TUC: UK risks 800,000 manufacturing jobs without green industrial strategy

Image: Stellantis. Pictured: Workers at the automaker's factory in Ellesmere Port

The trade union’s headline claim is that some 800,000 existing jobs in manufacturing and supply chains could be put at risk unless the Government puts forward a clear, long-term industrial strategy with the principles of a just net-zero transition at its heart.

The automotive sector would be the worst hit under the TUC’s estimates. It is warning of up to 112,400 jobs at risk.

Significant risks to thousands of jobs are also forecast in rubber and plastics (88,200), chemicals (66,500), glass and ceramics (38,500) and iron and steel (31,000).

Worryingly, most of these jobs are concentrated in regions that the Government has identified as being in need of levelling up.

The TUC wants to see an industrial strategy backed up with a financial plan such as the US’s Inflation Reduction Act or the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan. This would help to ensure that the UK is an attractive destination for international investors as global competition heats up.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has promised a British response to these plans, which offer billions in subsidies and tax credits for low-carbon manufacturing, at the Autumn Statement in November. This announcement was originally hoped for at the Budget this spring, but was delayed.

The TUC claims that around £28bn of capital investment will be needed per year to keep the UK competitive in the global cleantech investment race. This can and should, it says, be delivered using a mix of private and public funding.

If the process is managed well, up to an additional £118bn in private investment could be leveraged in the TUC’s eyes.

This would be contingent not only on a green industrial strategy but also the creation of a publicly-owned power company; major upgrades to public transport networks and a national retrofit programme for homes and public sector buildings including schools.

The TUC is also emphasising the importance of framing the net-zero transition as “an opportunity to build a fairer, more prosperous UK” rather than as a cost burden and unjust transition. it was one of many organisations to question why the proposed Government support package to decarbonise Tata Steel, announced earlier this month, would result in up to 3,000 jobs losses.

Many organisations have pushed the UK Government for an updated green industrial strategy in recent months. These include the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Aldersgate Group and the Society of Chemical Industry.

Pressure has also been piling on from opposition political parties and, indeed, from many of the Conservative MPs and Peers partaking in the Conservative Environment Network.

Battery strategy clarity

Also this week, think-tank Green Alliance has implored the Government to bring forward a dedicated battery strategy, warning that a lack of long-term vision and clarity is jeopardizing the growth of a British battery supply chain at a critical moment.

Such a strategy was promised last month and will cover batteries of all sizes, from vapes and consumer electronics, to electric vehicle (EV) batteries and utility-scale storage arrays.

To date, Green Alliance has warned, the UK has taken a “piecemeal approach” that has “had negative consequences for the sector, such as driving original equipment manufacturers to look abroad for opportunities to produce batteries, shaking the confidence of the private sector and investors in the UK industry’s future”.

With this in mind, it wants to see the new strategy fast-tracked to end “uncertainty that is making the UK unattractive for investors in the industry”.

The strategy should include sufficiently ambitious targets to grow battery production. The Faraday Institution estimates that some 80GWh of production will be needed for EVs by 2030, and a further 20GWh for grid-scale batteries.

But Green Alliance is cautioning that top-level targets will not be enough – there also need to be detailed delivery plans including longer-term clarity over financial support. This is especially key given BritishVolt’s slip into administration earlier this year. The firm was ultimately saved, but its new owners are focusing on grid-scale batteries rather than packs for EVs.

Without these EV batteries from BritishVolt, the UK is only set to host two Gigafacotries for EV packs by 2030. One is being developed in Sunderland by Envision AESC. It currently has 2GW of capacity and is aiming to grow this to 25GWh by 2030. Jaguar Land Rover, meanwhile, is planning to build a plant in Somerset with up to 40GWh of capacity.

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