Why we need green jobs for everyone

Author: Micke Ahola

In order to address the existential risk posed by climate change, we need to rapidly transform our economy. This means winding down high-carbon industries like fossil fuels and industrial agriculture, and investing in the growth of new ones like renewable energy and nature-friendly farming.

As a transformation to a low-carbon economy will require fundamental changes across industries, it is all the more important that the transformation is just. Any change in the economy has the potential to benefit or harm certain groups of people or individuals. This means care must be taken to make the green transition one that empowers people in precarious and low-paid jobs in existing industries, rather than imposing further hardship on them.

To carry out a just transition to a low-carbon economy, a Green Jobs Guarantee is needed to make the transformation both rapid and fair to the impacted people and communities. But what does it really involve - and is a Green Jobs Guarantee actually realistic?

What is the Green Jobs Guarantee?

The Green Jobs Guarantee means that every single person who wants a job in the green economy will be able to get one. To rapidly reduce emissions, increase production of renewables, and create a more just and caring economy, a vast amount of work is required. The NEF’s Green New Deal Declaration has identified a number of jobs that would be generated in this transition.

  • Upgrading every home in the UK to a good energy efficiency standard by 2030
  • Building boulevards, linear parks and new public and green spaces
  • Upgrading social infrastructure, such as care workers, nursing assistants and teaching assistants
  • A new fund should be set up to train workers while they are working, rather than waiting to support them while they are unemployed

Green jobs aren’t just jobs involved with the generation of wind energy or re-building nature areas, but all the jobs required to build a just, caring and green economy from social care work to insulating every home.

A social care working helping an older man with his balance.

How every job can be a little greener

While the Green Jobs Guarantee would make sure that every person will have access to secure, well-paid work in the low-carbon economy, the changes proposed by the Green New Deal don’t end there.

By rebalancing our work and leisure time, we can share out the work and live happier, healthier lives. A 4-day work week would reduce the UK’s carbon footprint by over 20% - the equivalent of taking over 20 million cars off the road - while at the same time giving us back time to spend with our families, hobbies and looking after ourselves.

With the extra day off, we would be able to spend time reconnecting with nature and learning how to live more sustainably. It would also give us a better chance to live a slower and more well-balanced life rather than resorting to carbon-intensive fast food, fast fashion and other forms of consumer culture that are easy to fall into in the little spare time we are provided by a five-day work week.

Is a Green Jobs Guarantee a realistic policy?

The New Economics Foundation estimates that to achieve a Green New Deal, the government would need to spend 2% of GDP in the short term, rising to 5% of GDP to deliver change at pace.

The UK government currently spends over 50% of GDP in public spending, so a Green New Deal could absolutely be made to fit into the government budget - there just needs to be the political willpower for it. Funding a Green New Deal could also be achieved partly by the government by winding down subsidies for high-carbon industries, and instituting charges such as a frequent-flyer tax on carbon-intensive activities like domestic flights.

A Green New Jobs guarantee will also provide a stimulus to the economy by boosting economic activity in deprived regions through the provisioning of well-paid and secure jobs. These jobs providing a secure paycheck will allow people to support their local businesses, helping rekindle a sense of community, and provide increased tax revenue to the government to fund more green investment.

How you can get involved

We need a Green New Deal and a Green Jobs Guarantee - but it’s going to take some work to get there. So get involved via a Green New Deal welcome call, reach out to your friends and family and talk to them about the Green New Deal, and keep an eye on here and your social media feeds for more upcoming events and opportunities.