Green jobs primed to replace all jobs lost to Covid-19

New research has found that more than 800,000 job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the UK could be replaced by new green jobs, provided government and private investment is mobilised to push towards the 2050 net-zero target.

Green jobs primed to replace all jobs lost to Covid-19

More than 1.2 million jobs could be created within two years and 2.7 million jobs over ten years

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published new analysis into the state of the UK’s labour market.

According to ONS, the number of job vacancies fell by almost a quarter between January and March 2021, with 28.2 million workers on the payroll in the UK, which is a decline of 2.8% compared to the same period last year. This equates to a decline of 813,000 jobs over the 12-month period, which is predominantly caused by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

Of these jobs losses, more than 350,000 are from the accommodation and food service activities sector, 436,000 belonged to people under the age of 25 and 223,000 job losses were from employees living in London.

Building on those statistics, new research compiled by the campaign group Green New Deal UK has found that the 813,000 jobs loss recorded over the last 12 months could be offset by a growth in green jobs.

Green New Deal UK’s analysis claims that the nation can deliver a net job gain of around 240,000 over a two-year period and 720,000 over the next 10 years. Delivery of the growth in green jobs would require government and private investment in energy, infrastructure, research and social care that are all aligned to the net-zero target.

“Today’s unemployment figures show that the economic crisis wrought by the pandemic cannot be ignored and is hitting young people hard. To bring jobs and investment back to every region of the UK, we need a Green New Deal – a comprehensive programme of government investment that drives forward our climate targets,” the campaign group’s co-executive director Hannah Martin said.

“Having so many people out of work when there is so much work to do makes no sense.  Tackling the climate crisis can create millions of good green jobs up and down the country and replace all the jobs lost to the pandemic within just two years. We must act now and use this crisis to build an economy that works for everyone.” 

Green jobs wanted

Last month, ONS data revealed that the UK hosted 202,100 low-carbon and renewable energy jobs in 2019 – 30,000 fewer than in 2014.

Job losses were felt in carbon capture and storage, with roles down by two-thirds in the five-year period. The Government notably axed a £1bn carbon capture competition in 2015. Job figure declines were also steep in onshore wind (37%) and ‘other renewable electricity’, which covers solar, tidal and hydro (66%).

Offshore wind did see an increase in jobs, in line with the Government’s inclusion of the technology in the Contracts for Difference (CfD) process and subsequent commitments to scale-up dramatically in the coming decades. The number of direct roles increased by 14% since 2014 and now stand at 7,200.

The Conservative Party’s overarching green jobs commitment is for the UK to host two million such roles by 2030.

Ministers have repeatedly been warned that the UK is not on track to deliver this target. Pre-pandemic, Government figures revealed that turnover in the UK’s green economy accounted for just 1% of national non-financial turnover. Similar investigations into official jobs figures found that while domestic jobs in the renewable energy sector rose year-on-year in 2018 and 2019, they were ultimately down by around one-third on 2014 levels.

The Government has notably launched a Green Jobs Taskforce to help unemployed people and those in transitioning industries into new, skilled jobs. Bodies represented on the Taskforce include WWF, National Grid and Retrofit Works. A £40m Green Jobs Challenge fund will be created to help local authorities and environmental charities create nature conservation and restoration programmes. Up to 5,000 jobs could be created in this way, predominantly in England.

Separate research suggests that if the UK Government adopts the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget advice and supports businesses accordingly, some 1.7 million new ‘green-collar’ jobs can be created by 2030.

The analysis is from the think tank Onward. The report looked at the potential economic and job creation of the UK’s net-zero transition if Government joins up its policy approach and adopts the CCC’s advice for the Sixth Carbon Budget. The CCC’s proposed budget would see the UK reducing emissions by 78% by 2035, against a 1990 baseline. Reports have emerged this week that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will agree to these targets.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie