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

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“Stop treating antibiotics like sweets”: the threat we face from antibioitic resistance

Currently, 700,000 people die per year from the resistance of microbes to medicine, and it is predicted that 10 million people will die per year by 2050.

Got a cold? Take some antibiotics. Feeling under the weather? Penicillin will patch you up. Or so the common advice goes. However, unless we start to rethink our dependency on antibiotics, a death every three seconds is the threat we potentially face from evolving resistance by microorganisms to the drugs. The stark warning was issued following a review which analysed the consequences we could face from needless administering of antibiotics.

The antimicrobial resistance (AMR) review was led by economist Jim O’Neill, who was tasked by the prime minister in 2014 with investigating the impact of growing resistance. Currently, 700,000 people die per year from the resistance of microbes to medicine, and the report predicts that 10 million people will die per year by 2050. An overwhelming global expense of $100trn will be the price to pay unless incisive, collaborative action is taken.

Antimicrobial resistance (as referred to in the title of the report) is an umbrella term for the resistance developed by microorganisms to drugs specifically designed to combat the infections they cause. Microorganisms include things such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. The report especially focused on the ramifications of increased resistance of microorganisms to anitbiotics.

Many medical procedures are dependent on the effectiveness of drugs such as antibiotics: treatments for cancer patients and antibiotic prophylaxis during surgeries, for example. All could be under threat by increased resistance. The continuing rise of resistant superbugs and the impotence of antibiotics would pose “as big a risk as terrorism”. A post-antibiotic world would spell dystopia.

Bacterial microbes develop resistance through evolutionary-based natural selection. Mutations to their genetic makeup are passed on to other bacteria through an exchange of plasmid DNA. Unnecessary prescriptions by doctors and inappropriate antibiotic usage by patients (such as half-finishing a course) also contribute. Over the years, a number of bacteria and viruses have found a way to counteract antibiotics used against them: E. Coli, malaria, tuberculosis and Staphylococcus aureus, to name a few.

The report employed the consultancy firms KPMG and Rand to undertake the analyses, and O’Neill outlines 10 different measures to tackle the issue. Key areas of focus include: global campaigns to expand public awareness, the upholding of financial and economic measures by pharmaceutical companies in the development of new medicines and vaccines as alternatives, greater sanitation to prevent infections spreading, and the creation of a Global Innovation Fund which will enable collective research.

O’Neill told the BBC:

“We need to inform in different ways, all over the world, why it’s crucial we stop treating our antibiotics like sweets. If we don’t solve the problem we are heading to the dark ages; we will have a lot of people dying. We have made some pretty challenging recommendations which require everybody to get out of the comfort zone, because if we don’t then we aren’t going to be able to solve this problem.”

In the foreword of the report, O’Neill states that over 1 million people have died from developing resistance since 2014. The urgency in tackling this issue is clear, which is why he has offered an incentive to companies to develop new treatments - a reward of more than $1 billion will be given to those who bring a successful new treatment to the market.

According to the report, the cost of successful global action would equate to $40bn over the next decade, which could result in the development of 15 new antibiotics. Small cuts to health budgets and a tax on antibiotics have been proposed as ways of achieving the financial quota for drug research.

Though the report has highlighted the severity of antibiotic resistance, some believe that the full extent of the matter isn’t sufficiently explored. O’Neill mentions that there are some secondary effects which haven’t been taken into account “such as the risks in carrying out caesarean sections, hip replacements, or gut surgery”. This suggests that alternative remedies should be found for non-surgical procedures, so that antibiotics aren’t made redundant in environments where they are most needed.

Since the analysis began in 2014, new types of resistance have surfaced, including a resistance to colistin, a drug which is currently used as a last-resort. Its affordability resulted in increased use, particularly as a component of animal feed, meaning greater opportunity for superbugs to develop resistance to even our most dependable of antibiotics.

Widespread drug resistance would prove to be a big issue for many charities tackling infections around the world. Dr Grania Bridgen from Médecins Sans Frontières told the BBC that the report addresses a “broad market failure”, which is important but isn’t enough.

Despite the mixed response to the report, it has had a seal of approval from the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health. Speaking earlier this year, Chancellor George Osborne stated this issue “is not just a health problem but an economic one, too. The cost of doing nothing, both in terms of lives lost and money wasted, is too great, and the world needs to come together to agree a common approach.”

If antibiotics are to remain potent antidotes to infectious diseases in the future, we need to put a plan in motion now.