Green jobs continues to be an important area for the Centre. Last week we held a successful event with RSPB and eaga plc at the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee. The Chair of the event, Sarah Boyack MSP, declared that Labour was committed to a green jobs agenda. The dialogue continues this week with a similar event at the Scottish Lib Dems conference.
On the eve of the Labour event Mark Lazarowicz MP and CSPP Board Member wrote an article in the Guardian calling for a green new deal, which can be read below. As ever we appreciate any comments or thoughts you have.
"As the economic downturn gathers pace, the number of people out of work is increasing also. Some commentators suggest that without remedial action UK unemployment could reach 3 million by the end of the year. Government measures to support businesses are welcome and will undoubtedly make a difference, but although some measures will have a swift effect others may not significantly impact employment figures for some time. So there is a need to take more steps which will help keep unemployment down now — not next year or in five years, but within months.
We have plenty of models from history for what can be done. There has been much talk of the 1930s recession, and the parallels with Roosevelt's administration have been drawn by many. Some of Roosevelt's most successful New Deal measures were the programmes of direct labour creation.
Nearer to home, the mass unemployment of the 1980s was reduced at the margins by creation and training schemes, most notably the Community Programme. There were a number of defects in that programme, but at its peak it kept almost 300,000 people a year out of unemployment, and in the process instigated a great deal of useful work in the community.
One of the most imaginative of Roosevelt's New Deal programmes was his Civilian Conservation Corps. During its nine years, it provided more than 3 million jobs, including work on many worthwhile environmental projects. And calls have been made for Barack Obama to set up a similar scheme as part of his economic stimulus programme.
As our jobless figures grow, we can learn from these examples from history. Here in the UK, we could launch our own modern version of the Conservation Corps, a new green community programme, which would take people immediately off the unemployment register. Like the original Community Programme, it should include a training element, although the main focus should be on job creation, as some community programme schemes were distorted by the need to meet somewhat nebulous training objectives.
Such a programme should in the first instance be tailored for NGOs and voluntary organisations, which would be funded to create jobs on specific projects. NGOs and voluntary organisations are often close to their communities and can deliver good projects quickly, and in a way that can bring tangible benefits to local communities.
Working primarily with these organisations would also make it easier to avoid such a project, with its government support, being used to substitute for jobs already provided by the private sector or local government, although there is no reason why such a programme could not be eventually extended to these sectors.
With the successes and mistakes of the Community Programme to draw on, there is no reason why such a scheme could not be up and running by the summer, allowing community projects on the ground to start by autumn. This would deliver jobs and worthwhile community benefits within months, not years.
The UK's own Green Community Programme could include a range of projects, offering employment, at proper wages, perhaps initially for a year, to suit a wide range of skills. Such projects could include local environmental improvements, while others help tackle climate change. For example, carrying out energy conservation and home insulation projects, schemes to encourage employers and their staff to develop sustainable transport plans, or meeting the growing demand for environmental education.
We can have a practical green jobs programme, which has the added benefit of easing unemployment, and quickly.
That doesn't mean, of course, we don't also need medium- and long-term public spending programmes. We do — but our communities and the growing number of unemployed require action now as well."