Green Recovery: Growing the Economy, Employment, and The Environment

23 June, 2021

I want to start this article with some lyrics from the Beatles’ classic ‘Let it be’:

“And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be”

 

Right now, there are a lot of broken-hearted people, and even more who are parted from their loved ones, but we all know that there will be an answer to this situation and that we can get out of the pandemic stronger and more resilient. These lyrics give me hope.

 

In this article, I’ll be looking at SDG8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, paying special attention to the green recovery plans that some countries and unions have launched. I have five projects that I want to introduce to you, and I encourage you to go away and research them further.

 

UK – Green Industrial Revolution

In November 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the outline of his ten-point plan for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. Here are some of the key ideas:

  • 250,000 jobs to be created
  • Investment for clean energy, transport, nature, and innovation
  • £12bn in investment over the next 9 years
  • Quadrupling wind power to support every home
  • Increase low-carbon hydrogen production
  • More nuclear reactors
  • Better infrastructure for electric cars and more support for manufacturers
  • More research into low-carbon tech for planes and ships
  • Promoting public transport as a low-carbon travel method
  • Making homes and public buildings more energy-efficient
  • Becoming a world-leader in carbon capture technology
  • Protecting and restoring the natural environment
  • Making London the centre of green global finance

 

Let’s be honest, this is a pretty solid list, and if the ambition and investment meet the goals, it will certainly go a long way towards the progress that we need. Will it all just be hot air and imagination at the end of the day? Populism has a real knack for telling us what we want to hear. 

 

France and Switzerland – Roadmaps to Net Zero by 2050

France’s ‘National Low Carbon Strategy’ is less specific than the UK in terms of where it will target, but it does give a good overall indication of the direction they plan to move it. These are the key aims to reach carbon neutrality:

  • Energy production needs to be completely carbon-free by 2050
  • Reduce energy consumption by 50% in our daily lifestyles
  • Tackle key industries for carbon reduction, such as agriculture and the industrial industry
  • Safeguard forests and soil
  • Promote carbon capture and storage technologies
  • Working on trade agreements to incentivise sustainable products and methods

Switzerland’s ‘Long-Term Climate Strategy’ is also a roadmap to a net-zero future by 2050. The main points of their strategy are:

  • Take advantage of the opportunities presented by a systematic transition to net-zero, meaning to leverage the ideas and tech of other nations too
  • To take responsibility for its climate policy
  • Placing a priority on domestic emissions
  • Reducing emissions in all value chains
  • Find and enact the optimal usage potential of energy sources
  • Address and pursue net zero in all climate-relevant areas
  • To act in a socially acceptable and economically viable way
  • To improve environmental quality
  • To be open to all types of technology in this strategy

 

Next Generation EU

Detailing the Next Generation EU project would be very difficult, as it contains €750bn worth of projects, initiatives, ideas, and policies for the 27 member states. Instead, I’ve cherrypicked the highlights.

 

  • Push the circular economy to increase local jobs
  • Renovate buildings and infrastructure (using the circular economy principles)
  • Introduce more renewable energy, especially, wind, solar, and hydrogen
  • Cleaner transport – 1 million electric vehicle recharging points and cleaner rail travel
  • Investing in re-skilling to help close the skills gap
  • Developing internet connectivity to drive connectedness and opportunity
  • More AI, cybersecurity, supercomputing, and cloud technology
  • Building a real data economy for innovation and job creation
  • More support for workers and businesses
  • Digital skills development for all EU citizens

 

ASEAN Green Economic Recovery

Asia has been one of the worst-hit regions economically during Covid, with the 42% economic shrinkage of Singapore just one example. In other parts of Asia, where production is the main form of business and employment, the closing of factories and industries has had a drastic effect. One side effect of not being at work is the huge increase in domestic energy demand, which has led to increased load-shedding across the continent. To help citizens, almost all of Southeast Asia saw governments subsidise energy costs for individuals. 

 

Here’s what they plan to do next:

    • Increased connectivity
    • More supply chain efficiency
    • Human capital and mobility
    • Greater levels of renewable energy production
    • Design recovery packages that kill two birds with one stone, such as investing in net-zero emissions to create jobs and solve environmental problems
    • Invest in regional expertise and suppliers as opposed to looking west
    • Universal health and electricity access
    • Increasing transparency in business and governance
  • And sadly, increasing coal production

 

My opinion of the green recovery in 3 key points

  1. Robust and aligned
  2. Disruption to the financial side
  3. Driving future STEM skills now

 

When I look at these economic plans for recovery and how they try to align with net-zero and lower emissions, I ask several questions. Are these ideas robust enough to succeed? Do they cause enough disruption and financial change to avoid falling back into the ‘old ways’? Are we doing enough to help the next generation of professionals who have to live in the new world that lives at the end of the recovery plan?

 

The jobs we create have to align with the targets we are setting for ourselves. I keep saying this, and time and time again I wonder how many others see what I am seeing. Fishing and agriculture rely on global warming not exceeding a certain threshold, so if we don’t work on that, what’s the point in investing in sustainable fishing? 16 million jobs can be created by a circular economy, but how many of them are within industries that could collapse in the next decade? 

 

Stop the subsidies, start the disruption. Oil, gas, fishing, the industries all get massive payouts from the government to continue operating. Even their business model is clearly unsustainable. It’s time for a change.

 

Invest in the jobs that don’t exist yet. At what point will we realise that today’s students need to be taught sustainability and transferable skills. 10 years ago nobody dreamed of being a junior cryptographer, a digital marketing executive, or a social media consultant. Emerging technologies will come, and since we can’t teach exactly how to use them, we can teach the right mindset and digital skills to get there. The World Economic Forum predicts that 65% of children starting primary school now will work in jobs that don’t exist yet.

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