From the TUC

Carbon Diary: Jobs matter

23 Feb 2010, by in Environment

Which jobs are threatened by the transition to a low-carbon economy, and how can we ensure a ‘just transition’ that protects jobs and livelihoods in the process? A Carbon Trust briefing today shows that the problem of “carbon leakage” is small – perhaps 2% of our emissions. And it is capable of resolution with the right mix of interventions such as free emissions permits to sectors at risk, public/private investment, and a carbon “border tax” on imports.

But meanwhile, in America, eight leading Democrat Senators from coal and steel states are now warning that “imprudent regulation” of greenhouse gases “may squander critical opportunities for our nation, impeding the investment necessary to create jobs.”

Fear is a real barrier to progress. So, in the US, is a lack of trust in public institutions. As historian Tony Judt commented recently: “In the US today we have a discredited state and inadequate public resources”.

In Europe, several years into climate change policies, there has been no significant loss of jobs, investment and emissions to non-EU states. That doesn’t mean that core industries with high energy costs, manufacturing products traded on global markets, aren’t a matter of concern – steel, aluminium, ceramics. These sectors and their high quality employment count in any low carbon economy. But public institutions regulating the cap-and-trade system are capable of delivering environmentally progressive solutions backed by public resources to help drive low carbon investments.

In an age of insecurity, we worry about the lack of investment in new plant. Or what will happen to plant that is mothballed or working short-time when the recovery happens. It’s fertile ground for climate sceptics – the casual remarks that allow, say, a panelist (Ruth Lea) on last week’s BBC Question Time to associate the closure of the steel plant on Teesside with energy price rises driven by “government’s climate change policies”. Or for a Conservative MP on the Energy Bill Committee to throw in a comment that “scientific evidence is in some doubt.”

We beg to differ. The CT report is due to be published on their website in a few days’ time.