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Green jobs cut by nearly 34,000 despite Boris Johnson’s 2050 pledge

The Government is "not delivering" on green jobs and climate promises, the Trades Union Congress warned, putting the UK's net-zero target at risk
Jobs in green sectors decreased ahead of the Prime Minister's announcement of 250,000 green jobs by 2030

The number of people working in green jobs dropped by nearly 34,000 between 2014 and 2019, new figures show – despite the UK’s bid to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Progress across the renewable energy and low carbons sectors is “far too slow”, according to Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady.

The UK Government recently raised eyebrows with the announcement that ministers would axe their own Green Homes Grant scheme. Set up to retrofit homes across England with updates that would boost their energy efficiency – such as insulation and planet-friendly heat pumps – the scheme was intended to cut national emissions and save people money on bills.

But it failed to have the intended impact – just 60,000 homes benefited from the scheme since it launched in September, only 10 per cent of the Government’s 600,000 target.

Lots of towns and communities were promised the chance to level up with new jobs in green industries,” O’Grady added. “But Boris Johnson’s government is not delivering.”

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Green industries include energy efficiency, electric vehicles and renewable energy – sectors which will be key to the UK reaching its climate targets as well as taking on workers who can adapt their skills from other more carbon-heavy industries. 

There were 235,900 green jobs in 2014, Office for National Statistics data showed, but only 202,100 shortly before Covid-19 gripped the UK, meaning the figures do not take into account jobs lost during the pandemic.

Most of the jobs were lost from carbon capture and storage, a new technology which captures carbon dioxide from power generation and industrial processes then stores it underground to prevent it entering the atmosphere. 

The Prime Minister made carbon capture – which lost two-thirds of its roles over five years – a key element of his 10-point plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution” announced in November last year. It included a 2030 target to deliver up to 250,000 green jobs across the UK.

The Westminster Government is “committed to taking advantage of the huge economic opportunities that the transition to a green economy offers,” a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said, “including large scale job creation”.

There should be a ‘good news’ story to tell

Major job losses were also recorded across onshore wind, solar and tidal power generation.

“Climate action can bring major benefits to us all,” O’Grady said. “New jobs in green industries can help us recover from the pandemic. And it will mean clean air, food security and the restoration of Britain’s forests and wildlife.

“There should be a ‘good news’ story to tell. Our research has shown how over a million green jobs can be created in the next two years if the government fast-tracks green investment.”

The body’s research showed that increased and fast-tracked investment in green sectors could create 38,000 new jobs in decarbonising manufacturing plants, 120,000 jobs in expanding and upgrading railways and 59,000 jobs in electric vehicle infrastructure.

We all know now this is the future we need,” O’Grady said. “The Government must come forward with ambitious plans to show strong leadership when the UK chairs the COP26 global conference on climate change this year.”

Cash previously ringfenced for the Green Homes Grant will now be put into a separate fund for local authorities to insulate homes occupied by people on low incomes.

More people found jobs in offshore work between 2014 and 2019, increasing by 14 per cent to 7,200 roles in total. But this was not proportional to the growth in the country’s capacity to generate power from offshore wind projects, the TUC warned, which more than doubled over the same time period.