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Net Zero offers real ‘levelling up’ but Government must get behind green jobs

A new briefing, published today by the Climate Change Committee, with contributions from ECCI Director Prof Dave Reay, has found that a hands-off approach to the Net Zero workforce from Government will not work and opportunities will only be realised with stronger policies to harness the potential and manage the risks.

The brief provides an overview of the evidence on the potential impacts of Net Zero for the workforce to inform the Government’s Net Zero and Nature Workforce Action Plan that is due in early 2024.

The briefing explains that by committing to the Net Zero target, the UK has already embarked on a transition that will materially transform much of the economy. Workers will create new low-carbon markets and transform processes, products and supply chains from high-carbon to low-carbon - creating opportunities for growth in high-quality jobs across UK regions.

The shift to Net Zero is already underway, with the creation of around 250,000 new jobs in the transition so far, but policy is now required to maximise the employment benefit of Net Zero and manage the risks.

Key messages

  • Net Zero will transform the economy but the majority of workers will not see major impacts. Only around a fifth of workers will see the largest impacts – those that are currently employed in sectors that will have a core role in delivering Net Zero, often in the next decade.
  • There is potential for the Net Zero transition to create more jobs than will be lost. Between 135,000 and 725,000 net new jobs could be created by 2030 in low-carbon sectors, such as buildings retrofit, renewable energy generation and the manufacture of electric vehicles.
  • The transition provides a range of opportunities, from driving growth in areas with historically low employment to diversifying the workforce of core Net Zero sectors. It also comes with risks that will need to be managed to deliver a just transition, including an inadequate supply of skilled workers, and potentially disruptive impacts to some communities. The risks and opportunities are unique to each sector.
  • Government has policy levers at its disposal to support workers during the transition to Net Zero. It does not need to intervene in every sector of the economy, but clearer plans are needed to harness the potential of the transition and to manage its risks. A hands-off approach will not work.

Skills and Net Zero report

ECCI Director Professor Dave Reay chaired the independent Expert Advisory Group convened by the CCC to support its work on the A Net Zero workforce report. Sitting alongside the briefing, the Chair’s report, authored by Prof Reay, examines the skills and education system in the context of the UK’s transition to Net Zero.

It sets out the policy and provision of Net Zero skills across the UK, assesses how well this is aligned with current and future needs and sets out recommendations for government on how to better support the entirety of the skills system in the transition to Net Zero.

Key messages

  • Skills are a fundamental enabler of Net Zero. No policy aimed at realising Net Zero can succeed without having people in place with the right skills to deliver on it.
  • Schools. Across the four nations of the UK there is already an emphasis on embedding climate and sustainability learning in school curricula. Work now needs further coordination and support from government, including additional investment in staff development and the embedding of Net Zero in careers guidance.
  • Further education colleges. While many colleges are already providing some form of Net Zero training, current investment in Further Education in the UK appears to be badly out of step with that demanded by the magnitude and pace of the transition to Net Zero; funding should be reviewed.
  • Universities have a major role to play in providing the high-level education and training the workforce of the UK and other nations will need to accelerate the transition to Net Zero. Although most universities have committed to reducing emissions from their estates and activities, few have fully embedded Net Zero into their learning provision.
  • Coordination of the ‘wider skills and learning system’. Many employers are already working with colleges and other education providers to meet changing needs in a particular region or sector. Coordination of in-depth Net Zero skills assessments to inform action at local and regional scales, is, however, worryingly fragmented.
  • Apprenticeships. Apprenticeships have an important role to play, but a lack of flexibility in the Apprenticeship Levy may be hindering their effectiveness in meeting the demands of Net Zero.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said: “The UK has committed to Net Zero. The only question is whether the Government intends to get there in a way that benefits workers or leaves them behind.

“This is a unique moment to tailor our approach to skills and jobs, in the certainty of achieving the legal goal. A Net Zero workforce means secure employment for the future. This is an opportunity for the Government to bring real meaning to ‘levelling up’."

Professor Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management & Education, University of Edinburgh and Executive Director of ECCI said:

“Skills are fundamental to realising a fair and sustainable transition to Net Zero. They underpin climate action in every sector of our economy and in every part of the country." - Prof Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management & Education, University of Edinburgh and Executive Director of ECCI

"There’s lots of brilliant work going on to develop and deliver skills for Net Zero in our schools, colleges, universities, and in the wider education system, but it’s fragmented and lacking in terms of the coordination and investment needed to match the massive changes to skills provision that the Net Zero transition demands.

"I hope government will act on the recommendations of our Skills & Net Zero report and that the linked analytical briefing on the Net Zero workforce will help to inform climate policy and action at every level."

Climate Change Committee (CCC)

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. its purpose is to advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and to report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Policy leadership at ECCI

ECCI collaborates with governments, business and academics to help craft climate and energy policy and jointly manages ClimateXChange, Scotland's centre of expertise on climate change.

ECCI's Director, Prof Dave Reay, is also policy director of ClimateXChange, and chairs Scotland’s Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan (CESAP) steering group.