Green Jobs Taskforce urges UK Government to close funding and skills gaps

Image: Green Jobs Taskforce

That is the headline conclusion of a new report published by the Green Jobs Taskforce today (14 July), which is set to inform the development of the domestic Net-Zero Strategy and the subsequent negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow this November.

The Taskforce was set up by the Government late last year, following pressure from trade bodies, businesses and NGOs. Its purpose is to develop recommendations for helping unemployed people into skilled jobs that contribute to the net-zero transition and supporting those currently working in high-carbon businesses to upskill and reskill. Such recommendations should help the UK Government deliver on its flagship pledge to have two million people in green-collar roles by 2030, up from around 400,000 at present.

Under an overarching call to ensure that the Net-Zero Strategy is published to time and includes significant commitments on jobs and skills, three themes are covered in the report: Scaling up investment in the net-zero transition, building pathways into good green careers and supporting a just transition for workers in the high-carbon economy.

On investment, there is a recommendation to embed net-zero within the scope of international law and trade obligations and to establish a UK-wide body tasked with connecting local transition bodies to ensure sufficient place-based investment.

Also recommended is a commitment to scale the UK’s level of green jobs spending detailed in its Covid-19 recovery plans to meet that offered by its G7 peers. A recent analysis from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that the UK is committing just 6% of the amount of funding to the green recovery from Covid-19 pledged by the US, and just 13% of that promised by Italy, on a per-person basis.

The recommendations on closing the skills gap build on the Skills for Jobs White Paper published last year, with the report stating that the UK will ultimately fail to align with its Paris Agreement commitment without managing the net-zero transition in a manner that includes affected workers. Floated are extended reviews to the green apprenticeship programme and measures to “enhance” other training pathways, including traineeships, internships, T-levels and skills bootcamps.

Under the ‘just transition’ theme, the report also calls for greater collaboration between the national Government and local authorities and trade bodies in regions that are highly dependent on high-emitting sectors, such as Aberdeen with the offshore oil and gas sector.

“Getting the right people and skills in place to achieve the government’s ambitious climate goals is a huge challenge,” National Grid’s director and Taskforce member Rhian Kelly said.

“The Green Jobs Taskforce has drawn on insights from across business, trade unions and academia, to identify actions that can have a real impact on building the net-zero workforce the UK needs. This won’t happen overnight so it’s vital we move from intent to action now and that the report is acted upon with urgency.”

The Government will not translate the recommendations into policy immediately. Instead, they will be used to inform the ongoing skills review and the development of the Net-Zero Strategy.

Green jobs pipeline potential

Much has been said about the UK’s potential to create green jobs in recent weeks.

Last week, a report from the European Climate Foundation found that some 625,000 jobs, equivalent to 90% of jobs lost to the coronavirus pandemic, could be created in the energy sector this decade due to the scaling up of renewables, biomass and nuclear.

This finding built on research from the Office For National Statistics (ONS) finding 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 correctly.

Separately, analysis from the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) concluded that the UK could create up to 50,000 jobs in the sector if new enabling policies are introduced.

But the UK is currently not on track to deliver its 2030 commitment on green jobs.

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 on 2014 levels.

Moreover, a report from thinktank Onward this month outlined the scale of the skills gap. It outlined how 3.2 million workers will need to “boost their skills” if the UK is to meet its 2050 net-zero target.

Sarah George

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