We’ve campaigned about the national and global climate crisis, now we also need to focus on Birmingham – what is the local data and analysis, and what is our local strategy and plan of action?

The most detailed local forecasts I’ve found are in Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery, a report by the Local Government Association, April 2021. [1]

Estimated total number of direct jobs in low-carbon and renewable energy sector in the West Midlands by 2030, 58,164. And by 2050, 97,015.

Estimated jobs in Birmingham 2030:

Low-carbon electricity 718

Low-carbon heat 2,890

Alternative fuels 409

Energy Efficiency 2,643

Low-carbon services 1,659

Low emission vehicles & infrastructure 1,557

TOTAL 9,876

Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery, a different report (but with the same title) for the the Local Government Association by Ecuity Consulting for the LGA in  June 2021, is based on net zero by 2050 not 2030, but it still recognises that ‘The pace of change in the UK economy will need to quicken if net zero is to be achieved by 2050. [2] Even with a target of 2050:

This research found that there could be as many as 694,000 direct jobs employed in the low-carbon and renewable energy economy by 2030 in England, rising to over 1.18 million by 2050.

  • Nearly half (46%) of the total low-carbon jobs by 2030 will be in clean electricity generation and providing low-carbon heat for homes and businesses. These jobs will range from manufacturing wind turbines, deploying solar PV, constructing nuclear reactors, installing heat pumps and maintaining energy-system infrastructure.
  • Over one-fifth (21%) of jobs by 2030 will be involved in installing energy efficiency products ranging from insulation, lighting and control systems.
  • Around 19% of jobs in 2030 will be involved in providing low-carbon services (financial, legal and IT) and producing alternative fuels such as bioenergy and hydrogen.
  • A further 14% of jobs will be directly involved in manufacturing low-emission vehicles and the associated infrastructure. These jobs will range from manufacturing electric vehicles (and hydrogen vehicles), manufacturing EV batteries from the proliferation of gigafactories in England and sustaining low-carbon mobility by installing electric vehicle charge-points and hydrogen refuelling stations.

Between 2030 and 2050, the low-carbon workforce in England could increase by a further 488,569 taking the total level of jobs to over 1.18 million by 2050. (p8)

This will transform much of the Birmingham economy. But where will workers in Birmingham get the right knowledge and skills for these jobs?

Of course much of the funding for training – though not nearly enough – will come from Government, and from the private sector if they think it’s profitable enough. But, as the Ecuity report for the LGA says:

A pipeline of skills to support a low carbon economy

Local authorities also have a role to play in identifying and drawing down funding for skills and training from a variety of sources to support the local economy. These include existing European funding, its successor UK Shared Prosperity Fund, other national initiatives and programmes as well as securing private investment. It is crucial that they can identify how these funds can be maximised locally to support the creation of new jobs and develop a pipeline of skills locally. Funding is limited and uncoordinated however, which has been cited by local authority stakeholders as a key challenge today. Local authorities are place shapers and bring together a wide range of stakeholders (including between industry and further education institutions) within their areas. This can ensure that local areas take an integrated and forward-looking approach to skills and training within the low-carbon sector. By playing this role, local authorities can provide certainty to the supply chain and other stakeholders to take the lead on activities that have been traditionally demand-led in their approach to allocating resources. This type of activity also enables local authorities to build their own internal understanding of the opportunities within the sector to inform low-carbon strategies. (p25)

Friends of the Earth raise important questions about ‘The problem: the green skills shortage’ in An Emergency Plan on Green Jobs for Young People, March 2021: [3]

If the necessary pace of decarbonisation is to be delivered, then demand for green skills over the coming 15 years will be significantly higher than most studies expect.

  • Current skills shortages – i.e. whether under “business as usual”, employers already struggle to fill vacancies

  • Whether significant retraining is needed for current workforces to meet decarbonisation needs

  • Whether major updates are needed to qualification standards to meet decarbonisation needs

  • Green skills shortages – whether decarbonisation needs dictate a significantly expanded skilled workforce. (p17)

And

The climate transition will require shifts in working practices – and therefore some retraining – across all manner of services occupations, from health through to town planning, and catering through to care work.

