Climate Change and Green Work: Several Ways to Deliver Net Zero Commitment

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Wind turbine in field

By Dr Jing Du, Lecturer in Finance
Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham.

The UK government amended the Climate Change Act in 2019 to formally set the goal of achieving net zero by 2050, becoming one of the first countries in the world to establish net zero in the form of legal act.

In order to achieve this goal, the Prime Minister proposed The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution in November 2020. This plan utilises £12 billion of government funds and motivates more than three times as much investment from private sector by 2030. The plan also aims to create and support about 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK. What is a green job? A green job is the work that aims directly at protecting the environment or seeks to minimise impact on the health of the planet. Creating more green jobs in the UK and encouraging green jobs more effectively are indispensable and important measures to combat climate change and achieve the goal of net zero.

Achieving net zero in 2050 is a crucial step towards zero-carbon economy in the UK. To realise such a strategic goal, the UK government needs to mobilise the entire society, different sectors, and the public to participate. Publicising and promoting is an effective way to mobilise people and deliver the importance of green jobs and environmental sustainability. By doing so, net zero target could become a household word and a common vision of the public in the UK. It is important to turn the UK government’s net zero strategy into people’s conscious behaviour to reduce the implementation cost and make sure the strategy is effective.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country requiring specific skills would be created to tackle the climate crisis. A nationwide green job skills training programme could provide the fundamental skills employees need to thrive in the green sector. The programme would not only help address unemployment, but also the skill demands for achieving the net zero target. The UK government aims to create learning opportunities for adults of all ages to acquire green work skills through a package of green skills programmes, helping the transformation of the industrial economy towards a low-carbon future. Initiatives from the UK government include green apprenticeships and green skills boot camps. The Department of Energy and Climate Change pointed out that in the process of tackling climate change, industrial revolution needs to rely on labourers with green job skills. It is very important to establish green career pathways and invest in the green development of the labour force in the UK. Apprenticeships and skills training emphasise the talent pipeline businesses need for green jobs now and in the future.

Besides, government could collaborate with higher educational institutions to create green skills colleges or training centres, which focus on the Ten Point Plan and pay more attention to the areas of demand growth, skill improvement and emerging occupations. A wide range of training courses could be set up from nuclear desk engineers, wind turbine maintenance and operations engineering technicians, research scientists, and environmental practitioners, to green home renovation and management, solar buildings, sustainable agriculture and forestry, green transport and energy, green finance, etc. At the end of successful training, trainees should be able to obtain the corresponding qualifications. The green skills colleges or training centres should be coordinated with relevant employers to establish fast track of interview and employment opportunities. Moreover, the government can provide some free courses for green jobs to encourage more adults to participate.

It is vital to coordinate and balance distribution of green jobs across the UK and reduce regional disparity. Industrial cities are more likely to attract green companies at an unprecedented speed and scale. Therefore, green jobs will be unevenly distributed due to factors such as differences in economic foundations between regions. PwC suggests that regions such as Wales, Northern Ireland, and Yorkshire were relatively lagging behind in terms of transition to green economy. This requires the government to adopt corresponding policy measures to encourage the creation of more green jobs in these regions, and to ensure an even distribution of green jobs opportunities.

Climate change is closely related to our life and work no matter which country, region, or city you live in. Promoting green jobs and achieving net zero requires huge efforts from all, including the government, businesses, and public across the country.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Birmingham.

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