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A strong and resilient economy is crucial for net-zero Britain – and the private sector must be given the confidence to invest in green jobs


4 min read

The government needs to help clear up the confusion, as it is itself yet to define what it means by a green job

The Prime Minister’s welcome 10-point plan heralding a “green industrial revolution” identified the priority areas expected to play a major part in our path to net-zero – but how much thought has since been given to those in the engine room responsible for delivering successes and advances in these areas?

A thriving economy is contingent on the government giving industry the demand signals needed, and the development of “green jobs” is no exception. But what is a green job, and how can progress be measured?

This is the question we have been asking ourselves on the Environmental Audit Committee since November last year, when we launched an inquiry looking at the government’s plans for green jobs.

Some have defined a green job as being within areas of the economy producing goods and services for environmental protection purposes, and others as professions needed to secure a sustainable economy, such as health and care workers. Varying definitions are wide in scope – and arguably all jobs will eventually have to become green.

What is a green job, and how can progress be measured?

The government needs to help clear up the confusion, as it is itself yet to define what it means by a green job. This is despite several announcements on green jobs: 2m green jobs by 2030; £3bn to support 140,000 green jobs through the Treasury’s Plan for Jobs; an £80m Green Recovery Challenge Fund for nature recovery jobs.

Despite the best of intentions, there is a risk the green job tag might be applied to policy announcements without rigorous analysis of the employment opportunities and informed design of the underlying strategy. It will be important, for example, for green jobs in particular sectors to be announced alongside a thorough assessment of the skills and training likely to be required.

Prior to her move to international trade, former energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told our committee that the government will set out its measurements in terms of green jobs progress in the upcoming net-zero strategy. This cannot come soon enough. As has been a regular refrain over the last 18 months, in successive inquiries, the government must give clarity to industry. To recruit people into green jobs, bosses need to be able to assess the expected demand for the skills required and the cost of training or upskilling.

Giving concrete demand signals to the private sector has led to overwhelming success: look at the contracts for difference scheme supporting the growth of offshore wind. Now we are – quite literally – an offshore wind powerhouse.

An added complexity to the green jobs conundrum is the fundamental challenge for environmental issues of securing co-ordination across government. Indeed, the green jobs issue spans six government departments.  Without a single body to co-ordinate delivery, how can the Cabinet Office, let alone parliamentary committees, effectively monitor how the policies are progressing and hold various departments to account?

We will shortly publish our report on green jobs, making clear recommendations as to how to overcome these hurdles. It is vital that we do so if we are to decarbonise our economy and succeed in delivering a workforce fit for net-zero Britain.

This parliamentary term is by far the most important for the environment. We have been promised countless strategies, delayed by the pandemic, but we are now on the eve of chairing COP26, a major climate meeting and the largest international conference ever hosted in the UK, when our environmental credentials will be on display to the world. The scale of admirable ministerial ambitions must be matched by the diligent preparation of practical policy design.

 

Philip Dunne is the Conservative MP for Ludlow and chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.

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