The need to reach net zero carbon emissions, and the green jobs that could be created in doing so, received scant attention in the government’s levelling-up strategy, an omission slammed by green campaigners and businesses.
The mention of “the green industrial revolution and transition to net zero” came second bottom of the list of 16 priorities in the levelling-up paper published on Wednesday, promising £26bn of capital investment, though green analysts said it was not clear if any of this was new money or how it would be spent.
The strategy did not include any commitment to insulate the UK’s draughty homes, despite the current energy price crisis, or to shift the UK away from its expensive reliance on imported gas.
Ed Matthew, campaigns director at the climate crisis thinktank E3G, 说: “As energy bills go through the roof due to the rocketing cost of gas, it is worth remembering that the most energy-leaking housing stock in western Europe is in the north of England. Fixing it would slash energy bills and emissions whilst boosting the economy of the north. Failing to put that at the heart of this levelling up strategy is a spectacular own goal.”
Renewable energy should also have played a greater role, argued Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology. ”[The paper] is a missed opportunity,“ 她说.
Pointing to Humberside, where investment in offshore wind has driven a resurgence of manufacturing jobs, Skorupska said it could be “replicated on a much wider scale” if ministers took action.
Cara Jenkinson, cities manager at the climate charity Ashden, 说: “We are really surprised and disappointed to see the absence of green skills and commitments connected to net zero.”
Economists have told the government since soon after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that a “green recovery” would create jobs, reduce long-term costs and put the UK on track to meet its carbon targets. They have urged for schemes such as home insulation; installing electric vehicle charging networks; constructing cycle lanes and pedestrian areas; planting trees; and building flood defences.
These projects would reduce energy consumption, cut emissions, help guard against the worst impacts of the climate crisis, and have health and social benefits, such as less air pollution and more liveable cities.
Ed Birkett, head of energy and environment at the thinktank Policy Exchange, said the paper dwelt on some of the risks to jobs from the shift away from high-carbon industries, but had much less to say about how to craft a green future. “It is surprising that the white paper makes very little mention of how the government will encourage green industries to locate in the UK, and specifically in the left-behind areas,“ 他说.
There were a few examples of green investment: the £1bn automotive transformation fund, for electric vehicle manufacturing and battery gigafactories; £160m for ports, to encourage the manufacture of offshore wind turbines; and £1bn for carbon capture and storage.
Some of the other funds could have a beneficial impact on the green recovery, such as £5bn for rural broadband, and transport funding amounting to £5.7bn in eight city regions – with £5bn for “buses and active travel” – and £96bn to be spent on the integrated rail plan.
然而, political opponents said the plans did not amount to a green recovery to level up the country and shift the UK to a low-carbon footing.
Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat climate and energy spokesperson, 说: “The silence from ministers on net zero and green jobs in their levelling up plans is deafening. Delivering a fair and just transition to net zero should be at the heart of the government’s levelling up agenda. Yet today we heard nothing on how to ensure that more deprived regions and communities do not shoulder the biggest burden.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP, 说: “A real plan to level up would be one that invested in the good green jobs of the future, with an ambitious Green New Deal to transform homes, 建筑物, local transport and energy supply, and a nature and net zero test for all infrastructure spending.”