Going green vital to combatting inequalities, says TUC

By agency reporter
26 Oct 2012

The TUC General Secretary Designate, Frances O'Grady, says going green is essential if the UK is to reduce its growing trade deficit and reverse damaging regional economic inequalities that have got worse in the last few years.

Ms O'Grady was addressing the Trades Union Congress climate change conference on 22 October 2012, along with Business Secretary Vince Cable MP, who delivered the keynote speech during the afternoon session.

A panel debate on what makes a good green government, including Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Shadow Minister for Climate Change Luciana Berger and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas closed the morning session of the conference.

Unions, business groups and campaigners also took part in a series of expert-led workshops throughout the day.

Key issues at the conference at the TUC Headquarters in central London included the case for and design of a Green Investment Bank, the need to close the green skills gap, and how a green industrial policy can help to deliver new, high quality jobs.

Frances O'Grady declared: "We need a bold, imaginative and radical plan to green our economy and deliver the good green jobs that Britain is crying out for."

She continued: "With austerity hitting hard, with growth and confidence in short supply, with this country staring years of stagnation in the face, we desperately need to break this cycle of decline."

"Investing in green industries, infrastructure and skills has got to be a big part of the answer. It's not just about equipping ourselves to meet the challenges posed by climate change, nor just about delivering economic regeneration to the regions that need it most.

"The green economy is now worth £122bn - almost a tenth of total UK output. It sustains nearly a million jobs. And it is in trade surplus, with China our biggest export market. The green economy is already helping us to pay our way in the world. But it can do so much more," Ms O'Grady continued.

"We want investment not cuts, so that we reverse the scandalous funding shortfalls that will see 16,000 jobs lost in the home insulation industry and 20,000 at risk in the solar industry following changes to the Feed-In Tariff.

"We want a properly capitalised Green Investment Bank, not the pale imitation we have now, which is able to raise funds on the capital markets to invest in the green capacity Britain needs in the coming decades.

"And we want a smart, active green industrial strategy that provides us with a clear route map showing how we get from where we are now to where we want to be in 10 or 20 years' time.

"But we won't build a cleaner, greener, more sustainable economy by relying on the market to deliver.

"Yes, there is a role for market incentives but the scale of the transition we need to make surely demands intelligent leadership from government of the kind that is common in our closest competitors.

"Some people in government are genuinely committed to the goal of economic and environmental renewal, and they should be applauded for it. Others, however, are climate change deniers - latter-day flat earthers of the worst possible kind.

"Criticism of the government's approach is coming from all sides - from the Climate Change Committee to the 50 businesses publishing a letter recently urging the government to introduce a new emission target for 2030.

"We at the TUC want a fundamental change of direction from government.

"That's why the TUC is launching a new project looking at how industrial policy can help us reduce carbon emissions in transport, in the energy sector and in our homes and businesses.

"That's why we're calling for an explicit policy focus on good green jobs that can't be offshored, that pay a decent wage, and that nurture the skills base Britain will need in the decades ahead. And why we're also about to publish a new report looking at how we can help our energy-intensive industries - what in the old days we used to call heavy industries - make the transition to the low carbon age,' concluded the TUC General Secretary Designate.

[Ekk/3]

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