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Government is inconsistent on green job policy, committee warns

Words: Laura Edgar
Green jobs / DreamcatcherDiana, Shutterstock_191930243

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned that the UK Government's policy on green jobs is 'inconsistent' and a knowledge gap in necessary skills is resulting in missed opportunities.

According to its report Green Jobs, the committee is disappointed that although the government has committed "millions of pounds" to green jobs initiatives, it has not yet defined what a green job is or evaluated what the demand for green jobs could be in future.

For the committee, the Net Zero Strategy, which was published last week, would have been the ideal opportunity to provide clarity on this.

The Net Zero Strategy sets out how the government intends to secure 440,000 “well-paid jobs” and unlock £90 billion of private investment by 2030, amongst other ambitions. Now, the committee insists an "detailed, actionable delivery plan" is needed.

The government's ambitious targets could be considered aspirational unless this information is clarified, the committee said, which would lead to a failure to prepare the UK for the future. "This lack of understanding was apparent in the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, where the Government failed to engage with the sector to develop the skills required, resulting perversely in contractors making staff redundant as consumers awaited confirmation of vouchers," the committee explained.

The committee conducted an inquiry as part of its work for the report. It heard that that climate change and sustainability risked being seen as a ‘tick box exercise’ in education. Yet current and future work forces must be climate and sustainability literate, the committee insisted, and this must run through all education and training. It recommended that environmental sustainability be embedded across all national curriculum and A-Level courses, while a module on sustainability should feature in every apprenticeship and T-Level course.

This would lead to a knock-on effect of boosting diversity in the sector: as the committee pointed out, just 9 per cent of engineers are women and only 3.1 per cent of environment professionals identify as ethnic minorities. The committee said the government sentiment around a diverse green workforce "is not enough" on its own; government must set out its aims in a measurable way and have a metric for measuring diversity and inclusion.  

Chairman of the committee Philip Dunne commented: “From renewable energy clusters in the North East and Scotland, to engineering powerhouses in the Midlands and nature conservation in the South West, we are building an economy set for net zero.

“But the workforce of the future is being undermined by a lack of evidence-based government policies on how jobs will be filled in green sectors. Encouraging announcements of investment in green sectors of the economy are very welcome but the government admits that claims about green jobs lack explanation and data on how the targets will be achieved.

“Our report sets out how these green jobs roles can be filled. Monitoring the sectors and regions where the jobs are needed, and rebooting careers advice that demystifies green jobs, is critical if we are to meet our environmental goals.”

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • By the end of 2021, the government department or body with overall responsibility for delivery of the government's green jobs policies should assign indicative costings to each department's actions within the overall green jobs delivery plan.
  • The government’s net zero and environmental goals must be considered at the design stage of future labour market interventions, to ensure they align with the green recovery.
  • The government should pilot a National Nature Service during 2022.
  • A just transition plan should be published by the end of this year and assess regional as well as sectoral impact.

Green Jobs can be found on the UK Parliament website.

Image credit | DreamcatcherDiana, Shutterstock