Prime minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution falls far short of what is needed to create enough jobs for a successful post-pandemic economy and tackle a growing climate emergency, Unite has said.
On Wednesday (November 18) Johnson unveiled his 10-point plan after a week of damaging Tory in-fighting that saw his controversial adviser Dominic Cummings quit. The plan, worth £12bn – of which only less than third is new money – includes some new investment in hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and electric vehicle infrastructure.
One of the main points in the plan and one which was already previously announced, is ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, bringing the cut-off forward by a decade. The government will facilitate this aim by investing £2.8bn in charging points and grants for low-emission vehicles – but again, half of the funds had already been announced before.
Another previously announced pledge included in today’s plan is to quadruple the UK’s offshore wind power within a decade.
‘Up to £500m’ will be invested in hydrogen, with the government setting a target of 5 giga-watts of low-carbon hydrogen capacity within a decade. Johnson pledged that by 2030, there will be a town entirely powered by hydrogen.
Other pledges in the plan include investment of £525m in new nuclear power and £1bn in funds allocated next year to insulate homes and public buildings by employing an already existing green homes grant and public sector decarbonisation scheme.
An extra £200m will be invested in carbon capture and storage, and 30,000 trees will be planted every year to promote conservation efforts. The plan also committed to promoting public transport, walking and cycling, but no details on any new schemes were announced.
As the Financial Times highlighted, the largest portion of the £12bn investment — £5b in flood and coastal defences – was already announced earlier this year.
Critics said the 10-point plan was little more than a publicity stunt, given how little new money was announced today – the Labour party estimates that the plan comprised only about £4bn in new funding.
‘Scant on detail’
“The funding in the Government’s long-awaited 10-point plan doesn’t remotely meet the scale of what’s needed to tackle the unemployment emergency and climate emergency we are facing, and pales in comparison to the tens of billions committed by France and Germany,” said shadow business secretary Ed Miliband.
“Only a fraction of the funding announced today is new. We don’t need rebadged funding pots and reheated pledges, but an ambitious plan that meets the scale of the task we are facing and – crucially – creates jobs now,” he added.
Johnson said the 10-point plan will create 250,000 new jobs, which falls far short of the 400,000 jobs that Labour’s green strategy, announced earlier this month, called for. Labour’s plan would involve the government putting forward £30bn over the next 18 months in planned capital investment and setting aside dedicated funds for low-carbon industries.
Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner also said that the government’s 10-point planned lacked ambition, especially in comparison to other European countries.
“The prime minister’s 10-point plan for a green revolution fails on so many counts,” he’s said. “It’s scant on detail but more worryingly it suffers from a lack of ambition when it comes to tackling the challenges that UK manufacturers, our communities and climate are facing.
“We’ve urged the prime minister to match the ambition of our competitor nations so that innovation and job creation is embedded in the any strategy to build back better,” Turner added. “There is enormous potential to both create the skilled manufacturing jobs in communities crying out for the work and to super-charge the development of green technologies to better our futures.
“We urge the PM to open up the tent and get workers and businesses involved in a genuine national effort to transition our economy. Let’s start with a deal that supports jobs, skills and communities producing innovative vehicles and aircraft to green our streets and skies, turbines to generate wind and tidal energy and the products required to retrofit and build the greener homes we desperately need.
“Global manufacturers need the confidence as well as financial and policy encouragement our competitors are providing to make those major decisions to invest in the UK – and the planet needs action on a scale and of an urgency that will make a real difference. We can’t have half-baked offers when we need decisiveness and action.”
Meanwhile, the prime minister was also criticised for his lack of detail on nuclear energy as part of a forward-thinking and integrated energy strategy.
Johnson said as that as part of his 10-point plan, £525m would be invested in nuclear energy “to help develop large and smaller-scale nuclear plants, and research and develop new advanced modular reactors”.
While Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail welcomed “the commitment to nuclear as an important low carbon element of the energy ‘mix’”, she added that “we also need meat on the bones as to how these projects are to be financed and brought forward to completion”.
“We strongly believe the target for jobs must be more ambitious and it is crucial that the UK supply chain is fully integrated into a cohesive and overarching plan,” she said. “We don’t want the prime minister’s announcement to be a missed opportunity to forge a comprehensive and joined-up UK energy strategy for the decades ahead.
“What has been outlined is a canvass half-painted – we need to see the full picture.”
Cartmail expressed disappointment that there was no explicit go-ahead for Sizewell C which she said “would tick a number of key boxes, including the generation of thousands of highly skilled jobs, which will benefit the post-pandemic, post-Brexit UK economy”.
“A new nuclear power station in Suffolk could generate up to 25,000 jobs during construction and at least 1,500 apprenticeships,” she noted. “An estimated 2,500 businesses in the supply chain would also benefit. It would provide 900 operational jobs during the 60 years it is expected to be in service.
“Once more, Unite calls for the publication of the energy White Paper that will enhance UK’s energy security; assist in keeping the lights on; and burnish the UK’s climate change credentials with president-elect Joe Biden,” Cartmail went on to say.
“The White Paper is expected to be announced in the next month, but we can’t afford as a country to have any more slippage in its publication.”
By Hajera Blagg