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. 

Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May's fight against burning injustice can start with the UN's anti-austerity treaty

The UK urgently needs to make sure social rights are protected. 

Fifty years ago this month the United Nations presciently adopted a treaty creating legal safety nets for vulnerable communities facing the effects of austerity in wealthier democracies. 

Although this treaty applies to all countries, rich and poor, in prosperity or austerity, this anniversary provides a timely reminder that the treaty has much to offer both those who are just managing and those who are unable to manage.

Admittedly the treaty's title does not trip easily off the tongue - it is called the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However, with protests against globalization expressed in the UK with Brexit, in America with Donald Trump and most recently in Italy and France, the Covenant, although international, places limits on globalisation, because it places vulnerability and community at its centre. 

The rights protected by the Covenant include the right to payment for work at a level which provides a "decent living for themselves and their families", the right of everyone to adequate food and housing and the right to the "continuous improvement of living conditions". There are also provisions, which oblige the government to make higher education progressively free, and a right to the highest attainment of health. 

The International Covenant is legally binding on the United Kingdom but the Covenant has been deprioritised by successive governments of all political persuasions. This is for a number of reasons, including a lack of knowledge about courts around the world which have dealt with these rights. 

Successive British governments have assumed that social justice rights are incapable of being protected by courts. In fact, this stems from a failure to look at how an increasing number of modern democracies, including most of Latin America, South Africa and some European states, effectively protect rights such as the highest standard of health and adequate housing. 

Many modern democracies regard social justice rights as reinforcing democracy and an essential component of the rule of law. It is no coincidence that this failure to keep up with social justice developments overseas has left those vulnerable and socially immobile without a legal remedy. 

Many of the rights in a sister Covenant, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are now reflected in UK law, such as the right to freedom of expression and belief. But there is, despite the NHS, no right to the highest attainable standard of health. This prompts the question: Why have the Prime Minister, the Labour and Liberal parties not called for the Covenant’s rights to be brought back home? This question is particularly pertinent now as the Prime Minister in her inaugural speech stated that her goal was to fight "against the burning injustice that if you are born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others".

The only attention paid by governments has been to report as required by the Covenant on how the UK has implemented the treaty, and then to consider the recommendations of the United Nations Committee overseeing the Covenant. This, however, does not provide a remedy for those receiving the half a million emergency food parcels that the Trussell Trust said that it distributed between April and September. 

Strategically, the UK needs to adopt a two-pronged policy. The first step is a simple and free international remedy, which 22 countries allow their citizens to use. The UK ought to ratify the International Protocol to the Covenant, which allows people to petition the UN Committee. As the system does not involve costs, there is no need for the government to provide legal aid. The advantage of this first step is that it would allow a decision to be reached as to whether for example, the UK government is fulfilling its duty to provide adequate nutrition to specific individuals by relying to such an extent on food banks.

Secondly, as Brexit means removing those in the UK from the protection of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines some social justice rights, the UK urgently needs to ensure that social rights are protected. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights expressly protects human dignity, which it states is inviolable and which, as a specific right, is not found in the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights.  The Charter also protects European dimensions of the rights of older people to live a life of dignity and independence, and a right of access to preventive health care, both of which are essential. It is not clear from the government’s Brexit plans so far that these rights will be continued.  A Bill of Rights, which is Human Rights Act Plus, however, would provide such an opportunity.

It may be tempting to argue that this is not the time to consider additional rights, and that rather than seek to expand human rights protection, all energies should be harnessed to defend the Human Rights Act. However, although the rights in the Human Rights Act are constitutionally essential, it was never designed to guard against social immobility or the wealth gap. The raison d’etre of human rights is that all rights are indivisible and equal and the truth is despite the despite the Act being called ‘human rights’, many essential human rights are missing. After fifty years it is time for the UK to reassess the potential of the International Covenant.

Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC is Professor of International Human Rights Law, Queen Mary, London and Visiting Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford.