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It’s time to create a green future – but how can we do that without empowering our people?

Lynsey Sweeney, Managing Director of Communities that Work

Figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show there has been ‘no significant change or growth’ in the number of green jobs in the last six years.

Last year, the Government outlined its net zero ambitions. It said it would halve UK carbon emissions in little over a decade and intends to eliminate them entirely by 2050. Countries around the world are also on a journey to decarbonise their economies, and while goal setting is a step forward – there is an urgent need to take drastic action.

A greener future for the UK

Under the Government’s definition, green jobs are defined as follows; ‘jobs that reduce the consumption of energy and raw materials, limit greenhouse gas emissions, minimize waste and pollution, protect and restore ecosystems and enable enterprises and communities to adapt to climate change.’ In short, they aim to create a greener future for the UK.

Given the climate emergency and the need to take action, it comes as a surprise there has been no growth in green jobs in the last six years. It raises questions about the Government’s commitment to what it has promised to do. It prompts calls from experts across many industries for more funding from the Treasury, and crucially more direction on any new industry standards, to create opportunities for new skilled green jobs.

Investment in green jobs in housing and skills

Before Easter, Communities that Work and the Northern Housing Consortium hosted our next  ‘Good Green Jobs’ event. Here we called for investment in green jobs in housing and skills to unlock opportunities within our communities.

Green jobs don’t just produce environmental benefits – they are good for the economy too. If local authorities are given the funding and support needed, new green jobs could mean an additional 700,000 people will be in employment by 2030. For an economy recovering from the backdrop of a pandemic, and a country which needs to urgently ‘level up’ to create an equal playing field, it would be foolish not to tap into this opportunity now.

Reducing economic and social imbalances

In the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, Government set out its ambitions to transform the UK, reducing the economic and social imbalances between different geographic areas and parts of society.

However, levelling up is not keeping pace with the challenges many of us are now facing, with soaring energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis. This is only expected to heighten over the coming weeks and months, hitting the poorest households the hardest and pushing more people into poverty. We simply can’t sit back and let this happen, especially when there is an obvious opportunity in the green jobs sector.

It’s worth noting there is confusion about specific training for ‘green workers’ too. There are, of course, degrees and post-grad courses, but training for specific green jobs isn’t clearly recognised, or even available to enrol upon yet. At Communities that Work, we aim to build confidence amongst employers of all sizes to invest in green jobs – developing training so that both the current and future workforce can benefit.  But we can’t do that without a training sector ready to deliver, and able to deploy significant AEB (Adult Education Budget) allocations towards these new courses.  And, we need green sectors and manufacturers to work with Government and set new industry standards, where required, to bring confidence to new training pathways.  

Good green jobs embed secure employment at a local level so that communities are sustainable both environmentally and economically. We argue this will also put the UK in a better position in the energy market and reduce the reliance on the energy supplied my international markets.

The housing sector

The housing sector has a central role to play in acting on these priorities. Many housing providers are major employers in local areas and communities, and social landlords with major decarbonisation plans across their housing stock. The sector is a valued investor in people and jobs, as well as neighbourhoods, supporting people to access employment and progress in work. 

By investing in more green jobs, specifically in the housing sector, more opportunities will be created for new entrants into the green jobs field, from our communities.  This will support the Government’s dual ambitions to level up and create a resilient energy market in this country.

For all these reasons it is essential we get this right at the right time. We urge the Government to consider further investment in green jobs and set a clear direction on industry standards required to operate. We must work with local communities to drive this forward, and we must empower our people if the UK’s sustainability goals are to be met.

By Lynsey Sweeney, Managing Director of Communities that Work

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