A Green Alliance think tank report says 16,000 ‘green creation’ jobs could help employment in the areas of Britain worse hit by job losses due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The new jobs would be created by restoring nature and planting trees in areas where unemployment will increase when the government’s furlough schemes end. These include urban areas where people have little access to green space, coastal areas and also “red wall” areas in the north of England that were Labour strongholds.
Sam Alvis, the head of green renewal at Green Alliance, said the government should invest in nature-based jobs as lockdown is lifted. This would be done by using government money from the £4.8bn fund earmarked for “levelling up”. The governments leveling up agenda is designed to bridge gaps in economic performances and opportunities between different areas and regions. Research suggests that for every £1 invested in peatland the local areas receive about £4.60 in economic benefits. In woodland areas and salt marshes a similar investment also produces returns of £2.80 and £1.30 respectively.
The future parks accelerator is a project to promote green spaces, it shows that investing £5.5bn in greening up urban areas would result in £20bn being produced in economic benefits. Despite this nature restoration is almost entirely missing as a consideration from the levelling-up fund.
Alvis said: “The opportunity is there for the chancellor of the exchequer to create a legacy of new, high-quality jobs across Britain. Supporting innovation in green jobs will help local communities build back better and greener.”
The report’s authors found many constitutions in the north of England that are close to peatlands could be restored to carbon sinks which would help the UK to meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The authors also identified nature-based solutions to the climate crisis in Britain. This includes tree-planting, the restoration of degraded landscapes and the restoration of marine ecosystems. Two-thirds of the land most suitable for tree-planting was found to be in constituencies with “worse than average labour market challenges”. This would be the time to create jobs especially as the government is falling behind on tree-planting targets.
Darren Moorcroft, the chief executive of the Woodland Trust charity, said: “Increasing native tree cover is a key part of the levelling-up agenda, shaping places people will want to live, visit and invest in. This will help increase employment opportunities as well as leading to happier, healthier communities.”
Many of the coastal constituencies where seagrass could be grown are areas of high unemployment. Seagrass is an underwater flowering plant that can act as a carbon sink and vital parts of the marine ecosystem. However 90% of seagrass meadows have been destroyed arount the uk’s coastline by overfishing and neglect.
Thousands of jobs could be generated in urban areas through investment in parks and green spaces for health and leisure. Research shows that access to green areas has multiple benefits for peoples physical and mental health and well being. Improving areas in neighbourhoods without green space could create 10,800 jobs in areas with the worst post-pandemic jobs prospects.
Patrick Begg, the director of natural resources at the National Trust, said that the pandemic and lockdowns had shown “By investing in projects that make a greener environment a priority, the government could generate green jobs for the communities that need them most.”
The potential jobs that they report could be generated range from entry-level roles in “shovel-ready” projects to graduate positions. Entry-level jobs such as machine operators are very transferable skills for future employment opportunities. There are also availabilities in research and development into nature restoration projects for graduate level employees.