New project to help ‘Red Wall’ achieve net zero launches

A cross-party commission has been launched today (5 January) to understand the challenges of helping less-prosperous regions to achieve net zero by 2050.

The Getting to Zero commission has been launched by the think tank Onward and will be jointly chaired by former environment secretary, Dame Caroline Spelman and former shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint.

It will spend the next nine months ahead of the COP26 climate change conference in November looking at three aspects of the net zero transition – how to decarbonise incumbent industries; how to retrain and upskill workers at risk of disruption; and how to create the regulatory and financial conditions for innovation.

The commission will use statistical research, polling and focus groups and engage a wide range of Whitehall departments, industries and campaigners.

It comes as Onward publishes a new report, which warns that almost half (43%) of workers in the Red Wall work in currently high-emitting industries, compared to 37% in the rest of the UK.

In total, the report estimates up to 10 million jobs are in industries that, to reach net zero by 2050, may need to be replaced or retrained.

According to the report, the UK’s least prosperous regions disproportionately rely on heavily emitting industries for jobs at present.

The East Midlands has the highest proportion of jobs in high emitting industries (42%), closely followed by the West Midlands (41%), Yorkshire and the Humber (38%), and the North West (38%).

In contrast, the report finds London and the South East have the lowest proportion of jobs in high emitting industries, with 23% and 34% respectively.

In total, more than half (52%) of high emitting jobs are located in the North, Midlands (19%) and Scotland (9%).

And the report notes that the more rural a constituency is, the more its local economy relies on high emitting jobs. Nearly half (48%) of the top decile of constituencies by high emitting jobs are classified as rural or towns, while just a quarter (25%) are in cities. In contrast, more than half (54%) of the seats least reliant on high emitting jobs are in cities, 44% are in towns and only 2% are rural.

‘Reducing carbon consumption to net zero is the socially responsible decision our generation has taken to help future generations; but we must make sure the impact of this does not aggravate existing inequalities in our country,’ said Dame Caroline Spelman.

‘This can only be done by enabling mitigation for those who will be hardest hit and taking advantage of the opportunities that are there to be grasped.’

And Ms Flint added: ‘The challenge of net zero is immense; the deadlines are rushing towards us. This requires faster decision making than we are used to in British politics, as we change our industries, our homes, how we get from place to place and the very energy we use. In cleaning up our act, no community should be left behind. They will all have to be part of the journey and share the benefits. I look forward to working with Dame Caroline Spelman and the wide range of contributors to the Getting to Zero project.’

Photo Credit – Free-Photos (Pixabay)

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Jamie Hailstone

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