Putting local communities at the heart of the green jobs revolution

By Sir Richard Leese | 11 June 2020
  • Sir Richard Leese

The low carbon economy is forecast to grow faster than traditional industries which to many industry leaders and councils should make it the focus of the post-coronavirus recovery.

Demand for green jobs will rapidly increase as the nation transitions to a net zero economy and will help to counter the unprecedented job losses due to the COVID-19 which are likely to increase further when furlough ends from October.

This is borne out in the Local Government Association’s new commissioned report, “Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery”.

The report estimates that nearly 700,000 direct jobs could be created in England’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy by 2030, rising to more than 1.18 million by 2050.

These jobs aren’t just concentrated in a few areas, but across every region of the country, as our LG Inform site shows. By 2050, more than 420,000 of these jobs are forecast in the North; nearly 200,000 in the Midlands; almost 120,000 in the East; and nearly 450,000 in London and the South.

Nearly half of the estimated 700,000 total low-carbon jobs by 2030 will be in clean electricity generation and providing low-carbon heat for homes and businesses, such as manufacturing wind turbines, installing solar panels and installing heat pumps.

Around 40 per cent of jobs will be involved in installing energy efficiency products, such as insulation, lighting and control systems; providing low-carbon services, including financial, legal and IT; and producing alternative fuels, such as bioenergy and hydrogen. The remainder will be directly involved in manufacturing low-emission vehicles and the associated infrastructure.

Councils can be the catalyst to drive forward this new green jobs bonanza to help the national economic recovery. Nearly two-thirds of councils in England aim to be carbon neutral by 2030 and more than 230 of them have declared a climate emergency.

During the pandemic, councils’ role as leaders of place has been emphasised as never before, for example by leading local efforts to trace coronavirus and providing billions in financial support to businesses.

Councils have been trusted to deliver and this local approach should be extended to skills training to help project where and when these jobs will be created and build the skills of local workforces to roll out clean technologies. Emerging skills gaps requiring early intervention identified in our report include the heat pump supply chain and professional services – but centrally driven employment and skills support is often failing to meet, and respond to, local need.

Local areas need to be able match skills supply and demand through effective local targeting by giving councils and combined authorities the ability to work with local education providers and businesses to bridge gaps in NVQ-related skills so that the workforce is equipped to meet emerging demand.

The LGA’s Work Local proposals – which would see councils and combined authorities working with partners to integrate and devolve employment, apprenticeships and skills initiatives so it is easier for all residents and employers to navigate - provide a sure-fire way of achieving this.

Alongside increased national investment to create jobs, empowering councils will ensure that young people and older workers across our diverse communities can be trained and retrained so they can benefit from these new local opportunities and contribute to the national economic recovery.

Councils are driving the climate change agenda at a local level, through ambitious projects and targets, which is beginning to influence local economic growth plans and skills programmes.

Localising and devolving skills investment, back to work support and any job guarantee will be critical to ensuring everyone benefits from new local jobs, including these one million new low-carbon jobs.

To help meet national climate change targets and capitalise on the green jobs revolution, councils need long-term funding, devolved powers and easier access to complex government funding pots to help realise the Government’s target of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Cllr Sir Richard Leese is chair of the LGA’s City Regions Board

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