Greener Jobs Alliance submission on the Clean Growth Strategy
The Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA) is a partnership body inclusive of trade unions, student organisations, campaign groups and a policy think tank. It is active on the issue of jobs and the skills needed to transition to a low-carbon economy.
The GJA welcomes the decision to publish a Clean Growth Strategy. It is intended to complement the UK Industrial Strategy published in November, 2018. Many of the policies will make a positive contribution to the transition to a low carbon economy. However, taken together they fall well short of what is needed to meet UK commitments under the Climate Change Act, the Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals
In the absence of a consultation pro forma we have used the headings in the strategy proposals to frame our response.
1. Accelerating Clean Growth
The ambition is to ‘develop world leading Green Finance capabilities’. The proposal to ‘set up a Green Finance Taskforce to provide recommendations for delivery of the public and private investment we need to meet our carbon budgets and maximise the UK’s share of the global green finance market’ is the main mechanism for doing this. Surely if we are going to drive the investment at the scale required we are going to need more than an advisory task force. The composition of this taskforce is crucial, including engagement with the workforce and union representatives. Public funding is crucial to support green technological innovation. The Green Investment Bank could have provided this but the Government sold it off to Macquarie, an asset stripping investment bank, in 2017.
A state-owned investment bank that operates in line with both the industrial and clean growth strategies could play a crucial role in financing key sectors of the economy. A ‘taskforce’ with no powers to directly intervene will not be able to leverage the huge sums needed. This will be compounded by the uncertain future predicted for the UK in the global financial market.
A proposed £20 million fund to support clean technology is better than nothing, but falls far short of the amount needed to transform how we use energy. Far from ‘accelerating clean growth’ the proposals contained in this section wont even get us out of 1st gear. We are at the point in climate change science when developing the proposed ‘voluntary’ finance management standard will be too little, too late.
2. Improving business and industry efficiency
The range of measures proposed maintains this blind faith in the voluntary approach. For example, voluntary building standards to support improvements in the energy efficiency performance of business buildings. Legally binding standards that are effectively enforced are what is required.
There is not a single reference in the whole document to engagement with the workforce and union representatives. Even though the Paris Agreement is mentioned there is no commitment to the principle of just transition. This lays a requirement on governments to ensure that their low carbon strategies do not adversely impact on employees. There should be effective consultation procedures in place to consider the needs and views of workers in the context of business efficiency measures. This will be particularly important in the 7 priority sectors identified by the Government.
The view of the GJA is that recognition rights for Workplace Environment Reps would help to drive energy efficiency and sustainability at work through support effective employee engagement, and comply with UK responsibilities under the Paris Agreement.
3. Improving the energy efficiency of our homes
The track record of the government on this is very poor. The strategy was an important opportunity to provide a clear commitment to make all new homes carbon neutral. The Zero Carbon Homes Regulations due to start in 2016 was an attempt to provide this but the Government scrapped them in 2015. Unsurprisingly there is also no reference to the disastrous Green Deal. The UK still has the least energy efficient housing stock in Europe. There is a wealth of research that highlights how a large-scale energy efficiency programme could create a huge number of jobs, dramatically reduce emissions, and significantly alleviate fuel poverty. There is probably not a single other clean growth measure where the advantages so completely outweigh the disadvantages.
Despite this the strategy fails to offer the infrastructure change needed to address this so that all homes, currently around 2.3 million households, are removed from fuel poverty by 2025. The proposal to consider ‘options with a view to consulting in 2018’ lacks any sense of urgency as does the caveat of only if it is ‘practical, cost-effective and affordable’ by 2030.
4. Accelerating the shift to low carbon transport
The GJA has previously commented on the Government’s Clean Air strategy. This section of the strategy suffers from the same limitations. There is a focus on longer term measures rather than properly funded initiatives that can be taken in the short-term to tackle the scandal of pollution levels generated by transport. Waiting until 2040 before ending the sale of petrol or diesel vehicles underpins this lack of urgency.
The balance between improving public transport and conversion to electric vehicles is not right. Electric cars generate significant levels of particulate matter so simply replacing petrol and diesel with electric is not going to address some of the most dangerous aspects of air pollution. If the electricity is not generated by renewables it will also fail to effectively address greenhouse emissions. Far more power to raise money needs to be provided to local authorities to improve public transport and introduce mitigation measures. The mass public transport sector also needs to be brought under public control to address the fragmented nature of the infrastructure.
5. Delivering clean, smart, flexible power
The strategy makes positive references to renewables. It does include a bizarre claim that the ‘power sector has seen dramatic falls in the price of renewable energy due to government policies, with global investment estimated at $2.8 trillion since 2007. This has driven down the cost of solar cells by 80 per cent since 2008, meaning we are now beginning to see solar deploying in the UK without government support.’ (Page 24) In fact it is R+D decisions made by the Chinese Government that has brought down the cost and increased efficiency not UK government policy.
We are particularly disappointed in the lack of reference to support for solar power and community energy. Not surprisingly the strategy maintains a blind faith that the private sector will up its game. ‘We will continue to work with Ofgem and the National Grid to create a more independent system operator which will help to keep household bills low through greater competition, coordination and innovation across the system.’ As with other challenges in this strategy it is the GJA view that the energy sector needs to be brought under democratic ownership if decarbonisation is going to be consistent with future carbon budgets.
6. Enhancing the Benefits and Value of Our Natural Resources
This section covers a wide range of different issues – agriculture, farming, food, forestry, waste and resource use. We are currently failing to meet voluntary targets set for reducing agricultural emissions and the urgent need to tackle livestock emissions. The UK reliance on food imports also raises the issue of carbon leakage and imports. If we maintain or even increase our imports of high carbon emission foodstuff we are contributing to carbon emissions elsewhere. This is of course not acknowledged in the strategy.
7. Leading in the public sector
There has been a missed opportunity to provide a framework for the public sector to play a major role. The £255 million promised for energy efficiency improvements is a fraction of the amount that has been stripped away from public sector finances in the last 7 years. A voluntary emissions reduction target of 30% by 2020-21 is unlikely to deliver especially in the absence of much clearer targeted support.
8. Government leadership in driving clean growth
In some ways the 3 proposals in this section are the most disappointing. The ‘big idea’ is a ‘Green Great Britain Week’. This is no substitute for a concerted campaign throughout the year to engage the public. Skills is mentioned once (Page 37) in relation to technical education. The strategy would have been a perfect opportunity to show how the UK intended to implement Article 12 of the Paris Agreement on Education and Training.
‘Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.’
This requirement is not mentioned in the strategy. Even the Industrial Strategy which is designed to complement the Clean Growth Strategy fails to reference this obligation and the section on Skills is far too narrowly focused.
There is not a single reference to engagement with the workforce who will have to deliver this strategy. It means an opportunity to implement this part of the Paris Agreement has been missed -‘Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities,’
This is compounded by the lack of civic engagement referenced above. The Government has admitted that it is currently not on target to meet the 5th Carbon Budget’s 57% target reduction. Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change has warned against using “the use of accounting flexibilities or reliance on international carbon credits” to make up the difference. The strategy refers to the importance of the Stern Report yet fails to draw the lessons from it on market failure. Only 30% of the emissions reductions identified have been counted according to the Government Minister, Claire Perry, which underlines the problems with a document high on aspirations but low on policy detail.