, there are fears unemployment could reach 10%—a level not seen since the 1980s.
But spiralling unemployment could be avoided if the central government works with councils and skills providers to create jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technologies, the LGA said.
The association is urging the government to create a jobs guarantee programme and a national skills programme to get Britons back to work in low-carbon industries. And local authorities, already on the frontlines of decarbonisation, have a critical role to play in addressing the green skills gap, Councillor Sir Richard Leese, Chair of the LGA's City Regions Board, said.
"Demand for green jobs is due to sky-rocket as we move towards a net zero economy and local government, with its local knowledge and expertise, is best placed to ensure the workforce in every region of the country can successfully surf the new wave of employment opportunities,” he said.
The LGA is requesting longterm funding and devolved powers for councils and combined authorities so they can collaborate with businesses and education providers to train and retrain young people and older workers to staff the green revolution.
Nearly half the 700,000 jobs the report forecasts for 2030 would be in clean electricity generation and in providing low carbon heat. That includes roles manufacturing wind turbines and installing solar panels and heat pumps. In addition, an energy efficiency programme would support around 150,000 jobs, giving Britons roles installing insulating, lighting and control systems in ageing housing stock and inefficient office buildings.
Electric vehicle manufacturing and infrastructure, alternative fuel production and the green professional services sector are also forecast to become major employers in the next decade.
Delivering these training programmes through local authorities will ensure the green recovery reaches all parts of the UK. However, the report earmarks Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West as hotspots for green development. Already the Humber is slated to host a net-zero industrial cluster, backed by Drax and Equinor, and to become a hub for hydrogen gas.
But failing to invest in low-carbon training and job creation could jeopardise the UK’s net-zero climate goal, the report warns.
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