The UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy, released in 2021, sets out the ambitious targets and pathways for the UK to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050. While there are many challenges in achieving this Net Zero future, there are opportunities highlighted. Opportunities to create new jobs and skills that are ‘green’, more sustainable business models and sustainable development. .
On 8th June, NLA brought together a group of Local Authority representatives and built-environment professionals to discuss this very topic - ‘The Transition to a Green Economy’. Ideas and experience were shared on a broad range of topics - the use of data to understand the scale of opportunity; the challenges of upskilling and attracting talent; and the required support for business from both local and central government.
One of the greatest challenges facing the green economy in any sector is ‘people & skills’. While many studies have identified employment and investment opportunities from Net Zero strategies, without a skilled workforce, ambitions will not be met. For example, the proposed National Retrofit Programme (CIC, 2021) has identified a £540bn capital works programme with 70,000 direct jobs and 40,000 indirect jobs, but with existing labour shortages in construction more generally these figures will be difficult to achieve.
However, there are examples of initiatives addressing this, shared from across the London Boroughs. Ideas currently being trialled and implemented across boroughs include green skills boot camps & short courses creating pathway entry into jobs; ‘green apprenticeships’ that provide the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’; and bringing ‘green skills’ into construction sector training academies, such as the mayoral academy programme with West London college.
Of course, it’s not solely about new skills and training. Existing business need support in transitioning to ‘greener’ processes, procurement and business models. In particular, supporting Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) (who make up 97% of businesses across London) is vital to any green economy strategy or action plan.
The consumer market and public perception will also be key to accelerating ‘green’ markets However moving consumers to prioritise ‘green’ benefits is challenging and requires further exploration of incentives.
Underlying all initiatives, clear action is needed to ensure growth in a green economy does not exacerbate existing inequalities, and further research is needed to ensure the burden of transition doesn’t affect lower income households.
It’s vital to ensure green growth opportunities are used to address issues of diversity and bring under-represented groups into these new roles and skills. Shifting perceptions of ‘green’ jobs will be vital to achieving the skilled and diverse workforce we need, and the creation of green jobs and skills will need to focus on providing clear career development, strong financial benefits and build on digital skill opportunities.
While these are great challenges, the roundtable highlighted a sense of optimism and drive to find ways forward. Using an evidence-based strategy can allow us to unlock the potential of green markets for businesses and people, while ensuring that we grasp this opportunity to create more inclusive and equitable economies and places.