One Million Climate Change Jobs Now

A report by the Campaign against Climate Change trade union group


Page 2 is an introduction.

Pages 3-4 explain what we mean by one million climate jobs.

Pages 5-7 explain how we can pay for them.

Pages 8-9 sets out the science of climate change and explains why we need to act now.

Pages 10-16 describe the jobs that need doing.

Pages 16-18 suggests ways we can make it happen.

Published by the Campaign against Climate Change, xxx Pentonville Road, xxxx

Edited by Jonathan Neale for the CCC trade union group  copyright CCC and Jonathan Neale, 2009


Several national trade unions and many climate activists in Britain have decided to fight to make the government create one million green ‘climate’ jobs immediately. This short report from the Campaign against Climate Change explains how we can do that and why we must.

At some point gradual climate change is going to turn into runaway catastrophe. We may well hit that point in the next twenty years. To avoid that, we need drastic cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases we put into the air.

It will take government regulation and international agreements to do that. It will also take a lot of work: jobs. We have to build a green energy economy, renovate and insulate our homes and buildings, and provide comprehensive public transport.

There are two and a half million unemployed people in Britain. By next year it is liable to be three million or more. It is possible that the economy will have started to ‘recover’ by 2010. But recovery only means that profits and sales begin to rise. Unemployment will grow for a time after ‘recovery’ begins, and may stay high for a very long time.

We have people who need jobs and work that must be done. A million green climate jobs in the UK will not solve all the economy’s problems. But it will take a million human beings off the dole and put them to work saving the future.

We cannot halt climate change only by action in the UK. But if we act, people all over the world will know, and take hope and courage to act themselves.

Who We Are

 In the spring of 2009 the trade union group of the Campaign against Climate Change organised a conference of 200 trade union activists. That conference decided to start a serious fight for green climate jobs.

We set up a working commission to draw up detailed plans. That commission has people from the campaign, four national unions (CWU, PCS, RMT, and TSSA), several NGOs and several academic experts. It is preparing a longer report with more detailed calculations of how many jobs will be needed in each sector and how much they will cut emissions.

But we are bringing out this booklet now, because we want unions to start fighting for a million jobs now.

The Main Kinds of New Jobs We Need

Producing alternative energy (See pp 00-00).

Insulating and renovating buildings and making better appliances (pp 00-00).

Public transport on trains and buses (pp 00-00).

Agriculture and waste disposal jobs to cut emissions of methane and nitrous oxide (pp 00-00).

Manufacturing (pp 00-00).

Educating and training the new workers (pp 00-00).


Climate jobs are jobs that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the air. Greenhouse gases cause global warming. This preliminary report will concentrate on the most important gas, carbon dioxide (CO2).

We are putting CO2 into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and gas – these are called CO2 ’emissions’. In the UK we need to make 80% cuts in our CO2 emissions as soon as possible. That means burning only 20% of the coal, oil and gas we do now. (For why, see pages 00-00.)

That is possible. It will take a lot of work. But if we can cut our energy use in half and supply half of that from alternative energy, we can cut CO2 emissions by 75%. We will need at least a million new climate jobs to do that.

When we say a million climate jobs, we mean something rather different from what the politicians mean when they talk about ‘green jobs’:

We mean climate jobs, not ‘green jobs’. Climate jobs are jobs that cut down the amount of greenhouse gases we put in the air and thus slow down climate change. ‘Green jobs’ can mean anything–jobs in the water industry, national parks, landscaping, bird sanctuaries, pollution control, flood control and many more things. All these jobs are necessary. But they do not effect global warming.

We want a million new jobs, not ones people are already doing. We don’t want to add up existing and new jobs and say that we now have a million climate jobs. We don’t mean jobs with a climate connection, or a climate aspect. We don’t want old jobs with new names, or ones with ‘sustainable’ in the job title. And we don’t mean ‘carbon finance’ jobs.

