A report published by New Economics Foundation (NEF) states the region has “suffered from decades of industrial decline” but it still “relies disproportionately on carbon-intensive industries” and around 360,000 jobs - 15 per cent of all jobs in the region – could be affected as the Government looks to reduce UK emissions to net zero by 2050.
More than 10 per cent of the UK’s emissions come from the Yorkshire and Humber, with almost half of that produced by 25 industrial sites, and a “concerted effort” is needed to ensure thousands of people working in carbon-intensive industries, such as steel, cement and chemical production, are not “left behind”, the report adds.
It also cites research from environmental foundation the Grantham Institute, which found 260,000 workers across the region may need to upskill or retrain as they have skills which “will be in low demand in a low-carbon economy” and almost 20 per cent of them live in the region’s most deprived areas.
Jobs deemed to be at risk are “unevenly distributed” throughout Yorkshire and the Humber and areas like Selby, where the economies rely heavily on large employers responsible for high levels of emissions, could be hit even harder.
Part of the report, published today, focuses on the struggling UK steel industry and states it needs a “credible plan” to decarbonise, avoid job losses and “disastrous consequences for communities”, and to prevent the work from being offshored.
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis is the MP for Barnsley Central whose constituency was hugely affected by the closure of the pits in the 1980s and 1990s and the subsequent job losses.
He said: “The need for us to decarbonise our economy is beyond urgent – but that transition must be done in a way which spreads the burden and does not leave communities abandoned as they were after the closure of the coal mines.
“We need to involve communities and workers so we can accelerate the shift to net zero in a way which leaves our society fairer as well as greener.”
Major industrial change is “inevitable” after the UK signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2016, NEF researchers claim, but workers, trade unions and affected communities must be involved in the strategy to radically reduce emissions to “make this transition fair”.
“Workers and trade unions are understandably sceptical of the rhetoric around transition, given that past transitions – notably the decline of mining and manufacturing – have
scarred communities and left a trail of social and economic destruction in their wake. This time must be different,” the report states.
The NEF insists the Government must not “over-rely” on new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, and there must be a focus on “creating new good, green jobs that can reduce emission now” and provide secure work for people who have lost jobs during the pandemic.
The think tank also states the Government should set up a ‘Just Transition Fund’ to help local leaders provide workers with training and support and bring forward the Green Steel Fund and “urgently support the sector to reduce its emissions and protect jobs”.
Beckie Hart, regional director of Yorkshire and the Humber CBI, said businesses in the region are aware of the impending change and are ready to learn from mistakes made in the past.
She added: “A lot of businesses have the transition to net zero on their agendas already and are working out ways they can measure their own carbon impact and what they’re going to do about it. But obviously you’ve got businesses at very different stages of that process.”