New Plans for Green Futures may bring Green Collar Jobs

29 September 2008

New Plans for Green Futures may bring Green Collar Jobs

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hddod/

The government and major opposition parties seem to be awakening – rather late – to the environmental crisis we face, and several good proposals for a cleaner, greener future for the UK have been unveiled recently.
New Challenges, New Opportunities is a government plan to create 260,000 new jobs in a low-carbon economy over the next few years.  The framework emphasises manufacturing’s key role in a mixed and balanced economy, and has the objective of making Britain a world leader in both renewables and nuclear power.  A new body, Manufacturing Insight, will be given the job of promoting this sector.  John Hutton, the minister for business, said: “Manufacturing is central to the success of the UK economy and it is vital the sector has the right foundations to endure the current economic slowdown and emerge stronger and fitter than ever.”  This plan will be backed by £150 million of medium-term support for UK manufacturing.

The Liberal Democrats have also released an “Apollo Project for UK Energy Independence” – an ambitious plan for Britain to become energy independent within the EU by 2050.  This includes a “credible strategy to meet the UK’s 2020 renewables targets” and the sourcing of all our energy from within the EU by 2030 to avoid reliance on unstable regimes. The report says: “Using all the technologies available and in development will be vital, such as viable carbon capture and storage, combined heat and power, and the whole raft of renewable energy sources, from wind to wave, biomass to solar. Britain should lead the world in renewable technologies, creating jobs and revitalising industrial capacity as has happened in Germany.  Even under current Government plans, an estimated 160,000 jobs would be created.  A vibrant green economy would provide a robust industrial and technological base for future employment. “  Energy efficiency and fuel poverty would be part of this strategy, including all new homes to be built to the GreenHouse standard – requiring no fossil fuels for space heating – by no later than 2011.

The Conservatives have unveiled their Blue/Green Charter: In a speech to environmental leaders, shadow PM David Cameron, pledged to: Encourage business, industry and innovators to develop green products and services such as hydrogen fuel cell and battery powered cars; Use green taxes to change behaviour, not just raise revenue - and use these tax increases to fund tax cuts for families; Increase our energy security by moving away from imported oil and gas and increasing domestic renewable energy; Improve energy efficiency by ensuring smart meters are installed in every home; Tackle the problems of road congestion and poor train services, which will help both the environment and the economy. He also criticised the Government's approach to Heathrow airport, stating that the priority should be making it better, not bigger.

Making a wind turbine in Scotland Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ccgd/

Thinktank the New Economics Foundation (NEF) have also unveiled their “Green New Deal” paper. It says, presciently in the light of recent banking crashed: “The global economy is facing a ‘triple crunch’. It is a combination of a credit-fuelled financial crisis, accelerating climate change and soaring energy prices underpinned by an encroaching peak in oil production. These three converging events threaten to develop into a perfect storm, the like of which has not been seen since the Great Depression. To help prevent this from happening we are proposing a Green New Deal.”  This proposal includes re-regulating the financial sphere, both domestically and globally, and a vast “carbon army” of workers to build a vast environmental reconstruction programme of transformation of both our energy structures and our domestic legacy of poorly insulated and energy-inefficient buildings.  The authors of the paper highlight the way that the progressive environment movement has tended to ignore the role of the finance sector and economic policy in shaping the way Britain has developed.

These plans, which have many overlapping elements, seem to indicate a convergence of thought between the main political forces in the UK. The environmental “Perfect Storm” is unlikely to respect any particular political belief system.  Britain has great potential, in resources, in human ingenuity, and creativity, if it can only harness it to defuse the oncoming crisis and build a better future for UK citizens.

Links:

New Challenges, New Opportunities
Apollo Project for UK Energy Independence
Blue/Green Charter
Green New Deal

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