A modest proposal

IssueAugust 2015 - September 2015
Feature by Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group


Oxford students take part in the worldwide campaign calling on institutions to divest from fossil fuels. Photo: Fossil Free UK

To halt climate change we need drastic cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we put into the air. That means leaving most of the existing reserves of high carbon fuels – coal, oil and gas – in the ground. There are thousands of things we need to do to make that a reality. But three of them will make most of the difference.

We need workers to build enough wind power, solar power, wave power and tidal power to meet all our energy needs. We need workers to insulate and retrofit all our existing homes and buildings in order to conserve energy. And we need workers to run a massive public transport system powered by renewable electricity.

We have people who need jobs, and jobs that must be done. So we want the government to hire a million people to do new climate jobs now in an integrated National Climate Service.

Our estimate is that those workers could cut our CO2 emissions by 86 percent in 20 years. We can also create another half a million jobs in the supply line.

And we can guarantee a new job to anyone who loses their job because of these changes. Our booklet, One Million Climate Jobs, explains how we can do all of this, and why we must.

Not ‘green’ jobs

‘Climate jobs’ are not the same as ‘green jobs’. Some green jobs help the climate, but ‘green jobs’ can mean anything – park rangers, bird wardens, pollution control, or refuse workers. All these jobs are necessary, but they do not stop climate change.

Climate jobs are jobs that lead directly to cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases, and so slow down climate change. For instance, workers who build wind farms replace power stations that burn coal or oil. Workers who insulate buildings reduce the oil and gas we burn. Bus drivers reduce the amount of oil we burn in cars.

We want a million new jobs. We don’t want to add up existing jobs and new jobs and say that now we have a million climate jobs. We don’t mean jobs that will be ‘created’ by some mysterious market process by 2030. We want the government to hire 90,000 new workers each month to do new climate jobs. In a year we will have a million new jobs.

Government climate jobs are a new idea. Up to now government policy under all parties has been to use tax breaks and subsidies to encourage private industry to invest in renewable energy. That is much too slow. We want something much more like the way the government used to run the National Health Service. In effect, the government would set up a National Climate Service and employ staff to do the work that needs to be done.

Government policy has also been to give people grants and loans to insulate and refit their houses. Instead, we want to send teams of construction workers to renovate all homes, street by street. And we want the government to construct wind farms, build railways, and put buses on the streets.

Direct government employment will mean secure, flexible, permanent jobs. Workers with new climate jobs won’t necessarily do the same job for life – they will be retrained as new kinds of work are needed. And the jobs can be safe and decently paid.

But some people will lose their jobs. They must be protected. Anyone who loses a job in an old high-carbon sector like mining, oil, power stations or car sales must be guaranteed a permanent job in the National Climate Service at the same rate of pay. In our booklet, we explain how this could be done in different industries.

Moreover, a million new jobs can help to get the economy moving again. There will not just be the jobs in the Climate Service – there will be more workers in the supply line. And all those workers will be buying more goods, which will create more jobs. In all, a million climate jobs will take at least one and a half million people out of unemployment.

The total number of jobs created directly will be:

  • Electricity 400,000
  • Transport 310,000
  • Buildings 185,000
  • Industry 25,000
  • Education 35,000
  • Agriculture, Waste and Forestry 45,000

TOTAL 1,000,000 jobs

The total amount of cuts in CO2 emissions (in megatonnes, Mt, of CO2) will be (CO2 before cut / CO2 after cut / % reduction):

  • Electricity 145 Mt / 7 Mt / 95%
  • Transport 178 Mt / 30 Mt / 83%
  • Buildings 97 Mt / 5 Mt / 95%
  • Industry 108 Mt / 31 Mt / 71%

TOTAL 528 Mt / 73 Mt / 86%

There are another 100 Mt of CO2 equivalent from other greenhouse gases. We estimate we can cut these to the equivalent of 32 Mt. That gives us total cuts, measured in CO2 equivalents, of (before cut / after cut):

  • CO2: 528 Mt / 73 Mt
  • Other gases: 100 Mt / 33 Mt

TOTAL 628 Mt / 106 Mt

That’s a total cut of 83 percent in all greenhouse gas emissions over 20 years.