Lord Smith backs expansion of low-carbon jobs

Lord Smith, Environment Agency chairman, has called for the training of more engineers and scientists to help Britain meet its carbon-reduction targets in the next 20 years.

In a speech at the agency’s annual conference, he said the UK needed to lead a Green New Deal by creating low-carbon jobs and technology, irrespective of agreements on world emission targets set at Copenhagen.

‘We have to be realistic about Copenhagen,’ he said. ‘It won’t solve all the issues. We have therefore to see it as the crucial start to a process, not the end. We need an agreement of principles and commitments that will at least give us a chance of beating the worst that climate change will bring.’

As part of the proposals, Smith outlined a ‘Climate Challenge Fund’ that would work to coordinate and prioritise low-carbon research. The fund would be financed from match funding through business, with universities and government jointly matching corporate investment.

According to Smith this fund will be vital for achieving carbon-free energy production, greener transport, high-speed rail links across the UK and into Europe and energy-efficient buildings. He also suggested a global cap-and-trade scheme and personal carbon allowance for individuals.

‘Cap and trade is important, but it’s not the only show in town,’ he said. ‘Much else needs to be agreed, such as flows of funds and technology from developed to developing nations, action to tackle other greenhouse gases and international research to find new ways of producing energy, running transport and dealing with waste. If we’re serious about a low-carbon economy, we will need more scientists and more engineers.’

Reacting to Lord Smith’s comments Matthew Knowles, spokesman for ADS, the UK’s aerospace, defence and security trade organisation, said: ‘Our engineers and expertise are making a positive impact in exactly the way Lord Smith describes.

‘We welcome his support, despite his previous opposition to airport expansion. This vital increase in business from airport expansion funds the investment in research and development that is required to make this technological progress.’