By Mary-Ann Russon & Katie Prescott, Sept. 12: Up to 660,000 jobs could be at risk if the UK fails to reach its net-zero target as quickly as other nations, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has warned.
The government has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035. But the TUC fears many jobs could be moved offshore to countries offering superior green infrastructure and support for decarbonisation.
The union body is calling for an £85bn green recovery package to create 1.2 million green jobs. TUC research from June shows the UK is currently ranked second last among G7 economies for its investment in green infrastructure and jobs.
However, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says the TUC's claims are untrue and that it does not recognise their methodology.
The government is currently considering the recommendations of an independent report into the future of green jobs, a BEIS spokeswoman stressed.
"In recent months we've secured record investment in wind power, published a world-leading Hydrogen Strategy, pledged £1bn in funding to support the development of carbon capture and launched a landmark North Sea Transition Deal - the first G7 nation to do so - that will protect our environment, generate huge investment and create and support thousands of jobs," she added.
The TUC says steel industry jobs are at great risk are jobs because their manufacturing process is dependent on burning coal at high temperatures.
Other nations such as Sweden are already bringing to market new technologies that enable steel production without using coal.
In August, Hybrit, a joint venture between Swedish firms SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, made its first delivery of green steel using hydrogen from the electrolysis of water with renewable electricity, while another firm H2 Green Steel is planning to open a hydrogen plant in 2024.
SSAB has a partnership with Mercedes-Benz to introduce fossil-free steel into vehicle production as soon as possible. The German carmaker wants its entire car fleet to be carbon-neutral across the supply chain by 2039.
The TUC's analysis suggests the jobs at risk include:
- 26,900 jobs in iron and steel - 41,000 jobs in glass and ceramics - 63,200 jobs in chemicals - 18,000 jobs in textiles - 79,000 jobs in rubber and plastics - 15,500 jobs in paper, pulp and printing - 7,800 jobs in refineries - 7,400 jobs in wood products - 900 jobs in cement and lime
The UK's green recovery investment is currently a quarter of France, a fifth of Canada, and 6% of the US, it says.
According to TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, the clock is ticking for the UK: "Thatcher devastated Britain's industrial heartlands with the loss of industry and jobs. Boris Johnson is on the brink of doing more of the same."
She said that unless the government urgently scales up investment in green tech and industry, the UK could risk losing hundreds of thousands of jobs to competing nations.
Industry body the CBI agrees, although it thinks the UK has already "made excellent strides" in cutting emissions from the power sector.
"Now is the time to back up this progress with concrete policies and programmes," said the CBI's decarbonisation director Tom Thackray.
"CBI analysis suggests that spending in areas like electric vehicles and energy efficiency could create 250,000 net new jobs by 2030, but the window of opportunity to realise this is shrinking by the day."