We want the government to hire a million workers within twelve months of starting the policy. This is a new idea. Up to now, government policy has been to use subsidies and tax breaks to encourage private industry to invest in renewable energy. They also plan to give people grants or loans for part of the cost of renovating their homes. Their idea is to encourage the market.

We want something more like the way the government used to run the National Health Service. In effect, the government sets up a National Climate Service, and the new NCS hires staff to do the work that needs to be done.

Most of us in the trade union group would like to see almost all of these workers employed by central or local government. However, we are aware this may not be politically possible, and part of the work will probably be done by contractors. But we want the government to control the project, so that they make sure it happens, and do not simply rely on the market.

We also want jobs with proper wages, pensions and trade union rights.

That will create hundreds of thousands more jobs in the private sector. This always happens with new investment. New jobs are created with suppliers. The new NCS may run the wind turbine factory. But that factory will buy steel, wood, aluminium, electricity, brooms, tea, and the people who make and transport those things will have jobs.

New jobs are also created because a million new workers with wages spend more money than they did on the dole. Somebody has to make the goods and services they buy. Those people have new jobs too. And so do the people who make the things they buy, and the new materials their companies buy.

But some people will lose their jobs. If there is a massive expansion in renewable energy, some of the jobs in the old energy economy will go. By no means all, and it won’t happen quickly, but it will happen.

In the same way, with a massive shift to public transport there will be jobs driving buses, making buses, and making electric cars. But there will be fewer jobs making cars.

Many more jobs will be created than lost. It takes many more workers to run buses and trains than it does to build cars for the same number of passengers.[i]

For a given amount of energy, it takes many more workers to build and operate alternative energy than it does to build and operate gas or coal fired power stations.[ii] And jobs renovating homes and buildings do not put anyone out of work.

We will have to protect people who lose their jobs because of the new climate economy. This is easy if the government is hiring the new climate workers. The government simply guarantees new jobs to these workers.

This is not only a matter of social justice. If we don’t guarantee jobs in that way, different groups of workers will be at each other’s throats. There are powerful forces in society, like the oil companies, who do not want a new green economy. They will use those divisions between workers to make sure nothing is done.

So we will hire a million direct workers, but create about one a half million jobs in all.

Our rough estimate is that a million workers directly hired will stimulate another 850,000 jobs, but probably lead to a loss of about 350,000 jobs.[iii]


How can the government pay for a million new jobs?

In some ways, the model for what we want to do is what happened in World War Two. Then all the great powers of the world took control of their economies and directed industry to make as many weapons as possible, as fast as possible, to kill as many people as possible and win the war.

One example will give the scale of this. In 1942, their first year in the war, the American government spent as much on the military as the entire Gross Domestic Product of the US the year before. The car factories in America closed in January, and they made no more cars for the rest of the war. By the end of March, the car factories reopened, making tanks, weapons and, by the end of the war, 66,000 bomber aircraft.[iv]

The Soviet Union, Germany and Britain did the same. This rearmament boom did not bankrupt the governments. Instead, it created jobs and lifted the whole world out of the Great Depression.

We need to do the same thing now, but in order to save lives.

After all, governments do things that ‘cost too much’ when they really care. The war in Iraq is one example. The banks are another When the credit crunch hit, we discovered that governments could spend hundreds of billions of pounds by lunchtime. They will get some of that money back, but no one knows how much. The IMF estimate is that the British government has lost at least £200 billion.[v] That’s £8,000 for each worker in Britain.

We estimate that we can employ a million workers for ten years for less than the government gave the banks in one year.

This is because a million climate jobs won’t really cost the government all that much.

At first sight, the figures look roughly like this:

£25 billion in wages for one million jobs

£5 billion in employers’ national insurance and pension contributions.

£20 billion in other costs like materials, fuel, supplies, rent, and interest.

Total cost–£50 billion

But these figures are deceptive, because:

The government will save money on taxes and benefits. When you lose your job, you pay the government a lot less tax and you collect more benefits. By the same token, every unemployed worker costs the government money. The government gets less tax, and they have to pay out more benefits.

