UK should take immediate steps to boost green innovation and production capabilities in anticipation of growing demand for more environmentally responsible technologies, academics advise
A green recovery centred around creating low carbon jobs would not only tackle large-scale unemployment caused by the coronavirus crisis, but would also help the government deliver on its twin goals of levelling up regional inequalities and steering the nation towards its net zero emissions target.
That is the conclusion of a report published this morning by researchers at LSE, which argues green jobs should be "at the heart" of the government's coronavirus recovery agenda.
The report, published by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Centre for Economic Performance, highlights a number of low carbon sectors could deliver significant economic growth and green jobs in the wake of the coronavirus.
Building energy efficiency, natural capital, active travel infrastructure and equipment, and renewable power generation are among the six areas identified by the researchers as major potential growth engines for jobs and the economy. Carbon capture and storage and blue and green hydrogen production and electric vehicle (EV) production and charging infrastructure also make the shortlist.
Investments in these areas of the green economy would shore up British competitiveness in the technologies of the future, the researchers argue. "By orienting the economy towards zero-carbon goods and services, the UK can seize economic opportunities from the global transition as demand rises for zero-carbon activities," climate economist and Grantham Research Institute chair Lord Nicholas Stern writes in the report's introduction.
The report recommends the government couple short-term investments that create jobs in each sector with a series of investments, policies, and incentives that can boost innovation to address longer-term challenges.
Sam Unsworth, policy analyst at the Grantham Research Institute, stressed there was an "urgent and immediate demand" for labour-intensive investments that could tackle unemployment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The job-creating investments we set out in our report are key to meeting net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050," Unsworth said. "These investments are complementary to each other since they are likely to create near-term employment opportunities across a number of regions, supporting a UK-wide recovery from Covid-19 and helping to prevent places from being left behind."
Anna Valero, ERSC innovation fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance, said that the transition to a green economy offered "extraordinary opportunities for sustainable, resilient and more inclusive growth".
"With global demand for cleaner and more environmentally-friendly products and technologies set to increase rapidly in the coming decades, countries that take early action to develop green innovation and production capabilities are likely to reap significant growth benefits," she said.
The Deparment for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was considering a comment at the time of going to press.
The report comes just days after the Aldersgate Group of businesses published a major new study warning that skills shortages could undermine the UK's hopes of delivering on its net zero emissions goals and calling on the government to undertake a major overhaul of education and skills policies to help tackle the problem.
It also comes amidst growing fears that the government's Green Homes Grant scheme, which offers households grants worth up to £5,000 to undertake energy efficiency upgrades, is being hampered by a shortage of available insulation and clean tech installers.
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