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15% of all jobs in Yorkshire and the Humber, and up to 30% in towns like Selby, are at risk from the low carbon transition

Yorkshire and the Humber is responsible for 10% of UK emissions, with almost half of that produced by just 25 industrial sites

360,000 jobs in Yorkshire and the Humber – 15% of all jobs in the region – are in high carbon-emitting sectors and at risk in the move to a low-carbon economy, according to new research from the New Economics Foundation (NEF). The report calls on government to support the region with a Just Transition Fund, to enable upskilling and retraining of high-carbon workers and prevent them being left behind in the drive to decarbonise.

The analysis shows the centrality of the region to meeting the UK’s net zero target as it consumes more gas for non-domestic purposes than any other region and is the third-largest emitter per capita, responsible for over 10% of national emissions. The 25 highest-emitting sites, including Scunthorpe Steelworks and gas power stations at Immingham and Saltend, as well as others producing energy, glass, cement, chemicals, and steel, together produced over 19m tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019 — equal to over 9 million cars. Nine of the 16 top emitting sectors per worker are overrepresented in Yorkshire and the Humber, with agriculture jobs over eight times more common, manufacturing of iron and steel over three times more common and manufacturing of various chemical products up to four times more common than across the country.

The report finds that after a year of Covid-19 restrictions, unemployment in Yorkshire and the Humber was 20% higher than the year before. A just transition as part of a green recovery could provide secure work for people moving out of carbon industries and those at the sharp end of the pandemic. The report argues that technological innovation in some industries will be important to protect jobs, but both local and national governments must urgently plan on creating new good, green jobs that reduce emissions now.

To show the different challenges industries face in a just transition, the report looks at three case studies. The first is the Scunthorpe site of British Steel which releases over 4.5m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year alone – and would need urgent support to decarbonise and retain jobs. The second is the aviation sector that employs 5,100 people directly and 4,100 indirectly in the region but faces the triple threat of climate change, automation, and Covid-19. Finally, public transport, which already provides green jobs but with the average bus driver in Yorkshire earning £10-£11 per hour, the sector needs significant investment in improving pay and working conditions and making it greener.

The report calls for a collaborative approach to decarbonisation in Yorkshire and the Humber, centring workers, unions, and communities in the process. According to NEF, the government’s levelling up’ plans should include:

  • Creating a Just Transition Fund to support regions like Yorkshire and the Humber to enable reskilling, capacity building and engaging workers and unions in the process.
  • Ensuring mayors have devolved powers to transform regional public transport by investing in electric buses, increasing services, and improving pay and conditions.
  • Bringing forward the Clean Steel Fund to support the UK steel sector in reducing its emissions and protecting jobs.
  • Ensuring a just transition throughout the supply chain, considering the impact on workers and communities both in the UK and globally.

Rebekah Diski, Senior Researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said:

The UK must act urgently in the face of the climate crisis, which means big changes on the horizon, not least in heavy industry. Our analysis shows that Yorkshire and the Humber houses a disproportionately high number of carbon-intensive industries and therefore jobs, which means many people are likely to be affected by any such changes. As a region that has experienced what a bad industrial transition looks like, this time it must be different.

We recommend that any changes made to the major industries in Yorkshire and the Humber are done so in consultation with workers and communities. Plans must adapt and protect jobs, but also create thousands more in the range of sectors needed for a fairer, low-carbon future, and to make sure these are decent, well-paid jobs that are accessible to all. This would mean a just transition for all of Yorkshire and the Humber’s workers, rather than a repeat of the past mistakes.”

Bill Adams, Regional Secretary, TUC in Yorkshire and the Humber, said:

Good green jobs should be at the heart of our economic recovery from the pandemic. This report shows the urgent task we face to ensure no one is left behind. It is clear that we can only achieve a green recovery for Yorkshire if local leaders bring employers round the table with trade unions to hash out a plan. Together we can avoid redundancies, plan for the skills we need, and shape a green economy that works for all.

Every area needs good green jobs, close to home. We can revitalise towns and communities that have lost traditional industries and make better jobs available to the millions in insecure jobs on poverty pay. But this can only happen with mayors and government working in social partnership with trade unions.

This report offers an opportunity for the government to seize the G7 moment by allocating £85 billion for emergency green infrastructure and the one million good green jobs that come with it. Ex-mining communities in Yorkshire know all too well the consequences of abandoning workers with no plan for future jobs.”


The report Powering the just transition: putting workers and unions at the centre of industrial change in Yorkshire and the Humber is available here.

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