Individual cases vary. But on average, every time the government hires someone on £25,000, they save £12,000 on that person’s taxes and befits.[vi]

That’s £12 billion saved on a million jobs.

The government will save on indirect jobs. Remember, our one million direct hires will mean approximately another half a million new ‘indirect’ workers.

The government will save on the taxes and benefits of those half a million workers too. Again, they will save £12,000 a job. That’s £6 billion saved on half a million jobs.

Add that to the £12 billion already saved and for a total of £18 billion.

The government will make money back. Bus and train passengers can buy tickets. Electric cars and low energy appliances can be sold for money. People will pay bills for electricity from renewable energy.

If a private company was spending £50 billion, they would expect to get more than that back each year. That’s how they make a profit. The government won’t be able to do that with climate spending. The government may not charge for house insulation or installing solar heating. They may subsidise public transport or make it free. Renewable energy is expensive and won’t pay back everything put into it.

So let’s assume the government only gets back 25% of what they spend. That means they will get back £12.5 billion. Let’s round that down to £12 billion.

Add that to £18 billion and the government has has saved £30 billion.

We started with the government spending £50 billion. But they have saved £30 billion.

So the real cost is only £20 billion.

There are several ways the government can find £20 billion a year:

If the richest 1% each paid 5% more income tax, that would raise £5 billion a year. The richest 1% of taxpayers all make more than £100,000. Their average income is £225,000 a year. With tax breaks, they now pay 27% of that in income tax. If they paid 5% more, they would still pay only 32% of their income in income tax.[vii]

Maybe we could cancel the new Trident nuclear submarine, or bring the troops back from Afghanistan? In common decency, we should both.

If we had full employment, that would be that. We would stop doing useless and destructive things, and spend the money on hiring people to save the climate instead.


Case Study: Taxes and Benefits for One Worker

We will take the example of a worker on £25,000 a year, a single parent with one child and rent of £500 a month.

                                       In Work         Out of work

Income tax paid                3,705              0

National insurance            2,120              0

Council tax                           700             0

VAT, petrol duty, car tax,

TV license, alcohol duty, etc 2,300      1,100

TOTAL TAX PAID                    8,825       1,100

Child tax credit                       1,110        2,785

Job seekers allowance                0         3,353

Housing benefit                           0         6,082

TOTAL BENEFITS                    1,110       12,210



When this worker has not job, the government loses a total of £18,815 in taxes and benefits.

This is only one example. The figures would be different for someone with a working partner, or no children, or a higher income, or no rent.[viii]


But right now we also want to create jobs. Cutting Trident won’t help there. Let’s say there are 3 million unemployed. You cut Trident and other government projects by one million jobs, and use the money to hire a million climate workers. But unemployment is still 3 million.

We want to bring it down to 2 million. We can’t do that by cutting other jobs. What we want instead is to make extra jobs.

We could make extra jobs by borrowing money. During the depression of the 1930s the economist John Maynard Keynes argued that in bad times governments should make all the jobs they could. His example was that it was worth it even if the government hired people to dig holes one day and fill them back up with dirt the next day. What was needed was to get the economy moving.

Governments have done this kind of thing for generations, in two ways. One way is that the government borrows the money to make jobs and pays the money back when things get better. We can raise part of the £20 billion this way.

The government could print money. The other way is that the government just spends the money without borrowing it. This used to be called ‘printing money’. That sounds bad, so it’s now called ‘quantitative easing’.

People always say that if you print money, then inflation explodes like in Germany in the 1920s or Zimbabwe today. That’s what happens if you print much too much money. In the last year the Bank of England has just spent £175 billion on ‘quantitative easing’. The world has not come to an end. We are only looking for £20 billion a year in total.

