A stimulus programme focused on green and digital infrastructure, research and development, energy and care work could create more than 1.2m jobs within two years and more than 2.7m jobs during the next decade, according to research.
Such a strategy alongside additional government investment could mean every job lost to the coronavirus pandemic would be replaced during vital upcoming recovery years, a report by Green New Deal UK non-profit group has found.
Permanent job losses from Covid-19 are estimated to hit approximately a million by the end of 2022 and about 2m in the next decade. But the immediate shock of the Covid recession could be offset by employment in low-CO2 sectors, finds the report, while significant strides would be made towards transitioning the economy away from fossil fuels over the next decade. The proposals are costed at £68bn – about a third of the government’s total Covid response spend of approximately £190bn to date.
The report also points to significant benefits for constituencies the government has pledged to “level up” – a number of which have been among the hardest hit by the economic fallout of the past 13 months. In the west Cumbria seat of Copeland, for instance, 8,224 jobs could be created in the next two years and 12,108 over a decade – with 8,099 of those in renewable energy.
“There’s a whole load of low-carbon work that needs to be done to secure our economy and support our aging population that’s currently not being considered as part of the infrastructure needs of the country,” the Green New Deal UK co-director Hannah Martin said.
“Even right now, the research we draw on suggests there are 122,000 vacancies in adult social care at the moment and 1.4 million older people with unmet care needs.”
More than half of the jobs identified by the report within a two-year timeframe would be in the social care sector, with that figure rising to 77% by 2030.
The New Economics Foundation thinktank will publish a report in the coming weeks that will set out some of the specific mechanisms through which such large-scale care sector job creation could be achieved.
Some economists, however, have raised doubts over the extent to which care work – even if not CO2-intensive per se – could be classed as “green employment” and whether it is helpful to conflate the two labour spheres.
“Improving social care (more jobs, better paid) is worth doing in its own right,” said Matthew Agarwala, from the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.
“It does not need a tenuous link to ‘green jobs’. It might not help us with environmental objectives, which just shows how much more important it is to make progress on these elsewhere in the economy.”
Opposition parties said Rishi Sunak’s 2021 budget stopped way short of the degree of state-led action required to address climate breakdown.
The Green MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the green new deal, Caroline Lucas, will table an early-day motion on Thursday calling for a comprehensive response to the UK’s Covid-induced jobs crisis.
“Time and time again this government has promised a green recovery, but we are yet to see any meaningful action,” she said.
“The government has an unmissable opportunity to show real leadership on the climate and nature crises by investing now in more than a million green jobs across every corner of the UK. Do that, and we really could ‘level up’ the nation, transforming life to meet our Paris commitments, making our homes warmer, our air cleaner and delivering first class public services.
“The climate won’t wait for governments that dither and delay. The longer this government fails to act, the more we must ask: is it gross negligence or are they deliberately undermining both the recovery and our climate commitments?”
Former government climate envoy John Ashton said more ambitious climate commitments might also be a way to help forge stronger ties with the US before the Cop26 summit in Glasgow later this year.
Joe Biden is expected to make significant announcements about the US’s green recovery plan this week, while parliamentary approval has already been secured for the EU’s Covid recovery scheme.
“The UK needs to show similar ambition,” Ashton said.
“So far, the prime minister has made some eye-catching promises – for instance, on offshore wind. But there is as yet no sign that his chancellor is willing to drive investment towards net zero on any credible scale.
“A real UK green recovery would need to mobilise tens of billions of pounds a year in new low-carbon investment.”