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Business & Economy

Think tank calls for new commission to kick start North’s low carbon revolution

A body to ensure that energy workers in the North of England are able to make the most of a “clean energy revolution” should be established as soon as possible, according to a leading think-tank.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) have recently published a key report which calls on Government to create a ‘Just Transition Commission’ for the north of England to secure the future and livelihoods of workers and their communities in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Following the example of Scotland’s newly formed Just Transition Commission, the body would be led not by Whitehall, but by regional representatives including Metro Mayors, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Local Authorities, local communities, local businesses, trade unions, and civil society.

But researchers at IPPR have stressed the urgency of these actions, warning that if decarbonisation is not properly managed, “we will risk repeating the mistakes of the past” such as those that saw the closure of Kellingley Colliery in 2015 with little policy in place to support workers who lost their jobs.

The recommendation for a Just Transition Commission for the North comes alongside a comprehensive package of recommendations including a Just Transition Fund for the region, re-using assets from carbon-based energy generation to fuel the clean energy revolution, and wage subsidies for workers who may be unemployed as a result of transition.

Sarah Longlands, director of IPPR North said: “The north of England has the potential to be the powerhouse behind a much-needed clean energy revolution.

“But this opportunity is not a foregone conclusion. We need policymakers to step up and devolve power to the North through the creation of a Just Transition Commission, so that the people of the North can demonstrate just how powerful our potential is”.

Josh Emden, research fellow at IPPR and co-author of the report, said: “Reducing our carbon emissions is one of the biggest challenges that we face today in the UK, but without radical action we put our natural environment, and Northern energy jobs at risk.

“Putting the principle of a ‘just transition’ at the heart of government climate policy at all levels is vital. Not least if we’re to make the most of the low carbon transition and ensure the benefits are fairly and widely shared.”

Case Study: Billy Gundry is a 54-year-old Operations Manager from Selby in North Yorkshire

Billy left school in 1981 and went straight into the mines, working at Hickleton in South Yorkshire which closed straight after the miners’ strike. He then moved to another mine in Doncaster. In 1991 Bill transferred to the Mines Rescue Service which was part of British Coal before being privatised. It is now MRS Training and Rescue.

The company provides rescue services, but since the closure of the deep mines it has had to diversify into other industries. The work they do includes providing safety cover for the people going in to overhaul and repair biomass generators, and training courses for the renewables industry on things like working at height.

Billy says that the closure of the mines was “devastating for the community and for jobs” but part of that was about expectations.

He observed that people, including the miners themselves, “thought that they were good for nothing but mining.”

But the reality is that industry hugely values the ex-miners they have working for them. They are very hard workers, dedicated, and they bring a lot of skill with them, particularity when it comes to safety.

Billy says that “if you tell people and industry that they are good for one thing then that is what they are, but if local and national government provide people with support, and if you let them know that their skills are valued you really can achieve a just transition.”