But what if they already spent it? Many politicians and economists are now saying they are sorry, but they have given all the money to the banks and there isn’t any more. So they say they have to cut jobs, services and wages in the public sector to get the money back. That also means the government can’t spend money on new climate jobs.

There are two things to say to these politicians and economists.

First, if you gave all the money to the banks, go take some of the money back from the banks.

Second, and crucially, cutting government jobs when you have already have mass unemployment is madness. You lose their taxes, and you have to pay benefits. Because the sacked workers are not spending money, other workers will lose their jobs, and the government will lose their taxes too and have to pay them benefits too.

The suffering is great and the savings to the government very small.

This approach has been tried before. In the early 1930s Herbert Hoover, the widely despised US president, did it; Ramsay McDonald, the widely despised British prime minister, did it; and by the people who ran Germany before Hitler came to power did it.

It does not work.


We turn now to look at the science of climate change and explain why we have to act so quickly and on such a large scale.

For the last 200 years humanity has been burning more and more coal, oil and natural gas, putting more and more carbon dioxide (C02) into the air. And that CO2 traps heat and warms the earth.

Scientists are now seriously worried about runaway climate change because of recent discoveries about the past.

The key research was done by two teams of scientists who drilled down into the Greenland ice pack in the early 1990s. In Greenland the winter snow and the summer snow look different and have a different chemistry. The differences remain as the snow turns into ice. So as the scientists drilled down through the ice pack, they could see what happened year by year, like reading tree rings.[ix]

The ice is two miles thick and keeps a record of 140,000 years, during which there have been more than more than twenty major climate changes. The scientists discovered that when the earth cooled, the process was gradual, over thousands of years, with temperatures and CO2 levels declining in step.

When the earth warmed, it also started out gradually. But then there was a sudden explosion in both temperature and CO2 levels. This rapid increase often happened in twenty years or less. The last big change was from the last Ice Age to the present warm period. In Greenland, half of that change happened in three years.

Scientists have since looked for evidence of climate change in ice packs, glaciers, ocean floor deposits and caves around the world. What they have found confirms the Greenland research. When the earth warms, it starts gradually and then explodes.

Scientists know this means there is some kind of “feedback” effect, or several ˜feedback” effects. An example will explain how climate feedbacks work. Rising CO2 levels are now warming the Arctic. This begins to melt the permanent snow and ice. Snow and ice are white and reflect heat back into the atmosphere. When they melt, they reveal dark sea, dark tundra and dark trees. These absorb heat, and the Arctic warms up more, so the snow and ice melt more quickly. That reveals more dark tundra, trees and sea, which cause more melting, and so on.

This feedback process has begun, and is speeding up. Scientists have discovered several more climate feedbacks as well, some of them very scary.[x] They are pretty sure that feedbacks and abrupt change are waiting for us. But they are not yet agreed which feedbacks will be crucial, or how long we have.

There is one worrying sign. CO2 levels in the atmosphere are measured in parts per million (ppm). The difference between an ice age and a warm period is 100 ppm. In the last 250 years we have added another 105 ppm. Two thirds of that has been added in the last 50 years.

The scientists’ best guess is that we may have ten to twenty years to act, though we may have fifty. On the outside, it may be less than ten years or more than fifty.[xi]

Fast, runaway climate change will produce large numbers of extreme weather events all over the world in the same year. There will be rising seas, droughts, crop failures, fires and deadly urban heat waves.

The consequences will be enormous. If you want to know how the governments of the world will cope, look at how the richest country on earth coped with one hurricane in New Orleans.[xii]

Climate change has already caused droughts that have lasted many years in Chad, Sudan and Ethipoia, and led to recurrent famines. Drought is now spreading in West Africa, Kenya, the southwestern United States, and Central Asia. With abrupt climate change, serious droughts will hit many parts of the world. We can expect crops failure and widespread famine.

Famine, storms, drought and rising seas will produce hundreds of millions of refugees. In the world we live in, many of them will be stopped at borders and trapped in refugee camps. Racism will increase to justify keeping them out.

