The Covid-19 pandemic has inflicted a major shock on the UK economy, with the loss of many jobs, as well as illness and tragic loss of life. With the real risk of prolonged economic damage, only strong and timely action can increase consumer and business confidence, steer expectations and channel productive private and public investment into a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery across the UK.
Such a recovery can be achieved while the Government also tackles its other strategic challenges. Indeed, the investment needed for the recovery can be strengthened if it is part of a coherent medium and longer-term strategy. The UK was the first major economy to enter a commitment into law to achieve net-zero annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, which requires transformative change across the economy. The Government has also made commitments to improving productivity, investing in infrastructure, ‘levelling up’ across the country and forging a new role as ‘Global Britain’. The combination of these medium and longer-term commitments creates a whole-economy opportunity to drive economic recovery and growth through sustainable investment, innovation and creativity, while providing international leadership on climate change. By orienting the economy towards zero-carbon goods and services, the UK can seize economic opportunities from the global transition as demand rises for zero-carbon activities.
Investments in the transition to a zero-emissions and climate resilient economy can be made quickly, and would deliver significant benefits in terms of both generating employment and stimulating demand in the short term, while building productive capacity for innovation-led growth in the medium to longer term, and also helping to address climate risk and generate other attractive co-benefits. These investments are the focus of this paper which considers the evidence for the scale of job opportunities across key areas of the sustainable economy, including energy efficiency in buildings, natural capital projects, active travel equipment and infrastructure, renewable power generation and distribution, electric vehicle production and charging infrastructure, and carbon capture utilisation and storage and hydrogen production. The evidence gathered in this paper suggests that a portfolio of net-zero-aligned investments could create jobs across the UK in the short run, and growth opportunities into the medium and longer run.