‘Risk to competitiveness’: CCC urges Government to step up green job growth
A net-zero transition in the UK can deliver a net-growth for jobs in key sectors, but the Government’s current “hands off” approach risks stifling economic opportunities and clean technology market development.
The new research from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) found that the net-zero transition will transform many parts of the UK economy, which is an opportunity for growth in high-quality jobs and distributing economic opportunities across the UK.
The CCC calculates that the net-zero transition can deliver between 135,000 and 725,000 net new jobs in low-carbon sectors such as buildings retrofit, renewable energy generation and electric vehicles. This includes potential job losses as sectors phase away from fossil fuels, but the CCC adds that upskilling and retraining can deliver a net gain.
To date, 250,000 jobs have already been created in the transition, but Government policies are failing to realise the full extent of the transition, the CCC added. The research found that job growth is not guaranteed and upskilling will need to be a key political focus. The Government is yet to publish it’s Net Zero and Nature Workforce Action Plan’.
The overarching message of the analysis from the CCC is clear; “a hands-off approach to the net-zero workforce from Government will not work”.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said: “The UK has committed to net-zero. The only question is whether the Government intends to get there in a way that benefits workers or leaves them behind.
“This is a unique moment to tailor our approach to skills and jobs, in the certainty of achieving the legal goal. A net-zero workforce means secure employment for the future. This is an opportunity for the Government to bring real meaning to ‘levelling up’.”
Growth and levelling up
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports the UK hosted some 247,400 full-time equivalent green job roles in 2021, up from 207,800 in 2020. These are the latest available figures. Growth in the number of jobs stagnated between 2019 and 2020 amid Covid-19-related lockdowns, but seems to be rebounding significantly.
The UK Government remains off-track to deliver its flagship goal of hosting two million green jobs by 2030, a vision supported by the Government’s Green Jobs Taskforce.
The CCC notes that while the net-zero transition will reduce job demand in some sectors, Government clarity can give businesses plenty of time to pivot and explore new growth opportunities.
The advisory group also found that the net-zero transition can offer new green employment opportunities to current economically deprived areas. Examples include the Humber region and South Wales, both of which are competing to become the first zero-carbon industrial cluster by championing carbon capture solutions.
Other industrial sites also supporting the net-zero transition include Grangemouth in Scotland, Teesside, Merseyside and Southampton. These areas already employ manufacturing workers, with the North of England, the East Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber representing 16%, 9%, and 21% of energy-intensive manufacturing jobs respectively.
The CCC states that the majority of UK works will see “no major impacts” from the net-zero transition, with only 20% of the current workforce operating in sectors that have a “core role” on the delivery of net-zero.
Of these core workers, two-thirds are in sectors that can experience growth during the transition, namely, buildings construction and retrofit and electric battery manufacturing.
Less than 10% of UK workers operate in sectors that will need to pivot products and services, by transitioning away from fossil fuels, such as cement and steel. Less than 1% of UK workers are in high-emitting sectors that are likely to phase down over the transition. This includes oil and gas, where extraction must decline.
IEMA’s chief executive, Sarah Mukherjee MBE commented: “The CCC is right to push green jobs, and the skills needed to deliver them, up the agenda. The UK has a proud record of international climate leadership with our Climate Change Act 2008 and presidency of COP26.
“IEMA is calling on delegates at COP28 in the UAE to add a commitment to green skills and training to the final cover text of the negotiations, in order to give the world the best chance of action at the pace and scale needed to avoid climate breakdown.”
The CCC is the latest organisation to warn that the UK is slipping behind other nations when it comes to green policies that can spur the net-zero transition.
The Inflation Reduction Act in the US, for example, is a package of measures to help vulnerable people pay for health care and to reduce emissions, with a focus on energy and transport. Elsewhere, the Fit for 55 package and REPowerEU plan in the European Union are spurring market growth. The CCC cites that both of these packages have “increased the risk to competitiveness of the UK” and the net-zero transition.
The CCC’s warning builds on separate research from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), also published on Wednesday, that called on the UK Government to attract “long-term investment and new technologies” to help deliver deep levels decarbonisation and put key industrial sectors on course to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
To combat these risks, the CCC recommends that the Government moves to defend the nation’s current competitive advantage in sectors like hydrogen and carbon capture.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said that the report “exposes some colossal gaps in the Government’s green jobs plans” and that current policies were undermining a just transition.
“Ministers can’t simply wave a magic wand and expect green jobs to appear, or rely on the market alone to dream up a solution. We need to see political will across Whitehall to properly invest in reskilling and retraining workers in the green industries of the future,” Lucas said.
“The fossil fuel era is over, the transition to a zero-carbon economy is already happening, and there’s a huge opportunity to secure skilled and stable green jobs. Whether it’s adopting a rooftop solar revolution to create a 60,000 strong solar army, or offering support to oil & gas workers to retrain in renewables, the potential benefits of green jobs from the Cotswolds to Cumbria are enormous.
“Yet while the US and the EU speed ahead, we’re lagging desperately behind. The world won’t wait for us – the opportunities are there for the taking.”