Building our green economic future together
It has long been argued that the Greens and the trade union movement have little in common: but I think the opposite is the case. Both movements are about creating a fairer society, more decent jobs where workers are treated with respect, making life easier for all of us – and solving global crises as we do so.
We face multiple crises in the world today: climate change, spiraling personal debt, rising unemployment and falling wages, mass cuts to public budgets – especially those for health and social care and benefits, growing inequality and poverty, to name just a few.
Of course, these are crises for everyone – and the solutions are, often, the same: a move towards a Green economy.
Take climate change, for example: the scientists are clear – we simply must reduce global greenhouse gas emissions if we are to reduce the risks and impact of runaway climate chaos.
But, crucially: that doesn’t mean doing less – it means doing different.
We’ll need a massive effort to insulate all our homes, for example, in order to reduce the amount of energy we spend heating them in winter and cooling them in summer.
We’ll need to build and maintain all the necessary renewable infrastructure for renewable energy generation.
We’ll need to redeploy all the engineers currently working in the fossil fuel industries to make this happen.
We’ll need to create jobs for teachers and lecturers to give our workers the skills they’ll need – and all these will have to be decent jobs, with decent pay and conditions to ensure our newly-trained workforce feels secure enough to continue working in the green energy industry when alternatives present themselves.
Already the low carbon sector provides about 165,000 jobs – and is worth just short of £30bn a year – in London alone: it could be much bigger, with the right combination of investment and political will.
And that’s just the domestic energy sector. There are, of course, many more sectors of the economy, where similar arguments work: agriculture, for example, or transport: where a shift to a more ‘green’ way of doing things could create thousands of decent jobs – and tackle global, political, crises. Providing a win-win, in other words.
But this argument is all-too infrequently made by some trade unionists. Of course, that’s changing, thanks to the work of the Climate Change Trade Union Network, and the Green Party Trade Union Group and others. The Trade Union Congress itself has excellent policies and positions on climate change, and the opportunities that tackling it presents to its members.
It’s to try and change this narrative that I’m hosting an event today – ‘Building Our Green Economic Future’ – to bring together greens, trade unionists, policy-makers and employers.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, EU Commissioner Laszlo Andor – and Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group (which describes itself as ‘an alliance of leaders from business, politics and society that drives action for a sustainable economy’) will be outlining some of the shared challenges we face, and their will be sessions of how best to work together to meet them, and the skills workers in various relevant economic sectors will need.
A truly sustainable economic recovery will only be possible with investment in key industries, new skills and new jobs – and that will only happen with the support and active engagement of trade unionists, employers and policy-makers. I hope today’s event can play a significant role in making that happen.