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. 

Photo: Reuters
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Murder by numbers: the legacy of the Grenfell Tower fire

It is difficult to refute the reality of suffering when the death toll is still being reckoned.

How do we measure human malice? Sometimes it’s all too easy. This summer, British cities are struggling through the aftermath of successive terrorist attacks and hate crimes. The Manchester bombing. The Westminster Bridge murders. The London Bridge atrocity. The attack on people outside the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London and on other mosques. The unidentified young men who are still at large in the capital after spraying acid in the faces of passers-by, mutilating them.

In Britain, we are commendably resilient about these things. Returning to London after some time away, I found my spirits lifted by an issue of the London Evening Standard magazine that celebrated the ordinary people who stepped in to help after these atrocities. The paramedics who worked through the night. The Romanian chef who offered shelter in his bakery. The football fan who took on the London Bridge terrorists, screaming, “Fuck you, I’m Millwall!” The student housing co-ordinator who rushed to organise board for the victims of the inferno at the Grenfell Tower and their families.

Wait. Hold on a second. One of these things is not like the others. The Grenfell Tower disaster, in which at least 80 people died, was not a terrorist or malicious attack. It was the result of years of callous council decisions and underinvestment in social housing. On 14 June, entire families burned alive in their homes partly because, it is alleged, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea would not pay the extra £5,000 or so for fire-resistant cladding. Nor could it find the cash, despite a budget surplus, to instal proper sprinkler systems on the rotting interior of the building.

Kensington and Chelsea is a Tory borough that, in cash terms, cares very little for poorer citizens who are unlikely to vote the right way. In 2014, while the Grenfell Tower residents were refused basic maintenance, the council handed out £100 rebates to its top-rate taxpayers, boasting of its record of “consistently delivering greater efficiencies while improving services”. Some of those efficiencies had names, and parents, and children.

This is a different sort of depravity altogether. It’s depravity with plausible deniability, right up until the point at which deniability goes up in flames. Borrowing from Friedrich Engels, John McDonnell described the Grenfell Tower disaster as “social murder”. The shadow chancellor and sometime Jack Russell of the parliamentary left has never been known for his delicate phrasing.

Naturally, the Tory press queued up to condemn McDonnell – not because he was wrong but because he was indiscreet. “There’s a long history in this country of the concept of social murder,” he said, “where decisions are made with no regard to the consequences… and as a result of that people have suffered.”

It is difficult to refute the reality of that suffering when the death toll is still being reckoned from the towering tombstone that now blights the west London skyline.” As the philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote, “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

Market austerity is no less brutal for being bloodless, calculating, an ideology of measuring human worth in pennies and making cuts that only indirectly slice into skin and bone. Redistributing large sums of money from the poor to the rich is not simply an abstract moral infraction: it kills. It shortens lives and blights millions more. Usually, it does so in a monstrously phlegmatic manner: the pensioners who die early of preventable diseases, the teenagers who drop out of education, the disabled people left to suffer the symptoms of physical and mental illness with nobody to care for them, the thousands who have died on the waiting lists for state benefits that they are perfectly entitled to, the parents whose pride disintegrates as they watch their children go to school hungry.

We are not encouraged to measure the human cost of austerity in this way, even though there are many people in back offices making exactly these sorts of calculations. This year, when researchers from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine claimed that “relentless cuts” to the health service could explain as many as 30,000 “excess deaths” in England and Wales in 2015, the government denounced this as “a triumph of personal bias over research”, which, however you slice it, is a callous prep school debater’s response to the reality of 30,000 fresh graves.

There is a species of evil in which an individual allows the dark and yammering corners of his mind to direct him to put a blade in a bystander’s belly, or a bomb in a bustling crowd of teenage girls. That sort of monstrosity is as easy to identify as it is mercifully rare, though frighteningly less rare than it was in less febrile times. But there is another sort of evil that seldom makes the headlines. This comes about when someone sits down with a calculator and works out how much it will cost to protect and nurture human life, deducts that from the cost of a tax rebate for local landowners or a nice night at the opera, then comes up with a figure. It’s an ordinary sort of evil, and it has become routine and automated in the austerity years. It is a sort of evil, in the words of Terry Pratchett, that “begins when you begin to treat people as things”. 

The Grenfell Tower disaster was the hellish evidence of the consequences of fiscal ruthlessness that nobody could look away from. Claims that it could not have been predicted were shot down by the victims. The residents’ association wrote on its campaign website after years of begging the council to improve living conditions: “It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord.”

That catastrophic event has happened, and the ordinary British response to tragedy – brave, mannered dignity – is inappropriate. When the Grenfell inquiry launches next month, it is incumbent on every citizen to call for answers and to call this kind of travesty by its name: murder by numbers.

Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman. She is the author of five books, most recently Unspeakable Things.

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder