Areas hit hardest by job losses from decarbonising are missing out on levelling-up funding, the UK government has been warned.
According to a new report from the Royal Society for Arts (RSA), up to half of the places that will be hit hardest by the move to green jobs are not in the government’s top priority areas for levelling-up funding.
The study, which assessed the UK’s most polluting sectors, found that while some areas will be able to switch from industries such as fossil fuel production to greener ones, many risk being left behind.
The RSA called for a “Just Transition Fund” to better support areas impacted by decline in polluting jobs. This comes as a bid to avoid a decline in UK communities as seen in the Eighties, it said.
The fund would be modelled on the EU’s plan to support areas with declining, and highly polluting industry. The report's authors estimate that with the same approach this would cost the UK £1.36bn ($1.82bn), which is similar to the amount of the £1.7bn initially allocated by the government as part of its levelling-up fund.
It added that ministers should work with local authorities in these areas to pilot new transition services through the JobCentre Plus.
“These more end-to-end services should include data-driven insights about local labour markets, as well as career coaching and access to training opportunities or business start-up support to help workers find jobs in future industries,” that RSA said.
“These pilots should also include experiments with new approaches to welfare such as transitionary basic income.”
The key highly-polluting sectors highlighted in the research were fossil fuels and energy production, heavy industr,y such as steel production, and vehicle manufacturing.
Fossil fuels and energy production was found to be most concentrated in Aberdeen City, Stockport, Blaby, and Warwick.
Some of the areas with the highest concentration of jobs in these industries already have high renewable energy capacity but in other areas workers may lack sufficient opportunities to transition into green jobs.
But only 10 of the top 20 areas for employment in these industries have been labelled as “‘priority 1” for levelling-up.
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Port Talbot, North Lincolnshire, Clackmannshire, Amber Valley and Stoke-on-Trent have the highest concentration of jobs in heavy industries, which can be impacted by new technologies such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and low carbon hydrogen fuels.
As for vehicle manufacturing, Stratford-upon-Avon, Knowlsey, Sunderland, and Solihull have the highest concentration.
Fabian Wallace-Stephens, senior researcher at the RSA and report author, said: “Decarbonisation is essential and can lead to a better future for workers and communities — but only if the state takes an active role in shaping local labour markets through investment, skills training and better welfare support.
“But at present, many of the areas where the impacts will be most acutely felt are not in the priority categories for levelling-up funding. We need to make sure that decarbonisation policy and levelling-up policy work hand-in-hand to secure a better future for the most affected communities.”
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