Skills gap delays low-carbon plan

A report published by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee claims that low-carbon industries face a skills gap that could delay the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

MPs on the committee say that if the right investments are made now, the UK could create thousands of green jobs and become a world leader in the £3tn global market for green technologies.

Tim Yeo MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: ‘The government has missed a big opportunity to kick start a green-industrial revolution with its £3bn fiscal stimulus. Germany, the US, Japan and China have invested billions in their low-carbon industries, but only one sixth of the UK government’s fiscal-stimulus package was devoted to green industry.’

He added: ‘At the same time as cutting carbon emissions we could be boosting employment and putting UK firms at the forefront of the huge global market for green technologies.’

The government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan sets out how it aims to decarbonise the economy but it does not, according to the committee, provide industry with a clear enough sense of what needs to happen to jobs and skills.

Many of the key sectors essential for building a green economy in the UK are said to be lacking adequate support and still face planning, regulatory and infrastructure barriers that are holding them back.

According to evidence presented to the committee, one in three environmental firms is also facing a skills gap that could prevent the government from delivering its Low Carbon Transition Plan.

The UK has the potential to take a leading global role in a number of low-carbon sectors and creating a strong home market in offshore wind could ensure that UK companies are well placed to exploit export opportunities to other EU countries, or promising markets such as the US and China.

The committee is calling on the government to launch a ‘quick win’ street-by-street programme of energy-saving measures for households; provide industry with a clear and stable long-term policy framework to guide them through the low-carbon transition; and prioritise green skills under its new skills strategy.

Danny Stevens, policy director of trade body The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), said: ‘If the government fails to take heed of this advice it will become increasingly likely that the UK will have to make the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy using technologies supplied from abroad. This would be disastrous for our international competitiveness.’