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Coronavirus: Chancellor to launch £3bn green jobs recovery package

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
·3-min read
Britain's Chancellor Rishi Sunak looks on, during a visit to Leeds Station to highlight the record infrastructure spend after Wednesday's budget, in Leeds, England, Thursday March 12, 2020. (Danny Lawson/Pool Photo via AP)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil a raft of measures designed to lift the UK economy out of its coronavirus-induced slump. Photo: Danny Lawson/Pool Photo via AP

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will on Wednesday unveil a £3bn ($3.7bn) green jobs package as part of a series of measures designed to lift the UK economy out of the coronavirus crisis.

As part of the package, the government will spend £1bn to make public buildings, such as schools and hospitals, greener.

This, the Treasury said in a statement, will help the country meet its goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Up to 5,000 new jobs will be backed through a £40m scheme called the Green Jobs Challenge Fund, which will encourage environmental charities and local authorities to plant trees, clean up rivers, and create green spaces for people and wildlife.

As part of his summer statement on Wednesday, Sunak is also expected to unveil £50m to retrofit social housing with heat pumps, insulation and double glazing.

READ MORE: What to expect from UK chancellor Rishi Sunak's summer statement

This spending comes on top of the £5bn investment plan announced by prime minister Boris Johnson last week, which was criticised for its scant mention of climate change initiatives.

The Treasury said that it hoped its green jobs package would help create tens of thousands of jobs “as part of a drive to power up the nation’s workforce and protect the environment.”

A retrofitting of social housing could mean that some poorer households would see lower carbon emissions and their energy bills slashed by an average of £200, it noted. It is also looking at giving hundreds of thousands of homeowners vouchers of up to £5,000 for energy-saving home improvements.

While calling the £3bn package a “welcome” first step, the Institute for Public Policy Research said that the package “falls far short of the £30bn public investment gap that needs to be filled to get the UK on track to meet net zero.”

“Investing for a clean recovery could create over 1.6 million good jobs, be good for the environment and would be popular with the public,” it said.

“This Wednesday the government must move beyond the Roosveltian rhetoric and deliver the recession beating investment that the economy needs.”

READ MORE: ‘Green recovery’ risks voter backlash unless it boosts households and jobs

International Monetary Fund chief economist Gita Gopinath told MPs last week that the UK government should prioritise spending on climate change initiatives as part of the economic response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Social Market Foundation has warned that putting voters under further economic strain in order to tackle climate change as part of a so-called “green recovery” could risk a backlash at the ballot box.

Politicians should emphasise the potential benefits of environmental policies for household finances and jobs instead of appealing to the public’s apparent willingness to endure economic and social discomfort, the think tank said.

Analysis of polling data and previous environmental initiatives suggests that policymakers should try to convince voters that “greener is cheaper,” according to the think tank.