Prospect pushes importance of green recovery at TUC Congress

Prospect pushes importance of green recovery at TUC Congress

Sue Ferns, Prospect senior deputy general, gave the following remarks at TUC Congress 2020 on Tuesday, 15 September.

Sue Ferns

I would like to emphasise the importance of a green recovery and making a reality of the government’s here today, gone tomorrow slogan, ‘Building back better’. Right now we are way off track.

But what environmental and economic crises have in common is the high cost they exact on welfare and well-being. So this matters to all of us.

What do we need?

First, the government should publish the long-delayed Energy White Paper, setting out the roadmap to net zero carbon for the whole economy. 

Second, and alongside this, we need to develop a real green industrial strategy for the UK, funded by direct public investment.

Climate science drives the urgent need for change, but it will be delivered largely through engineering and technology-based solutions – some of which are still at a relatively early stage of development. Public investment – including to reverse the decline in R&D spending - will be cheaper, fairer and faster to deliver.

Third, we must be clear that investment in kit, needed as it is, will not deliver a green future without parallel investment in skills. There are hard lessons to be learned from renewables, where growth in generation, a great success story, has actually coincided with a fall in the number of UK jobs in the sector. Direct employment in renewables is now 21% lower than it was in 2014.

The energy sector as a whole needs to recruit 400,000 roles over the next 30 years in order to achieve net zero, and 30%% of these will be needed in the next decade.

This is a fantastic opportunity to provide good quality jobs for young people who so desperately need them; to at long last improve workforce diversity; and to implement sectoral just transition programmes to protect the workers who will be most directly impacted.

None of this will – or should – be achieved without properly involving workers, and their unions, in the process of change. The TUC’s new report on ’Voice and Place’ clearly shows the value of our members’ knowledge and experience across industries, nations and regions of the UK.

The tragedy is that right now these voices are not being heard and lessons are not being learned.

We know what we need to do, and it simply cannot wait.