The Friends of the Earth report An Emergency Plan on Green Jobs for Young People has a detailed set of urgently-needed policies for new green jobs for young people aged 16-24, many of whom are out of work, especially those from poorer backgrounds. Birmingham Council be campaigning for the Government to implement them, and should itself be putting them into practice now in Birmingham. As FoE says:

Providing young people with green jobs is one of the means of addressing youth unemployment. After all, the climate and ecological emergency will mostly harm young people and future generations as it unfolds, so addressing both these emergencies together is a win-win for young people.

But where will they get the training in these new green jobs? What courses in the various low-carbon sectors are available? Where are they? What are the entry qualifications and what qualifications do they lead to? How much do they cost? And when do they start? I cannot find this most basic information in any of the material published by either the City Council or the WMCA. WE need to find out.

What is Birmingham City Council doing?

The Council’s priority plan for green jobs is the East Birmingham Inclusive Growth Strategy (EBIGS), covering a population of about 230,000 stretching from Castle Bromwhich down through Shard End and Washwood Heath to Yardley and including many of the most socially deprived areas of Birmingham. It has a new governance structure, the East Birmingham Board, chaired by Liam Byrne MP and Cllr Ian Ward.

I have written a detailed analysis of and response to EBIGS – see the long and short versions on the Birmingham Against the Cuts website. [4]

At the City Council meeting on 11 January the main item was the Route to Zero – Annual Progress Report (a 50 page report on its climate emergency strategy). Much of it was about East Birmingham:.

8 Housing Retrofit 

8.1 Funding secured and planning permission gained for 36 new-build homes trialling innovative energy efficiency technologies.

8.2 Work is underway to progress an Energiesprong retrofit pilot which will initially retrofit 300 homes with a view to being able to scale this up across the city’s own stock. Energiesprong is a revolutionary, whole house refurbishment and new build standard and funding approach. This will form part of a Net Zero Neighbourhood for East Birmingham. BCC has taken Levelling Up proposals to Government (24th November 2021) which include delivering a net zero proposal, seeking funding for two specific aims, which are; accelerating the development of net zero neighbourhoods and establishing a national centre for decarbonisation of heat at Tyseley.

That is a campaign we should begin now: for the Council to set up its own in-house Retrofit organisation, in association with trade unions and local communities, saving money instead of paying private contractors’ profits.

Some ideas for other campaigns in Birmingham, for Birmingham

The Council’s R20 Progress Report also included ‘Creating a total waste strategy, including energy from waste’. Good – but we say: not by burning it in the Tyseley Incinerator (also in East Birmingham). There is already a campaign against renewing the contract with Veolia – let’s throw our full weight behind it to get it closed down.

 Another key issue is Transport. A public campaign in Manchester recently succeeded in getting the Mayor of Greater Manchester to take back control of the bus franchise, which can improve service and lower fares. We should do what the same – a public campaign aimed at Andy Street and the WMCA. But we should take it further – take back the franchise as a step toward Fare Free Public Transport in the West Midlands.

An effective climate campaign in Birmingham and the West Midlands has to go beyond a combination of protest events and demands on Government. Of course it has to do those things, but it has to couple them to a set of systematic strategic policies and actions for change here in Birmingham. That includes:

  • developing and sharing an analysis of the local economy and its development;
  • an analysis of what the Council and WMCA are saying and doing, and sorting out what we support, what needs strengthening, what needs challenging and opposing, and what our alternatives are;
  • and developing our shared understanding of what the unions are doing locally on climate issues, and working with them where we can.

It is through this threefold combination that we can build an effective broad ongoing local climate movement.

Richard Hatcher

30 January 2022

Richard.Hatcher@bcu.ac.uk

References

  1. Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery, by the LGA.

https://lginform.local.gov.uk/reports/view/lga-research/estimated-total-number-of-direct-jobs-in-low-carbon-and-renewable-energy-sector?mod-area=E09000006&mod-group=AllBoroughInRegion_London&mod-type=namedComparisonGroup

  1. Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery, by Ecuity Consulting for the LGA.

https://gemserv.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Local-green-jobs-accelerating-a-sustainable-economic-recovery_final-1.pdf

  1. An Emergency Plan on Green Jobs for Young People. https://policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/download/green-jobs-report-emergency-plan-green-jobs-young-people
  2. The ‘East Birmingham Inclusive Growth Strategy’, 3 January 2022.

https://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/2022/01/03/the-east-birmingham-inclusive-growth-strategy/

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