‘A Greener Future for All’…or is it?

28 October 2021

By Kirandeep Khosa

4 minute read

CPP joined a politics placement programme at the Social Mobility Foundation to provide young people with an overview of the work of a think tank and advice about building a career in the policy sector. As part of the programme and on the eve of COP26, students wrote blogs offering their important voices on the need for a just green transition. All the students produced outstanding contributions, three of which are published here.

As the climate crisis develops in severity, countries must begin to act to solve the problems that are attached to this pressing issue. For us to do this, governments must work to develop a net-zero society and a green economy, in which we are making up for the greenhouse gases we are emitting into the environment, by doing this we will create a more liveable future for the next generations. However, this is a big step up from where we currently are as a society and would involve us making some drastic changes that will consequently have huge effects on many aspects of our lives.

One area which will be heavily impacted is the current job market, which will shift dramatically as we begin to abandon the use of traditional fuels and move towards using more renewable sources of energy. The University of Leeds conducted research alongside the Place-Based Climate Action Network (PCAN)[1] which suggests that approximately 6.3 million jobs in the UK (around 1 in 5) are likely to be affected either positively or negatively by the transition to a green economy,[2] although a new report by Onward suggests this number could be as high as 10 million.[3] It is expected that the jobs that are to be affected negatively are disproportionately attached to the largely working-class, historically industrial and manufacturing centres, of the Midlands and the North.

As we have seen in the past with the widespread closure of mines in the UK where over 250,000 people have lost their jobs since the strikes of the mid 80s, former mining areas still have employment rates at least 3% lower than the average of other regions of the country.[4] This history raises vast concerns among many communities regarding the future of industrial workers, and these regions, as we transition to sustainable energy and a net-zero world.

With countless jobs being at risk and mass economic disruption on the horizon, it is vital that we implement plans and policies to protect and help these individuals survive as we progress to a new green economy. But the question is how do we do this?

Scotland is a country which we have seen implement some of the most ambitious targets in legislation, with aims to reduce emission by 75% by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2045. The government have also considered what such rapid changes will have on certain regions, and as a result, have developed the ‘Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan’ (CESAP).[5] This plan sets out the basis for retraining and reskilling provision to support those who because of the end of traditional, industrial work, are unable to find employment due to a lack of skill/qualifications. The plan hopes to enabled them to access the new green jobs needed in the country as renewable energy becomes the norm.

The rest of the UK could learn from and apply the just transition principles displayed by the Scottish Government on a wider scale, to ensure that the rest of the UK, as they approach their 2050 targets, do not fall behind on supporting those in these higher risk areas from struggling as the transition to net-zero progresses. Like Scotland, we must acknowledge the role that government and the private sector have on ensuring this ‘smooth transition to a greener future’, and that their work together is vital in ensuring livelihoods are protected. It is inevitable some industries and jobs will be lost because of these changes, but with the proper investment of resources, we can ensure that jobs and peoples way of life are protected as best as possible. By doing this we can deliver a brighter, more sustainable future for everyone, where no one is left behind.