UK Youth Climate Coalition's Adam Dyster argues that we have everything to gain with a sustainable and green economy.
At Labour Party Conference, Left Foot Forward is holding a panel discussion on the topic ‘Should we drop green growth during austerity?’ If you can’t make the event you can follow the debate over twitter using the hashtag #greengrowth
My generation has suffered the most from an economic crisis we didn’t cause.
Five years on and a fifth of 16-24 year olds are unemployed. Of those who are in work, they often work fewer hours than they would like to make ends meet; contracts are short-term and offer few opportunities for training and professional development.
With economic depression, high unemployment and a distinct lack of fulfilling jobs, today’s youth are still reeling from 2008.
We are also set to suffer the most from another major crisis – climate change. Our government is legally bound to tackle climate change and cut carbon emissions. But austerity, whether it be the economic ideology or the general mood, calls for priorities to be established.
Climate change and sustainability are frequently amongst the first budgets to go. Many find it hard to justify spending on what they wrongly perceive as an abstract, distant issue. Instead inflation, standards of living and particularly unemployment are often the sole focuses of government. With the fear of a ‘lost generation’ and thousands in desperate need of work, it is obvious why.
But getting young people into work is far from a competing priority with tackling climate change. Instead, it is the key to achieving this sustainably. Before we look to recovery, we need to ask what sort of economy is best for our future. It would seem folly to return to a system that threatens bust as well as boom.
We must instead learn from it, and seek something better. This alternative should be one that offers sustainable growth, stability and is not reliant on limited resources.
The green economy, and in particular green jobs are key to creating this future and the recovery. This is why the UK Youth Climate Coalition launched the Youth for Green Jobs campaign which aims to see Green Jobs accessible to young people across the UK.
In the UK, the green economy was responsible for ⅓ of economic growth from 2011 – 12 and employed 1 million people. In other words, in a time of recession it was one of the only sectors of the UK economy to grow. The UK is a world leader in ‘low carbon environmental goods’ and services – the UK industry’s 4.8% growth rate one of the highest in the world, and a recent report from the Mayor of London placed the capital’s green economy at a huge £25bn.
The solar industry has shown both the growth potential of green jobs, and the folly of abandoning sustainability. Investment, in the form of generous feed-in tariffs, resulted in a boom in the photovoltaic industry. This created a large number of jobs, with many young people given apprenticeships and roles that allowed them to learn vital skills and experience.
Yet instead of being allowed to grow and reach maturity, the burgeoning sector was plunged into chaos with the slashing of feed-in tariffs. Hundreds of businesses went bust, and newly created jobs lost. Whilst some may have sought short-term savings, they abandoned an industry that was growing and putting thousands in work.
Short-term, unsustainable thinking characterises the current political attitudes to the economy and the green sector. The Green Jobs amendment to the recent Energy Bill, which UKYCC passionately fought for, was not just about the business confidence and investment it would create. It was also to ensure that young people and future generations are at the heart of policy decisions.
At present, long-term thinking is subordinate to the rhythm of market cycles and the tick-tock of elections. It is no wonder that many young people are disenfranchised with the political system when it shows no commitment to our futures.
We must also be equipped to further advance green growth. Education is vital, as the global outcry against Gove’s removal of climate change showed. Young people are the ones who will need the skills and education to keep the future fairer, greener and cleaner. Without this, any progress on green growth and sustainability will be lost, and the UK will struggle to reach its international climate targets.
My generation are unemployed and often ignored. We need green growth to secure future jobs and livelihoods. Green Jobs can provide meaningful work for a generation so affected by unemployment. It can provide clean power, cheaper transport and sustainable employment.
In 2015, I, along with thousands of other young people, will vote for the party that will fight for a sustainable recovery, youth employment, and a greener future.
We have everything to gain with a sustainable, green economy, and a generation to lose if we abandon it.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.