Five reasons why MPs should back the 'green jobs' amendment

The amendment would provide the certainty for which the energy industry is calling and keep the UK on track to meet its legally binding carbon targets at the lowest cost.

The government’s Energy Bill receives its third reading in the Commons today. MPs will vote on whether a ‘green jobs’ amendment - proposed by Conservative select committee chair Tim Yeo and Labour backbencher Barry Gardiner - should be added to the bill. This would introduce a target to cut the carbon intensity of Britain’s power sector by 2030 to 50g CO2 / KWh to keep the UK on track to achieve its legally binding targets at the lowest cost and provide the certainty for which the energy industry is calling.

Here are five facts about the green jobs amendment.

1. The green jobs amendment will save every household £958 to £1,724 under ‘central’ assumptions made by the Committee on Climate Change. This could rise to £3,831 if gas and carbon prices were higher than expected.

The recent CCC report ‘Next steps on Electricity Market Reform’ says:

“These measures [ie the 50g target and related policies] would support investment in a portfolio of low-carbon technologies through the 2020s, which the report indicates would result in cost savings of £25-45 billion, in present value terms under central case assumptions about gas and carbon prices, rising to over £100 billion with high gas and carbon prices.” (p.9)

Since there were 26.4m households in the UK in 2011 according to the Census, this means that each household would save £958 to £1,724. With high gas and carbon prices this could rise to £3,831.

2. The green jobs amendment will provide certainty for the renewable energy sector resulting in an increase in offshore wind capacity by 2030 from 16GW in DECC’s central scenario to 26GW in the CCC’s central scenario – up 63%.

DECC’s ‘2012 emissions and energy projections’ set out a central scenario for total capacity in every year to 2030 on the basis of carbon intensity falling to 100g CO2 / KWh. A freedom of information request revealed that this included 16 GW of total offshore wind capacity by 2030. CCC’s report (Figure 1.6b) showed that a 50g CO2 / KWh target would deliver 26 GW of offshore wind in three of their four scenarios.

3. The green jobs amendment would result in between 20,000 and 48,000 domestic jobs in the offshore wind industry.

IPPR is currently undertaking a research project examining the supply chain for offshore wind. Our literature review examined 10 scenarios in four different studies by the Carbon Trust, Bain and company, Cambridge Econometrics and the CEBR of the job creating potential of the offshore wind sector. On average, these studies showed that above 20 GW of wind capacity there are around 2,000 jobs per GW as the domestic supply chain expands. The additional 10 GW of capacity would therefore generate at least 20,000 jobs.

In their ambitious renewables scenario, the CCC (Figure 1.6b) predicts that a 50g CO2 / KWh target would deliver 40 GW of offshore wind capacity. This would create 24 GW of additional capacity above DECC’s central scenario of 16 GW, and generate at least 48,000 new jobs.

4. The amendment has overwhelming support from business, charities and trade associations.

Over 50 companies, charities and trade associations including Cisco, the Church of Scotland, the National Farmers Union and the TUC have reissued their call for MPs to back the target. The list of organisations that have spoken out in favour of the target numbers well over 100. Meanwhile businessman Lord Alan Sugar wrote in yesterday’s Financial Times that the green jobs amendment “could provide greater stability to the supply chain, cheaper prices for the consumer and much needed jobs to the country.”

5. If they vote against the green jobs amendment, the Lib Dems will be breaking another of their own promises.

At the 2012 Lib Dem conference, Danny Alexander proposed a motion favouring a 2030 decarbonisation target. Alexander kicked off the conference by criticising Tory attacks on green policies in a front-page interview with the Guardian. The vote was passed ‘overwhelmingly’ and a number of Lib Dem MPs posed for photos showing they backed green jobs.

The Lib Dems have already broken promises on VAT and tuition fees this Parliament. Will they let green jobs become a third?

The turbine sails of the Scout Moor Wind Farm in the South Pennines. Photograph: Getty Images.

Will Straw was Director of Britain Stronger In Europe, the cross-party campaign to keep Britain in the European Union. 

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.