With unemployment on the rise, the economy in tatters and time running out to take effective action against climate change, the creation of more green jobs at the heart of a strong, green economy will provide a solution for challenges that all adversely affect young people. That’s why here at the UK Youth Climate Coalition, we’ve been calling for more green jobs for young people for the past year, as part of our Youth for Green Jobs campaign.
We launched Youth for Green Jobs on Spring Budget day 2012. George Osborne’s budget offered little to fix both the unemployment problem, especially among young people, and the threat posed by climate change, the effects of which young people will have to face throughout their lives. Our campaign for the government to invest in more green jobs for young people offered a solution to both problems, demanding concrete building blocks for a clean, fair future.
A year on, the Treasury’s stagnant story hasn’t changed – unemployment has risen for the first time in twelve months to over 2.5 million and he’s still declaring his love for the gas industry through tax breaks (to paraphrase Friends of the Earth, “there isn’t much green in that red box”) – but our story has been much more dynamic, engaging young people and working with partners across civil society to help make the definitions and possibilities of the green economy their own.
Green jobs come in all forms, but at their core they contribute to a more sustainable society. Green jobs can be directly linked to the environment, such as manufacturing or installing environmental technology, or can simply mean ‘greening up’ already existing jobs. Green jobs encourage the sharing of skills and the maintenance of a fair living wage.
Throughout the campaign, UKYCC activists raised awareness of what Green Jobs are through outreach activities in schools and through online communications. Young perspectives provide valuable input in helping shape the green economy, and we facilitated these voices by delivering workshops to empower young people to campaign for Green Jobs in their local communities and nationally.
Joining in with the One Million Climate jobs climate caravan, UKYCC members toured the country last summer to meet local groups calling for more green jobs. Adapting Candy Chang’s ‘Before I Die’ series, we ran ‘I want to be’ installations in schools, an Envision award ceremony for young changemakers and Greenbelt festival to engage young people in aspirational conversations about their future. These fun, creative and inclusive actions raised awareness, empowered and mobilised young people to participate in environmental and social justice campaigning and build a political mandate for more ambitious Green Jobs-related policies and legislation.
As a result, in March youth up and down the country took part in the ‘Youth for Green Jobs Day of Action’. In seven cities across the nation, youth not only called on their leaders to invest in Green Jobs but went out into their local area to educate and mobilise their communities. Continuing to strengthen meaningful alliances with other organisations and individuals also working on Green Jobs, the Day of Action united campaigners across the country behind a call for politicians to look beyond political rifts and do what’s right for our economy, our environment and young people today and for generations to come.
As an extension of this, UKYCC campaigners lobbied politicians to create the policies and laws necessary to make green industries flourish, create Green Jobs and provide the training and education necessary for young people to access these jobs. We sat on a panel with Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to promote the importance of green jobs, and worked with our friends from the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition to lobby MPs to vote for a Green Jobs amendment in this month’s Energy Bill. After submitting evidence to the Public Bill Committee, we engaged young people in campaigning on this issue through an online petition and video as the 2030 de-carbonisation target for the UK’s electricity sector would have helped catalyse investment in the renewable energy sector, creating Green Jobs and helping to prevent dangerous climate change.
Tabled by Tory MP Tim Yeo, the amendment was defeated by 290 votes to 267. This is one of the tightest victories for the government in this parliament – and suggests that at least some politicians are able to look beyond short term political cycles (the vote was largely backed by Labour, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party). The Committee on Climate Change, the statutory body that advises the Government on climate policy, states the UK would benefit from cleaner and cheaper energy if large scale investment in renewable energy begins now. This is the kind of longer-term political thinking and action we need to create a clean power system that safeguards the climate for future generations.
But the amendment’s defeat is symptomatic of broader trends within the government’s green agenda – a toxic Treasury and Coalition in-fighting. Led by George Osborne, the Treasury is currently pursuing a dangerous dash for gas, with 40 new gas-fired power stations in the pipeline. Osborne, along with other climate sceptics in the Tory party, opposes the de-carbonisation target and a large-scale renewables switch. Claiming that gas is cheaper, the Chancellor and his entourage know that without a de-carbonisation target green investors will remain wary amount the government’s commitment to renewable energy and hold back from pouring their pennies into the sector.
The Bill will now pass through to the House of Lords. There is cautious optimism that the House could pass the amendment to include a de-carbonisation target. Watch Youth for Green Jobs as well as our partners at Stop Climate Chaos Coalition for how to get involved with the next stages.
Wherever our elected representatives may fall on the political spectrum, the Energy Bill highlights the need to put young people and future generations at the heart of climate policy. This means creating Green Job opportunities for young people in the short term. The green economy already employs nearly a million people; this is promising for a generation out of work. But it also requires politicians to have foresight, and to look towards the energy system and climate that their children and grandchildren will inherit. We want and need policy to create the foundations for a clean and fair energy system. And to do this we need a critical mass of politicians that listen to both the science and young people.
This blog is part of a series on green jobs. To read the other articles, click here.
Featured Image Credit: Green Jobs Now