Press Release: CPP finds 9 million people vulnerable to economic harm through a bad transition to net zero

8 November 2021

9 minute read

  • New research by the Centre for Progressive Policy identifies the 74 parts of Great Britain most at risk of economic harm through a bad transition to net zero, with disruption potentially impacting 9 million people.
  • Over two thirds of the most at-risk areas are Conservative-held seats, and include parts of the electorally critical ‘Red Wall’.
  • Network of 12 local government leaders, including Metro Mayors of Greater Manchester and West Midlands, sets out today their plan to deliver ‘just transitions’ to net zero at a local level

8 November 2021: New research from economics think tank the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), released today, has identified the top 74 areas in Great Britain at risk of economic disruption from the transition to net zero. As HM Treasury has set out, the case for net zero is irrefutable but the transition must be fair. 9 million people live in communities which could suffer an economic hit in the transition to Great Britain going carbon-neutral and so urgent help is needed to make the transition fair to meet government’s essential net zero targets, CPP’s new paper concludes.

Areas most at risk range from rural areas in the south of England to ‘Red Wall’ areas - such as Hartlepool and Redcar - which are widely seen as a key battleground at the next general election. Over two thirds of the areas most at risk from Great Britain transitioning to net zero are in Conservative-held seats[1]. These communities face huge changes to their local economies, with the worst case scenario being huge job losses and redundancies as high emission jobs are phased out.

This new research comes as local leaders who form CPP’s Inclusive Growth Network (IGN), including Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, set out a plan to ensure that their communities are able to make a ‘just transition’ to the net zero world, in ways which bolster rather than damage local economies.

CPP identified areas most at risk based on their reliance on high emitting employers and their underlying economic vulnerability, calculated through measurements such as local employment rates, skills levels, population size and average age. Within the 100 areas most reliant on high emitting employers, CPP identified 74 economically vulnerable areas and 37 extremely vulnerable high-risk places, which includes both rural agricultural and manufacturing areas. The research also demonstrates that high emitting jobs tend to be well paid, earning on average £680 per week compared to £580 for the rest of the economy. This reinforces CPP’s call for a ‘just transition’ to ensure people moving away from these high-emitting careers to not suffer economic harm as a result.

Members of CPP’s Inclusive Growth Network - a cross-party collective of political leaders from 12 local and combined authorities - have set out today how they plan to deliver ‘just transitions’ to net zero. IGN members have made five flagship commitments aiming to tackle long standing social and economic inequalities whilst focusing on the challenges of climate change:

  • Using local skills infrastructure to identify those at risk of unemployment, supporting the development of local supply chains, and working with national government to recognise the unique position of those affected in the labour market and determine how best they can be supported,
  • Ensuring any new green jobs created are high quality and secure,
  • Leveraging relationships with local business, civil society, and anchor institutions, enabling every sector to play their part in meeting a shared vision for clean, inclusive growth,
  • Standing to offer citizens the guidance, direction, and support needed to transition successfully,
  • Playing a central role in driving the switch to green energy and retrofitting on a street by street, home by home basis.

A full list of signatories is included in Notes to Editors below.

Zoe Billingham, Co-Director of Centre for Progressive Policy, said: “Getting to net zero fairly is essential. Our research has revealed the variation in economic risk between communities which must be dealt with head on as we move towards net zero. A truly just transition will consider the lived realities and unique needs of each community, which we are working to deliver through our Inclusive Growth Network. We hope that our work, will help the central government in pinpointing where to best support citizens in retraining for new, green jobs, where to incentivise new green jobs and the importance of addressing the broader economic resilience of local areas.”


Research notes:

About CPP:

The Centre for Progressive Policy is a think tank committed to making inclusive economic growth a reality. By working with national and local partners, our aim is to devise effective, pragmatic policy solutions to drive productivity and shared prosperity in the UK. Inclusive growth is one of the most urgent questions facing advanced economies where stagnant real wages are squeezing living standards and wealth is increasingly concentrated. CPP believes that a new approach to growth is needed, harnessing the best of central and local government to shape the national economic environment and build on the assets and opportunities of place. The Centre for Progressive Policy is funded by Lord Sainsbury and hosts the Inclusive Growth Network. For more information on the Centre for Progressive Policy, please see or follow @CentreProPolicy

About the research:

Centre for Progressive Policy’s paper: ‘Leaving no place behind in the race to net zero,’ explores the relative economic vulnerability of different places as high emitting industries shift production methods and some decline. Analysis relates to Great Britain because data was not available for Northern Ireland. The paper develops a series of indicators for assessing the local authorities at highest risk of increased unemployment, lower wages and reduced economic activity. The central premise is that vulnerability will not just be driven by the immediate industrial make-up of an area, but also other critical economic and demographic characteristics. It is an important starting point for ensuring a fair transition and avoiding the mistakes of deindustrialisation in the past.

Research table 1: The highest risk 37 (each of the local authority districts is ranked against each indicator, ranking 1 if it is has the highest level of risk and 354 if it has the lowest. The 37 local areas represent the bottom 20% of all local authorities in terms of their total economic vulnerability score).

About Inclusive Growth Network:

  • The Inclusive Growth Network is an incubator for new ideas and policies that will help deliver change for local communities.
  • Hosted by the Centre for Progressive Policy, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and supported by partners Metro Dynamics and the RSA, the network connects 12 member areas with a package of support designed to advance their ambitions for their places.
  • Political leaders of the Inclusive Growth Network include:
    • Cllr Mal O’Hara, Belfast City Council
    • Mayor Marvin Rees, Bristol City Council
    • Cllr Huw Thomas, Cardiff City Council
    • Cllr Susan Aitken, Glasgow City Council
    • Mayor Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
    • Cllr James Lewis, Leeds City Council
    • Mayor Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority
    • Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Council
    • Cllr Joe Cullinane, North Ayrshire Council
    • Mayor Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Combined Authority
    • Mayor Dan Jarvis, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority
    • Mayor Andy Street, West Midlands Combined Authority

[1] Of the 74 high risk local authorities, 97 different parliamentary constituencies are represented, with 69 having Conservative MPs. CPP has matched local authorities with parliamentary constituencies. LA boundaries do not perfectly align with constituency boundaries and in some cases different LAs share the same constituencies. We've accounted for this to avoid double counting.