Research by UK100 estimates one in every 10 British workers need retraining or reskilling if 2050 net zero goal is to be met
Around 2.2 million Britons may need retraining or reskilling in order to prepare the workforce for the transition to a net zero economy by 2050, campaign group UK100 has warned.
The network of city mayors and local government leaders today published a new analysis detailing how up to one in every 10 jobs across the country may need reskilling to meet demand from the burgeoning low carbon economy, as it called on the government to put a "new deal for green skills and growth" at the heart of its forthcoming economic stimulus, which is expected to be announced imminently.
The group - which recently established a Resilient Recovery Taskforce including local government leaders from Belfast, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Greater Manchester, Newcastle, and the West Midlands - argues that measures to replace lost jobs with green jobs would accelerate the growth of sectors crucial to country's net zero transition, help combat rising unemployment figures, and pre-empt further job losses as the economy evolves.
"The government has a once in a generation opportunity to stimulate a green economic recovery to allow the UK to meet our net zero target by 2050," said Judith Blake, leader of Leeds city council and chair of the UK100 taskforce. "The chancellor's stimulus package must include measures to replace lost jobs with green jobs, re-train workers so they can access these jobs and power the new green economy both Leeds and the UK need."
This skills drive is set to affect swathes of the UK economy, from the financial services sector to electricians and roofers, UK100 predicted.
It cited the need for automotive industry workers to be retrained in the manufacturing and repair of electric vehicles, and for electricians, roofers, and heating engineers to develop skills in solar panel and home energy efficiency installations. And, in the finance sector, oil and commodities traders may need to retrain as carbon traders, while additional skilled workers in tree planting and conservation are needed to meet the UK's ambitious tree planting targets, UK100 explained.
It warned manufacturing heartlands in the Midlands, North West, and Yorkshire were likely to be impacted most heavily by the net zero transition, where high number of jobs would be in need of reskilling, as the decline in some carbon intensive industries is offset by strong demand for green jobs from emerging clean tech sectors.
Real estate, transportation, and mining sectors are also set to be among the hardest hit and are likely to face the highest proportion of jobs in need of reskilling, while cities with large BAME communities are likely to need significant green retraining support, the research suggests.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stressed that a green jobs and skills drive was critical if the country is to build net zero cities. "I have been clear that London's recovery must be a green one, rebuilding a healthier, resilient, more equal city that works for all citizens and tackles the climate emergency," he said. "The measures we have put in place to start this green recovery, such as walking and cycling infrastructure, are popular with Londoners. I now look forward to working with the government and other mayors to embed these changes, invest in green jobs and skills, and power a recovery towards a zero carbon city."
Responding to the call, a spokesperson from the government said that forthcoming recovery efforts would deliver "clean, sustainable and inclusive growth" across the country. "Throughout this crisis, we've continued to take our environmental responsibilities seriously and remain committed to meeting our climate change and wider environmental targets, including our commitment to net zero by 2050," they said. "As we take action to rebuild our economy we will aim to drive clean, sustainable and inclusive growth across all regions of the UK."
The intervention came as waste charity WRAP today published a separate analysis detailing how up to half a million new jobs could be created across the UK if the government ramped up investment in recycling and repair capacity in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover said it was critical that governments both in the UK and abroad used forthcoming stimulus packages to help support the transition to a circular economy. "WRAP has a 20-year history of partnering with government, but never have we seen such a need - and such an opportunity - to adopt a circular economy in the UK," he said. "We urge policy makers here and internationally to recognise its potential as a catalyst for job creation and growth, and we call on them to take immediate steps to lock in circularity to their post-Covid recovery plans."
Growing calls have been coming over the past several months for a major green investment blitz to help ease the worsening economic crisis in the wake of the pandemic, but precise details of the government's planned stimulus package have yet to emerge. Hopes are high, however, that Prime Minister Boris Johnson could well announce an increase in support for the green economy tomorrow, having repeatedly promised to deliver a green recovery to the current crisis, while reports over the weekend indicate the government is keen to avoid a return to the austerity-driven policies after the 2008 financial crisis.
Some reports have suggested that Ministers are looking to create thousands of green jobs in carbon capture and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, active transport, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and building efficiency programmes, but there are also fears that the bulk of green stimulus measures could be deferred to the autumn. Moreover, FT reports today of a Whitehall turf war over a proposed increase in funding for energy efficiency upgrade programmes have further stoked fears that the promised green recovery package could fail to deliver at the scale many experts believe is required.
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