As new study suggests net zero transition could create over 350,000 new jobs and deliver £90bn in economic benefits, Rishi Sunak is said to be preparing a green jobs package that promises to go beyond previous manifesto promises
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is poised to make green jobs the centrepiece of the government's imminent economic recovery package, as Ministers look to turbocharge the net zero transition in their bid to avert a deep recession.
The Times reported this morning that Sunak is planning a "green industrial revolution" that would aim to create thousands of jobs for those made redundant through the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The economic stimulus package - which is due to be announced next month - is expected to include specific new skills programmes to help people who lose their jobs to "reskill" in clean industries, such as building upgrades, offshore wind, tree-planting, and carbon capture.
The Times reported the measures are understood to go significantly beyond the Conservative's manifesto commitment to create two million jobs in clean energy within the next decade.
The news follows similar reports from the FT, which suggested low carbon industries would play a central role in the government's recovery plans, as well as Prime Minister Boris Johnson's assertion last week that the world should look to 'build back better' and use recovery packages to advance climate action.
Earlier this week, Business Secretary Alok Sharma provided further insight into the government's thinking in an op ed in The Independent in which he declared that the world now faced a choice "between laying the foundations for sound, sustainable and inclusive growth or locking in polluting emissions for decades to come".
He added that the UK would "build back better... through a clean, resilient recovery that delivers for both people and planet".
Sharma said the government was keen to build on the "strong foundations" provided by the UK's phasing out of coal power and the emergence of low carbon supply chains across the country.
He also stressed that the government would use next year's COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow to further advance climate action around the world with a particular focus on accelerating global progress on clean energy deployment, clean transport networks, the development of nature-based solutions, enhanced climate resilience, and the mobilisation of climate finance.
The latest interventions came on the same day as WWF added to the growing library of studies demonstrating how climate action promises to deliver a raft of economic benefits in response to the coronavirus crisis.
The new report - entitled Keeping us Competitive and produced by Vivid Economics - suggests transitioning to net zero emissions could offer at least 210,000 jobs in 2030 and 351,000 in 2050 from sectors such as green buildings, electric vehicles and power.
It also calculates the net zero transition could yield over £90bn of annual benefits to the UK through improved health and living conditions, delivering economic gains that significantly outweigh any costs.
"A green stimulus is the best way to support economic recovery and build resilience," the report states. "Investment in low carbon infrastructure can boost long-term productivity and high returns, as every pound spent on low-carbon investment options returns 3-8 times the initial investment."
"Our future shouldn't cost the earth, and it doesn't have to," said Isabella O'Dowd, Climate Change Specialist at WWF. "This report proves that investing in a green recovery is the only way forward -the economic benefits will far outweigh the costs. By investing in a future where we halt our contributions to the climate crisis, the UK could support at least 210,000 green jobs across the country by 2030, and bring benefits of £90bn a year to the economy."
She added that the pandemic has also highlighted how "we need to build resilience to future crises, and we need to prepare ourselves and our economy for the big climate challenges ahead".
"The government must adopt a test to ensure any recovery package helps meet our commitments to end the UK's contribution to climate change by 2050," she said. "We have the chance to lead a global charge to protect both the planet and our economy
, and we must take it."
The latest developments come in the same week as over 200 UK corporates wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to prioritise the net zero transition in the government's imminent economic recovery plans.
The news also came as the Guardian reported that the UK auto industry is lobbying for a £1.5bn stimulus package that would provide the same level of grants for new petrol and diesel cars as it does for electric vehicles (EVs).
In a move that has angered environmental campaigners, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is reportedly in talks with the government over plans that would take £2,500 off the price of a car in a bid to put a further 600,000 new vehicles on the road.
However, in a letter to Ministers seen by the Guardian, the trade body argues that "support the entire market, not just disproportionately favouring specific segments or technologies, recognising the diverse nature of UK automotive manufacturing".
Green groups fear such a scheme would incentivise the sale of carbon intensive SUVs and other high emitting cars, while failing to provide a major boost to the EV industry.
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