Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.

Guest blog by Matt Rayment, an economist with particular interests in biodiversity, environmental economics, land management, rural development, food and public health policies.

Build back better

Over the last four months, the coronavirus pandemic has made us fundamentally rethink what it is we value most in our lives. Many of us have also found a new appreciation for nature, whether in our own back yard or in the local park. With fewer cars on the road many of us have taken up cycling, and those of us who live in cities have had a glimpse at what our streets would be like with less air pollution and less noise.

As we come out of lockdown, we are returning to a world that is almost unrecognisable. Amidst an ongoing public health crisis, we are coming terms with the possibility of a recession, while climate and nature crises hang over our heads. Some of us are still on furlough, many have been made redundant, and those aged between 16-24 are facing a future world with large scale unemployment.  

But, according to new research, 91% of people say they don’t necessarily want to go back to the way things were. We have been given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do things differently.

Over the next few months, Governments across the UK will be investing money to help bring people back to work. We are at a crossroad: new jobs could try and recapture ‘business as usual’ – building roads or carparks. But they could also be the key to a different future. If these jobs were also green jobs, they could be the key to helping people and nature recover together.

What are Green Jobs?
Green jobs are jobs that will not only bring people back to work, but also help restore nature and tackle climate change. Jobs in restoring and reconnecting habitats across Wales would, for example, build natural flood defences, help restore wildlife, help lock up atmospheric carbon in key habitats like woodland and peatbogs, and provide spaces for people to exercise outdoors and engage with nature. Green jobs in land use management and agriculture would support local food chains and ensure these are more resilient to future crises.

We estimate that Wales needs to spend £68 million per year for the next 10 years on the restoration and creation of priority habitats to help meet our biodiversity commitments. This could create 1,000 direct jobs in priority habitat restoration and creation alone, and considerably more through delivering other environmental priorities, such as the National Forest, multiplier effects and by supporting tourism. 

But green jobs will also go extend beyond nature conservation and farming. A recent report by WWF shows some areas the Government should invest in to create green jobs across the UK:

  • Retrofitting buildings and installing heating or cooling could create 92,000 jobs
  • Clean energy, such as offshore wind, could create 28,000 jobs
  • Creating carbon capture and storage could create 30,000 jobs
  • And investment in electric vehicles could provide alternative jobs for jobs in petrol and diesel vehicles

This includes many job sectors, but in order to be effective we ultimately want to see all sectors become green and provide jobs for everyone, without further risk to nature and climate.  

Green Recovery & Just Transition

Green jobs will be the driving force behind a Green Recovery. But we need to make sure that those recently unemployed, especially those working in a traditional sector now shifting towards decarbonisation and/or nature restoration, as well as 16-24 years old, are at the forefront of this transition. The education and retraining to meet current unemployment needs will provide the foundation for a structural shift towards a green economy. Investment in Green Jobs in this way will ensure that nature, and the services it provides, can be at the centre of our recovery, and help move us towards a more socially, environmentally and economically resilient Wales.