Energy efficiency and the future for Green Jobs
Last week the TUC’s conference ‘Green Growth: no turning back’ had a really encouraging sense of ‘an idea whose time had come’ and that properly paid, low carbon jobs could not only tackle climate change but also help kick start the economy – indeed the green sector has been one of the few to show sustainable growth since the credit crunch.
There was some controversy over whether ever dearer nuclear power had a role in such a future, with one person from the floor (well all right it was me) suggesting that it was actually the high carbon option, since it would divert investment from renewables and the key low carbon option-energy efficiency.
Of course the other key factor in the kind of fundamental green transition called for by Frances O’Grady and other speakers at the conference was how to pay for the significant up front costs of such a systemic change in the UK’s buildings and infrastructure.
This was addressed at this week’s launch of the latest ShareAction report The Green Light Report: resilient portfolios in an uncertain world. The first salvo in a campaign of a coalition of groups brought together by ShareAction, including Unison, Unite and the University and College Union. Its purpose is to highlight the need for the pension industry to take a central role in funding the measures necessary to mitigate climate change.
This whole issue was taken into the heart of the present frenzied political debate about high energy prices by a group of the UK’s leading charities including Age UK, Barnardo’s, Consumer Futures, National Energy Action and the Energy Bill Revolution campaign. They called on the three main party leaders to step up efforts to improve the energy efficiency of fuel poor households, as the most effective means of tackling rising energy bills.
These encouraging events are playing out against a backdrop of rows about the price of energy and what should be done about it to help rebuild the economy that will continue to dominate politics this winter.
This was the central message of The Green New Deal group’s A National Plan for the UK – From Austerity to the Age of the Green New Deal [PDF] with its call for a £50 billion a year green infrastructure programme. This would make every building in the country energy efficient, and build hundreds of thousands of new, affordable and energy-efficient homes. Such a huge programme would provide a massive boost in economic activity, but in a way which provides jobs on a living wage in every community in the UK, whilst reducing our environmental impact.
One thing is certain, the winter after next, which will end just weeks away from the May election, will again see energy costs dominate public debate and so must play a central role in the run up to the next election. This is why it makes political sense for trades unionists to lobby hard for the key demands in the Green New Deal’s National Plan to become central to the party manifestos. Its positive message of new jobs and help to revitalise the economy should be a real vote winner for the party that gets it right.