Jobs at risk from inaction. As it meets for its annual conference, the TUC has published analysis that up to 667,000 manufacturing and supply chain jobs in the UK could be at risk if the government does not strengthen its industrial strategy policies. While ‘carbon leakage’ is generally used to mean the loss of jobs abroad because of tougher climate policies, the reverse can also occur: jobs can be offshored when industrial support policies are weaker than in other countries. Sectors particularly at risk include steel, cement, chemicals, rubber and plastic and glass manufacture. (Twitter thread.)
Support for renewables. The Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has announced its latest renewable electricity support scheme, the so-called ‘Contracts for Difference’ auction. With no cap on offshore wind, generous allowances for onshore wind and solar, and a £55m pot for innovative technologies including tidal and floating wind, it has been generally welcomed. Twitter explainer here.
High-carbon industry. Much of the discussion of green industrial strategy has been on supporting ‘green jobs’ in low-carbon sectors. An even bigger challenge is to decarbonise heavy industries which have high emissions and use fossil fuels in the production process - and also support large numbers of well-paid and often unionised jobs. In its report Mission Possible: Reaching net-zero carbon emissions from harder-to-abate sectors by mid-century the business-led Energy Transitions Commission outlines possible routes to decarbonise the cement, steel, plastics, trucking, shipping and aviation sectors, which together represent 30% of current energy emissions. Ana Musat of the Aldersgate Group outlines the opportunities that decarbonisation presents for heavy industry in a piece for BusinessGreen.
Green finance. The New Economics Foundation has looked at the role that the UK’s public finance institutions should play in the net zero transition. These include the UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB) and the British Business Bank (BBB), which operate domestically, and UK Export Finance (UKEF) and CDC Group, which operate internationally. It recommends that the mission and supporting objectives of each is updated to align with a just transition to net zero and sets out specific reforms for reforming each institution’s mandate.
Childcare: unaffordable and unavailable. A survey of more than 20,000 working parents conducted by an alliance of organisations (including the Women’s Budget Group, Gingerbread, Mumsnet, Pregnant Then Screwed, the TUC, Maternity Action, the Fawcett Society, Working Families and the Fatherhood Institute) has found that 97% believe that childcare in the UK is too expensive and 96% that the government is not doing enough to support parents with its cost and availability. A third of parents said they paid more for childcare than their rent or mortgage.
Childcare as ‘social infrastructure’. The Canadian federal government has published a comprehensive nationwide Early Learning and Childcare Plan. It describes childcare as “essential social infrastructure”, adding: “It is the care work that is the backbone of our economy. Just as roads and transit support our economic growth, so too does child care.” (For more on the concept of social infrastructure, see this Women’s Budget Group explainer.)
The impact of the Universal Credit cut. The Health Foundation has warned that the planned £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, due at the beginning of October, is likely to lead to poorer mental health and wellbeing for many people already suffering from poverty-related ill-health. People living in the 10% of areas with the highest share of Universal Credit recipients can on average expect to live nearly 8 fewer years in good health (59.8 years vs 67.6 years) than those living in the 10% of areas with the lowest share of UC recipients. The charity has conducted polling which shows strong public support for making the £20 increase permanent (51% of the UK public support; 22% against).
Child poverty on the rise. In a new analysis of child poverty the Nuffield Foundation has found that more than one in three (36%) children in families with a child under five in the UK are living in poverty, amounting to 2.2 million children. For children in families with three or more children, this figure rises to more than half (52%). These figures are significantly higher than in 2013-14 (when they were 30% and 33% respectively).
Banking for SMEs. A new report for the All-Party Group on Fair Business Banking argues that, compared with other countries, the UK’s banking system ill-serves small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It calls for a range of reforms, including removing regulatory and competition barriers for challenger banks, mutuals and Community Development Finance Institutions; providing pump-prime funding from big banks and dormant assets; and giving non-bank lenders access to cheap money to lend from the Bank of England’s Term Funding Scheme for SMEs. (Twitter thread here.)
Big banks and environmental performance. Responsible investment watchdog Share Action has examined the environmental commitments of the leading European banks across eight critical climate and biodiversity-related topics, including net-zero, high-carbon disclosure, sector policies (relating to coal, oil and gas, shipping, and biomass), biodiversity, and executive remuneration. It shows that, while some banks are demonstrating leadership on specific issues, no European bank has a comprehensive plan to ensure sustainability across all topics. (Twitter thread here.)
Scaling up social investment. Conservative MP Gareth Davies has authored a report for think tank Onward on how to expand the UK’s social impact investment market. The report finds that just £73m has been invested in ‘social impact bond’ initiatives against a target of £1 billion by 2020. The report puts forward a number of recommendations to refocus Government efforts to unlock investment at scale for businesses and projects that benefit communities and society in the UK, including replacing the under-used Social Investment Tax Relief with a new incentive for corporations to issue liquid social debt in the public markets and redirecting the Government’s £80m Life Chances Fund into a new social investment mutual fund managed by Big Society Capital. (Twitter thread here.)
Fossil fuels non-proliferation treaty. On the eve of the UN General Assembly, over 2000 academics from 81 countries have delivered an open letter to governments demanding a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to manage a global phase out of coal, oil and gas. Such a treaty would end new expansion of fossil fuel production in line with the best available science; phase out existing production of fossil fuels in a manner that is fair and equitable, taking into account the capacity of countries to transition; and invest in a transformational plan to ensure 100% global access to renewable energy.
Climate change: a health emergency. In an unprecedented initiative, over 200 health and medical journals worldwide have published a joint editorial warning of the acute threat to health if the world exceeds 1.5C and continues to destroy nature. The editorial demands that richer nations do more to support those on the frontline of climate change in the most vulnerable countries. (Twitter thread here.)
Fair shares in emissions reduction. A new peer-reviewed paper discusses what should count as a ‘fair share’ of international emissions reductions for different nations. It examines the fairness justifications offered in 168 nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the 2015 Paris Agreement against the touchstone of principles of international environmental law. (Twitter thread here.)
A Scottish public energy company? Delegates to the Scottish National Party’s annual conference have voted in favour of the Scottish Government setting up a national, publicly owned energy company. The SNP-led government has recently abandoned its plans for such a company.
Community ownership. The Government has launched a new £150 million Community Ownership Fund to help communities across the UK own and manage local community assets, such as pubs, village shops and local sports grounds. Coops UK welcomed the announcement, particularly the use of ‘community shares’ by which community businesses can raise funds from the wealthy, without ceding local, democratic control. “This strategy could be vital in addressing some of the inequalities currently baked into the fund’s design.”
A UK ‘Marcora Law’? The UK Parliament held a debate last week on allowing workers threatened with redundancy the option of purchasing their company. As James Meadway of the Progressive Economy Forum explains, the model generally proposed is Italy’s ‘Marcora Law’, introduced in 1985.