UK hosting 30,000 fewer green jobs than in 2014, official figures show

The figure is the headline of the ONS’s latest publication on the topic, released today (29 March).

The publication reveals that there were 202,100 green jobs in the UK in 2019. Sectors analysed include renewable power generation, energy flexibility, energy efficiency and electric vehicles (EVs). The largest single sector in terms of roles is the manufacturing of energy efficiency projects. This represented 37,900 of the roles.

While the figures seem strong in isolation, the 2014 edition of the report stated that there were 235,900 green jobs in the UK. Job losses were particularly pronounced in carbon capture and storage, with roles down by two-thirds in the five-year period. The Government notably axed a £1bn carbon capture competition in 2015. Job figure declines were also steep in onshore wind (37%) and ‘other renewable electricity’, which covers solar, tidal and hydro (66%).

Offshore wind did see an increase in jobs, in line with the Government’s inclusion of the technology in the Contracts for Difference (CfD) process and subsequent commitments to scale-up dramatically in the coming decades. The number of direct roles increased by 14% since 2014 and now stand at 7,200.

Green groups and trade unions have warned that further job losses are likely in the sectors analysed, because of Covid-19, unless the Government takes further action to realise its commitment to a green recovery.

“New jobs in green industries can help us recover from the pandemic – and it will mean clean air, food security, and the restoration of Britain’s forests and wildlife,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said.

“But progress is far too slow. Lots of towns and communities were promised the chance to level up with new jobs in green industries. But Boris Johnson’s government is not delivering…. The Government must come forward with ambitious plans to show strong leadership when the UK chairs the COP26 global conference on climate change this year.”

2030 ambition

The Conservative Party’s overarching green jobs commitment is for the UK to host two million such roles by 2030.

Ministers have repeatedly been warned that the UK is not on track to deliver this target. 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 by around one-third on 2014 levels.

With the green recovery conversation growing, many organisations have set out roadmaps for job creation in recent months.

By the TUC’s own estimates, more than one million green jobs can be created in the next two years if Government funding is increased and supporting policies developed. The figure is similar to that raised in recent research by UK 100 and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, as well as separate analysis from think tank Onward.

The Government has notably launched a Green Jobs Taskforce to help unemployed people and those in transitioning industries into new, skilled jobs. Bodies represented on the Taskforce include WWF, National Grid and Retrofit Works.  Also,  a £40m Green Jobs Challenge fund will be created to help local authorities and environmental charities create nature conservation and restoration programmes. Up to 5,000 jobs could be created in this way, predominantly in England.

However, it has continued to face accusations of having a hypocritical approach. Despite strong support for jobs in sectors like E V manufacturing, for example, Ministers have opted to grow the North Sea oil and gas sector in the short-term through the recent sector deal. Changes to the Green Homes Grant have also reportedly caused disruption in the skills pipeline for the energy efficiency retrofitting sector.

Sarah George  

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