Achieving the Government’s net zero and long-term environmental goals depends on a skilled green workforce in the economy to deliver these. The Government is aiming for 2 million green jobs by 2030; the level of Government ambition and the work carried out by the Green Jobs Taskforce provides a good foundation for delivering this green workforce. What is needed now is a detailed plan for how these ambitions will be delivered.
For the Government to be able to monitor and evaluate the impact of its policies against its green jobs ambitions, the delivery plan must include the Government’s definition and metric for ‘green jobs’. The delivery plan and the Government’s definition should reflect the fact that ‘green jobs’ include those jobs which are needed to deliver the Government’s wider long-term environmental objectives, including jobs in enhancing biodiversity and the circular economy, as well as net zero.
Meeting these ambitions will require action from across the Government. The Government’s delivery plan must set out the division of action and responsibilities between departments and its co-ordination and oversight arrangements, including its arrangements for collaboration with the devolved administrations and local government. For departments to be able to budget for and prioritise action on green jobs, the delivery plan should include estimated costings of the actions needed by each department. The Government also needs to assess the funding required by local government for the green jobs and skills needed within local authorities to deliver climate and nature actions at a local level.
It is welcome that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is collaborating with the Department for Education to produce a skills gap plan, to identify skills gaps which could affect the delivery of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan objectives. This skills gap plan must be accompanied by an action plan, to address any shortages identified.
Action to stimulate green jobs in the pandemic recovery would accelerate the establishment and growth of green sectors and build skills and workforce towards long term net zero and environmental targets, at the same time as addressing immediate unemployment following the pandemic. Only 1 per cent of Kickstart scheme placements were in green sectors; the Government should ensure that future labour market interventions are aligned, from the design stage, with its net zero and environmental goals.
A National Nature Service would build much needed long-term capacity in the nature sector through an established training pipeline, while simultaneously contributing to the Government’s levelling up, green jobs and long-term environmental goals. The Government should work with nature sector employers to pilot this during 2022.
The Government must ensure lessons are learned from its Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, which failed to achieve its green jobs ambitions; with millions of homes requiring retrofitting to meet decarbonisation targets, the Government urgently needs to set out a retrofit skills strategy.
In the long-term, the Government will need to ensure that people in regions where jobs will be affected by the net zero transition can access new, attractive opportunities in green jobs. Without such ‘just transition’ planning, there is a risk that livelihoods and consequently wider public support for net zero could be lost as the economy changes.
The Government has committed to a just and fair transition to net zero; it should now publish its plan for a just transition. This plan must assess the regional, as well as sectoral, impact of net zero and set out the Government’s strategy for maintaining public support. The plan should also set out arrangements for co-ordination and monitoring across the Government, and collaboration with the devolved administrations and local government. The Government’s just transition planning must include measures to avoid jobs being offshored in the transition; as part of this, the Government should explore how a UK carbon border adjustment mechanism could comply with international trade obligations.
The green skills pipeline will determine both the number and types of UK green jobs which can be produced. We need to ensure we are training our current and future workforce now for the careers and demands of the future economy, and make climate and environmental literacy a priority across all education and training. Environmental sustainability should be embedded across all National Curriculum and A Level courses, and a module on sustainability included in every apprenticeship and T Level course. The Government’s Children and Nature programme should be extended beyond March 2022 and expanded to further widen schoolchildren’s access to nature.
Extending the equivalent or lower funding rule exemption to full-time courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and geography and environmental higher education courses would provide a faster route to retraining in higher level skills crucial to the future green economy.
Skills assessment and planning cannot be a one-off exercise; the Government must put structures in place to ensure ongoing monitoring of green skills demands and provision, including ensuring there is sufficient provision of technical and practical education in green skills today to meet the demands of the future economy.
A lack of diversity and inclusion is already an issue in UK environmental and STEM professions; if diversity and inclusion is not factored in from the start, any action to stimulate green jobs risks exacerbating inequalities and missing the opportunities from increased diversity and inclusion in the green workforce. We welcome the Government’s commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion in the green workforce; to be able to monitor whether it is succeeding, the Government needs to set out its aims in a measurable way and have a metric for measuring diversity and inclusion in the green workforce.
The Government’s green jobs and just transition delivery plans must also include improvements to careers advice, so people know what green jobs there are and how to access them, and identifying and addressing potential barriers, such as lack of public transport, rural broadband or care provision for dependents, to accessing these jobs.