IPPR warns of risks and opportunities to decarbonisation in north of England

The Infinity Bridge

According to the Institute for Public Policy Research’s Risk or Reward report, as many as 46,000 jobs could be created in the power sector alone by 2030 – but the think tank was keen to stress there is significant risk with around 28,000 job losses in the coal, oil and gas industries expected during the same period.

These figures are also without considering the other potential job losses in high-carbon, energy-intensive industries, and the wider economic and social implications that the loss of industry can bring about, with the IPPR highlighting the history of poorly managed industry transitions in the north.

But it said a well-managed “just transition” could build on the economic strengths of the north of England, creating a highly skilled, high wage, low carbon economy of the future. The report highlighted the three big challenges to deliver this successful transition: lack of policy certainty and ambition from the government; failure to put a “just transition” at the heart of decarbonisation policy and industry strategy; and an ill-equipped skills system.

The IPPR said that without long-term certainty and the government embedding policy during decarbonisation, it could “negatively impact the future livelihoods and communities of workers in high-carbon industries” and would see the north of England “disproportionately impacted”.

It recommended the government set out capacity targets for each low-carbon technology, and how it intends to support them, and ensure subsidies and regulatory reform for the industry. Additionally, it said the government should devolve carbon budgets, creating an ‘Energy for the North’ body, as well as creating a cross-departmental “Decarbonisation Mission Unit” to ensure a system-wide approach.


The report also highlighted the need for greater skills funding and support, including auditing the local labour market and how it will be impacted by growth in the low carbon energy sector. It said that training standards should be developed by bodies such as the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) for the unemployed, and should be regulated to a certain technical standard.

There also needs for “greater consistency” around T levels – set to be introduced in 2020 – reflecting skills needs, and the range of courses on offer should be similar to the in-demand occupations across the sector, the report said. It called for a devolution of skills funding as well, with Local Enterprise Partnerships taking control of adult education budgets.

The IPPR also called for apprenticeship levy reforms and raised the need for greater diversity in the low carbon energy sector, with a requirement for companies of a certain size actively taking action to promote STEM subjects in schools.

Climate hubs

The news follows the Government’s new £3.5m initiative aimed at connecting the nation’s largest cities in a collective effort to tackle climate challenges.

Under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) project, a string of ‘city climate commissions’ will be created in some of the UK’s largest cities, beginning with Edinburgh, Leeds and Belfast.

The cities will serve as research hubs for low-carbon technologies and climate mitigation and adaptation measures, sharing best practice with each other and creating local-level solutions that can be scaled up or replicated. Emphasis will be placed on innovative energy technologies which could help decarbonise heat and transport.

It also follows energy minister Claire Perry saying businesses must help policymakers create a low-carbon economy that does not exclude working-class people or rural regions, and ensure the so-called “just transition”.

Speaking at an Aldersgate event in London, Perry said it had been “very easy, in the past, for concerns about the climate to be dismissed as the worries of the few, not the many”.

But she said that “we’ve been able to strip out a lot of the myths surrounding decarbonisation and costs – but we have to be mindful that this is a problem which will have to be solved by the many, not just the middle class.”

It also follows a report by the IPPR last October, in which it said the North of England produced around half (48%) of the renewable electricity generated across the nation between 2005 and 2014, and claimed this progress makes the region well-poised to host to the UK’s green energy transition.

James Evison 

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