Progressing the progress reports
The CCC has just published its 2022 Progress Report. It's overall verdict: current programmes will not deliver Net Zero. The Green Edge takes a closer look at the bits on workers and skills.
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has been writing its annual progress reports for the UK Parliament going all the way back to 2009. For the first 11 years it rarely, if ever, mentioned skills for the low-carbon economy. It did seem to wake up a little, though, during the pandemic and its 2020 Progress Report included this recommendation to DfE:
Working with DWP, BEIS and the Home Office, develop a strategy for a Net-Zero workforce that ensures a ‘just transition’ for workers transitioning from high-carbon to low-carbon and climate resilient jobs, integrates relevant skills into the UK's education framework and actively monitors the risks and opportunities arising from the transition. This strategy should include the development and roll-out of plans for training and skills, with buildings and manufacturing being priority areas.
Perhaps to make sure DfE was listening, the CCC then repeated the recommendation in its 2021 Progress Report, with the only exception being to bring Levelling-up into the party.
One result, in part at least, of the CCC’s repeated proddings may have been DfE’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, drafted in November 2021 and firmed up in April 2022. But the CCC does appear to still feel the need to keep DfE’s eye on the green ball in some areas, as indicated by its recommendations in this year’s Progress Report.
Source: Climate Change Committee
The ‘one risk’, by the way, referred to in the last recommendation in the table above, is a joint one between DfE and MoJ to assess risks to education and prison services, with a particular priority on health impacts from heat and cold. So, on the face of it, DfE seems to get off rather lightly from the CCC. Get its own net-zero house in order, make sure its buildings are up to scratch and see that its little darlings are neither too hot nor too cold. Costly of course, but all pretty straightforward…
…but wait, there’s more.
In the 2022 progress report, the subject of workers and skills gets a whole section to itself (see pps. 466-471). The CCC even states its intent “to publish a report in the next year that will include an assessment of skill needs and policy recommendations to ensure workers and skills can help deliver Net Zero1”.
Helpfully, since 2021, the CCC has included summary annotations alongside the mountains of text it produces in these reports. Very useful in helping we mere mortals to absorb the key messages. In the workers and skills section of the 2022 report, we find one such annotation that tells us “[a] stronger evidence base is needed to inform policy, notably potential changes to the Standard Occupational Classification [SOC]”. The Green Edge agrees and suggests that, if implemented, the ONS might also consider in these changes a degree of alignment with the SOC used by O*NET, should O*NET be adopted as the standard skills taxonomy by the Unit for Future Skills (see our recent post on this subject).
Picking up the messages
Continuing in the Workers and Skills section of the current progress report, the CCC sends key messages to the UK Government around clarifying policies, building evidence and a net zero action plan, defining responsibilities at central and local levels, and providing sustained funding. The Green Edge agrees. We also picked up these key points:
Gaps remain in the policies that will support workers during the transition.
The CCC does recognise that current policies are making progress but says “more will need to be done to build a workforce that can meet the pace and scale of Net Zero.” We agree and would add that we see a need for greater co-ordination of the national and sectoral targets of green jobs.
Even though the transition to Net Zero could add jobs overall, the impact on workers will be felt differently across the UK.
You think so, Sherlock? To be fair though, the report does go on to give some good context: a new nuclear plant or closing down an oilfield can impact - positively or negatively - entire communities, while retrofitting heat pumps and a shrinking need for vehicle maintenance affect workers across the UK. It concludes: “regional considerations, and, in particular, whether job losses are likely to be sudden and localised, should inform the role of Government in managing the impacts of the transition”.
Defining responsibilities is key: the CCC notes “it is not yet clear who will be responsible for driving opportunities for low-carbon job creation and for supporting workers at risk - particularly in sectors where the transition might be sudden and localised”. Again, we agree: we have mapped over 70 bodies and organisations (mostly public) that shape the green skills agenda, policy and its delivery. Developing clarity at local levels, with its patchwork of LEPs and City Regions, is critical to making progress.
A stronger evidence base is needed to inform policy.
The CCC notes that “evidence is patchy on sectoral impacts, skills requirements and issues such as job quality”. Of course, the new Unit for Future Skills can help here, along with the various skills foresighting exercises being driven by the Catapult network. But, our recent analysis of the Skills Advisory Panel reports revealed the local variances in use of labour market information. We found few local authorities have the capacity to make full use of raw employment and occupational data, even when assisted by datasets like LMI4All or EMSI/Burning Glass.
And pragmatic analysis of evidence is critical. Just take one number from the UK Government’s targets: 40 gigawatts of additional wind power by 2030. According to the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), this translates to 69,000 new people. A fairly high percentage of these will be engineers – of which there are well-publicised shortages. According to EngineeringUK, perhaps somewhere between 37,000 and 59,000. And that’s before complying with the agreed levels of diversity committed to by the offshore industry.
Another though: perhaps the next Employers’ Skills Survey should include a section dedicated to green jobs and skills.
Spreading the word
In The Green Edge’s opinion, the CCC is definitely going in the right direction. As they’ve progressed, the progress reports have become more detailed and covered more sectors. They give the UK an annual process that audits policies, exposes gaps, and assesses likelihoods of delivery.
But we’re slightly perplexed that neither the work of the Green Jobs Taskforce, nor the appearance of its successor the Green Jobs Delivery Group, are mentioned in the current report. Perhaps this is a function of the CCC’s concern over the lack of clarity as to which body has responsibility for what when it comes to green skills and green jobs. It does, though, make specific recommendations for most Government departments and several other agencies. The Green Jobs Delivery Group might do well to look at these as it begins its work. We certainly hope it will.
Planning the transition
Meanwhile, for corporations, the Government is moving towards making the publication of transition plans mandatory, with the aim of “increas[ing] transparency and accountability about the actions firms are planning to take to align with the UK’s economy-wide transition to net zero”. According to HM Gov, transition plans should set out high-level climate mitigation targets, interim milestones, and actionable steps. All good stuff, although the Government may wish to take a look at a recent CCC report that looked at the extent to which underlying standards cover the skills and training elements of a full transition plan.
Source: Ricardo Energy and Environment for CCC
The CCC is naturally taking an increasing interest in transition plans for net zero. The critical point we’d make here is that this approach not only drives individual corporate changes, but also - and equally importantly - changes up and down their supply chains. Mandatory transition plans will have a ripple effect over the next few years. Viewing this alongside movements such as B-Corp and Future-Fit, we look forward to a time when millions of people are actively redefining how they do their jobs, working every day to achieve net zero.
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…although, disappointingly, in a personal communication from the CCC, The Green Edge has been informed that this report has been delayed and re-scheduled.