How healthy is the UK’s green hiring agenda in 2022?

Featured, Strategy, Resourcing

The United Kingdom remains a driving force behind global green initiatives. But how far ahead is the UK in preparing its green workforce of tomorrow?

The United Kingdom is playing a leading role in the global race to net-zero. As the host of COP26, the UK helped to facilitate another raft of agreements aimed at limiting the effects of climate change.

Arguably the most impressive and impactful was the announcement of a $130trn private finance package to aid the transition to a net-zero economy. Other COP26 achievements included the requirement for all listed companies in the UK to produce net-zero transition plans by 2023.

Domestically, the green agenda has enjoyed much renewed focus. In 2020, the UK Government established the Green Jobs Taskforce, a multi-faceted group of trade bodies, NGOs, education providers and employers within low-carbon industries.

Meanwhile, the Government’s British energy security strategy will also have a significant effect on job creation, while fuelling the need for increased green skilling.

Net Zero Strategy & Green Jobs Taskforce Report

The UK Government published two key reports in 2021. These outlined its strategy and commitment to creating green jobs in line with meeting climate change targets.

The Net Zero Strategy (‘Build Back Greener’) is a 10-point action plan for a green industrial revolution. It’s designed to support the UK’s ambitions to be at the forefront of the green economy and includes:

  • The UK’s commitment to decarbonisation pathways to net zero by 2050, including illustrative scenarios.
  • Policies and proposals to reduce emissions for each sector.
  • Cross-group action to support the green transition.

Underpinning the Net Zero Strategy was the work conducted by the Green Jobs Taskforce and report which followed. The Taskforce was made up of 17 individuals “from diverse backgrounds in industry, academia, unions and the education and skills sector.” The recommendations from their independent report covered how government, industry and the education sector can collaborate and support the UK in its transition to net zero.

With specific regards to ‘green jobs’ and the hiring outlook, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes two key annual bulletins.The ‘Low carbon and renewable energy economy (LCREE) estimates’ and ‘Environmental goods and services sector (EGSS) estimates’ provide green jobs data and plot other variables, including turnover and business investment (LCREE) and output, gross value added and exports (EGSS).

Mixed picture in the low-carbon and renewable energy economy

The ONS’ latest LCREE report (published in February 2022) paints a mixed picture of the UK’s efforts to boost the green transition.

Since 2014, there has been little significant uptick in the number of people employed in low-carbon and renewable jobs. While the heightened focus on green jobs is welcome, it’s clear there is still much to do in order to meet 2030 targets and beyond.

The LCREE survey covers employment in 17 sectors relating to low-carbon and renewable energy, including nuclear power generation, renewable power generation, energy flexibility, energy efficiency and electric vehicles (EVs).

UK green jobs target (1)

Source: Office for National Statistics, Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Economy Survey

Investment boom and attractiveness

The UK is the world’s third largest market for cleantech investment, according to PwC UK’s Net Zero Future50 report.

Only the United States and China can better the £6.5bn received by the UK, which in turn is more than any other European nation.

Indeed, increased levels of funding are part of a much bigger global trend. Analysts at Edie.net reported that the global climate VC tech market grew from £315.5m in 2013 to more than £24bn in 2021.

This hot market has been the subject of much analysis and debate. The 2021 UK Attractiveness Survey, conducted by EY, also reveals the extent of investment activity. According to their research, the UK attracted 59 cleantech projects in 2020, representing 17.1% of the European total.

"In the long term, the key challenge for the UK will be to ensure it is a location for designing and building clean technology, not just deploying it." - Peter Arnold, EY UK Chief Economist

The UK has ambitious targets to create two million green jobs by 2030. If achieved, this would represent a tenfold increase on the current 225,000 jobs in the UK’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy.

Reports such as PwC UK’s Green Jobs Barometer further highlight the progress that needs to be made.

Currently, only 1.2% of jobs advertised are green, equating to 124,600 jobs in 12 months.

Scotland is the top ranked region and best-placed to capitalise on the opportunity that exists. The North-West is next in terms of green jobs share, however the region ranks 11th out of 12 for the number of additional jobs created.

The Green Jobs Barometer also casts a spotlight on other regional factors and their influence on the nationwide outlook.

Northern Ireland has the highest emissions per employee (13.6 tonnes) while the South West is consistently the best performer across each of PwC’s five pillars.

UK green landscape (1)

Source: EY 2021 UK Attractiveness Survey

Creating the green workforce

However, while climate technology breakthroughs are welcome, the Net Zero Future50 report does contain words of caution.

There is a noticeable disparity in funding between different sectors. For example, money coming into low-GHG aviation and shipping is significantly less than electric vehicles (EV). And while EVs continue to receive investment and attention, the transport sector is still far from fully decarbonised.

Further investment across all sectors is still needed and the political and economic will needs to remain strong to fully implement new technologies at speed and scale.

UK green transition (1)Source: PwC UK, Green Jobs Barometer

"Left unchecked, green employment will grow in the most fertile spots, but not necessarily where they’re needed most. Our research indicates where support and investment needs to be targeted." - Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC UK

This is a chapter excerpt taken from ‘A Global Update on the State of Green Hiring – 2022 edition’.

Get the guide and learn more about the pace of change and how we can enable a just transition to a greener future. 

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