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Government has ‘no agreed definition’ for green jobs and inflated figures under Kwasi Kwarteng, documents show

Green jobs figures released by then business secretary Kwazi Kwarteng included jobs from schemes which no longer existed.

The government has no agreed definition of green jobs two years after the launch of a much heralded “green jobs task force” and released inflated numbers about the success of the scheme when Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng was business secretary, according to documents obtained by The Big Issue.

Official figures published in May by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, of which Kwarteng was secretary of state, claimed 68,000 jobs had been “created and supported” or were “in the pipeline”, but thousands were apportioned to schemes which no longer exist. 

“The economy of the future will and must be green, but it won’t magically appear,” said Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth. “It requires a government that’s willing to put green jobs at the heart of its growth plans.”

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It comes as the Labour Party set out its vision for a “fairer, greener future” at its annual conference in Liverpool this week, pledging a clean energy system by 2030 which will create a million green jobs in the sector. 

The Conservative government set out a “ten point plan for a green industrial revolution” in November 2020, promising to support two million green jobs by 2030 and launch a green jobs taskforce to help hit the target. 

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By May 2022 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, then run by the now-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, said that 68,000 green jobs across the UK economy had “already been created and supported, or are in the pipeline”.

But data obtained by The Big Issue shows that nearly 6,000 of those jobs were counted from schemes or projects that had already been scrapped and many more were not expected to materialise until 2029.

“For the purposes of the 68,000 estimate, a ‘green’ job is defined as those covered by sectors outlined in The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution,” read the document, but margin notes showed a conversation between staffers asking for an agreed government definition of a “green job”, concluding that no such definition exists.

“We don’t have anything consolidated on green jobs definition, and don’t have an agreed definition either,” one note read, adding that the Office for National Statistics will “advance on this front”. 

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TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “The government’s claims are not credible when green jobs are not clearly defined. And it’s hard to believe much progress is happening when there has been precious little action on the measures recommended by the government’s green jobs taskforce, which were supported by unions and employers.

“The UK could be a pioneering economy in zero-carbon steel, electric vehicles, and floating offshore wind turbines. And we could create 300,000 jobs in [home insulation] retrofits, so that everyone has a greener, warmer home with affordable energy bills. But we risk missing these opportunities and losing existing jobs lost to other countries that modernise and decarbonise their industry faster.

“Despite a year of inaction, the recommendations of the green jobs taskforce remain a valuable programme for creating and filling green jobs – it’s time for ministers to get on with it.”

The government declined to comment.

On the jobs themselves, BEIS counted 4,900 jobs created via the green homes grant voucher scheme, a programme for eco home upgrades which was scrapped in 2021, after just six months, and branded a “slam dunk fail” by the Public Accounts Committee for its underperformance on upgrades and job creation.

Though it is not clear how many of these jobs still exist, reports after the scheme closed in 2021 suggest that thousands of jobs were lost as a result.

The data also showed that at least 750 roles counted in the 68,000 figure won’t materialise due to a planned wind turbine manufacturing facility on Teesside no longer going ahead.

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said: “To say the government is dragging its feet on boosting long-term, sustainable jobs that better our planet is probably overly generous. There has never been a more pressing need to upgrade and insulate UK homes and replace outdated gas boilers with eco-friendly heat pumps. Yet there’s a real skills shortage in these industries and a lack of long-term funding.

“While we absolutely need to see ambition on things like growing offshore wind, impressive-sounding targets are not enough without adequate funding for colleges and apprentices, including better access to training for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

“The economy of the future will and must be green, but it won’t magically appear. It requires a government that’s willing to put green jobs at the heart of its growth plans.”

Thousands of jobs counted as “already in the pipeline” by the department aren’t set to materialise until at least 2029/30, when the government is supposed to hit its target of supporting 2 million green jobs.

At least 900 roles included in the response were jobs that have been “safeguarded” rather than newly-created, Big Issue analysis found.

BEIS did not provide a breakdown of how many of the 68,000 jobs were newly created vs those that already exist, though it did explain where jobs have been “created or safeguarded” in the offshore wind sector.

This showed that of the 4,100 offshore wind jobs outlined by BEIS, 750 are no longer going ahead due to a project being pulled, while 400 have been delayed after a contractor  withdrew support for a project.

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