Green recovery: ‘Retrofit revolution’ could create half a million UK jobs

More than 455,000 'white van' jobs could be created across the UK's property and construction sectors if the government increases funding for retrofit projects and green skills as part of its Covid-19 recovery package.

Green recovery: ‘Retrofit revolution’ could create half a million UK jobs

The jobs would be created over a three-to-four-year period

That is the key conclusion of new research from UK100, published to coincide with the closure of the Treasury’s Spending Review today (24 September). The review was intended to inform the Autumn Statement but, with the statement scrapped by Chancellor Rishi Sunak due to Covid-19, it will now inform a ‘winter economy plan’ – a package of short-term measures – and the 2021 Budget.

A total of 455,076 full-time equivalent roles for constructors, electricians, plumbers and professionals in related fields would be created if the private sector and government bolster the Covid-19 recovery funding they have already committed to retrofitting in the name of improving energy efficiency, the analysis states.

While all regions would experience job creation, Essex is the county which would reap the greatest benefit, with more than 12,800 of the 67,400+ roles expected to be created or demanded in the South East located there. The North West and the East of England would also benefit hugely, seeing 50,300+ and 42,900+ jobs created respectively. A timeline of three to four years is floated for these jobs to come to fruition.

UK100 is basing its calculations upon a scenario in which at least a further £5bn is funnelled into the retrofit sector by the government, and in which the private sector takes note of this and follows suit, raising £40bn over the course of this Parliament.

The Treasury has allocated more than £3bn to retrofit schemes as part of its stimulus programme to date, with the Conservative Party vowing to allocate a total of £9.2bn over the course of this Parliament. The creation of a National Development Bank with financing the net-zero transition as a core remit would help to secure the additional finance and allocate it in a manner which maximises emission reduction and job creation benefits, the UK100 claims.

Along with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Sustainable Finance and HSBC, the UK100 has been calling for the creation of such a bank for several months. Also backing such a move is the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

“With the furlough scheme coming to an end, this country now faces both a climate and a jobs emergency—with both requiring urgent action,” the UK100’s Resilient Recovery Taskforce chair Judith Blake said.

“By investing in nearly half a million skilled and secure jobs as part of the Spending Review, the Chancellor could lay the foundation for a resilient and sustainable recovery across the country and ensure that we have the workforce we need to actually build back better and greener.

“Local authorities are ready to play our part in helping the country meet its legal net-zero obligations,” Blake, also leader of Leeds City Council, added. “We will continue to lead the way, in partnership with businesses and the Government.”

Blake’s statement comes amid warnings that the tens of thousands of job losses resulting from the pandemic are affecting low-income regions the most.

Broader approach

Previous research from UK100, conducted in partnership with Siemens and EDF, concluded that the government could unlock £100bn of private investment in the green economy by allocating £5bn in a certain manner.

This figure includes the £40m for retrofit used to inform the above calculations, along with £10bn for renewables, £10bn for low-carbon heating, £10bn for ‘smart’ energy technologies and £10bn for low-emission transport.

In a drive to help bring about this investment, the organisation has convened a taskforce of 24 Mayors and council leaders, collectively representing all major political parties, to co-sign a “resilient recovery declaration” that has been contributed to the Spending Review preparation.

Aside from the creation of the National Development Bank, the declaration recommends the creation of a long-term, government-led plan to retrofit homes. The schemes announced at the Summer Economic update only run for a year, with many green groups calling for an extension. It also recommends that the Treasury builds on the £500m announced for rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging networks confirmed at the 2020 Budget.

Mayors and local authorities should also be given new powers and more finance to deliver net-zero transitions for their cities and regions, given that the majority have pre-2050 net-zero targets, the declaration states, while Ofgem should also be bound to a new duty of supporting the delivery of net-zero.

Signatories of the declaration represent London, Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham, Bath and North East Somerset, Belfast, Cambridgeshire, Cardiff, Cornwall, Leicester, Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, the West Midlands and the West of England.

Catch up with edie’s Green Recovery Inspiration Sessions 

On Wednesday 23 September, edie hosted an afternoon of live, interactive webinar presentations and discussions all dedicated to delivering a socially and environmentally sustainable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts from organisations including Aldersgate Group, BT, Bank of England, Ella’s Kitchen and UKGBC all part in panel discussions and live Q&A sessions, which are now available to watch on-demand. 

For a full agenda and to watch on-demand for free, click here

Sarah George

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