The quickly changing climate will also change the balance of geography and economy between and within countries. That will mean war, in many different places, at the same time.

There can be no accurate estimates of the dead from all these causes, but they will be in the hundreds of millions. Humanity as a whole will survive. Many species will not. One guess is that 30% of the species of life on earth will perish, but no one really knows.

That’s why we have to move quickly to stabilise levels of CO2 in the air.  However, most of the world’s governments are still talking about stabilising CO2 levels at much higher levels at much higher levels than we have now by the year 2050. Five years ago, that’s how many scientists were talking too. The scientists are talking differently now. This is partly because of considerable evidence that climate change has been speeding up, and that feedback effects already underway.

Some scientists now feel that we can only tolerate limited increases in the CO2 in the air. Others argue that levels are already too high. In both cases, the gap between what the scientists are saying, and what the politicians are doing, is huge and dangerous.

So this report will talk simply about stabilising levels of CO2 in the air. After all, that is what we have to do, sooner or later. Sooner is safer, and will lead to a better life in any case.

We do not have to eliminate all emissions. Part of the CO2 that goes into the atmosphere each year is absorbed by the oceans and by plants and trees on land. On a global scale, a cut of 50% to 60% in emissions should stabilise CO2 in the air.

However, the richer countries of the world currently emit far more than their share. Britain emits ten times as much as India per person. The poorer countries will insist that richer countries make deeper cuts. That is only fair, and we cannot do it without them.

This means means the UK will have to cut its emissions by about 75% to 80%. We can do this, and do it quickly.


This section looks at the jobs that need doing. In the New Year we will produce a longer report will give more detail on the how many jobs need doing in which sectors and how much carbon they will save. This booklet will only give rough estimates.

One way to cut carbon emissions is to stop burning coal, oil and gas and make energy another way–‘alternative energy’. The second is to use energy more efficiently. Still heat the house, for instance, but insulate the walls and roof so it requires less fuel to stay warm.

We have to do both.

Alternative energy

Alternative energy is also called renewable energy. This is because it uses endlessly renewed sources of power – the wind, the sun, waves, rivers and the tide.

To produce a steady supply of renewable energy, you need a mix of several kinds. This is because most forms of renewable energy work best at different times. Sometimes the wind blows stronger, and sometimes it stops. Solar power does not work at night.

We need many kinds of renewable energy, because it’s hard to store electricity. It’s not stuff, it’s a pulse moving down wires. It has to be used when it’s made.

We also need a mix of energy from different places. Wind and sunshine vary from place to place. So we need to extend the national grid with cables to take electricity from wind, sun, tide and waves right across the country. The supply will balance even better across longer distances. You have more sunlight, and are certain to have steady wind, if you link up across Europe. There are also proposals to generate electricity from concentrated solar power machines in the Middle East and North Africa and send it across Europe.

Wind power

All that said, onshore and offshore wind power makes the most sense in Britain. We have a lot of wind.

Wind turbines (modern windmills) are big. Solar power works well locally and domestically. Wind power works best in big wind farms in windy places. This is because the amount of electricity is much greater if the wind speed is higher. That means the towers need to be tall so the blades are high up where the winds blow. Turbines also work well offshore, where the wind blows more steadily.

Most of these jobs will be in manufacture. The UK currently produces 401TWh (Terrawatt hours, or trillion watt hours) of electricity a year. If 300,000 wind workers are employed for ten years, by 2020 wind could produce 300 TWh, three quarters of the present supply.[xiii]

Wave and tidal power

Marine power technologies, like offshore wave and tidal current turbines, are still in the early stages. The UK is a world leader in research and development, and in test facilities, with the European Marine Energy Centre in the Orkneys and the New and Renewable Energy centre in the Northumbria. The resource potential is huge, and so is the export potential. There are currently dozens of projects in development around the Uk. If this technology can be developed here, it will be a service to the world.

 Solar Power

The most economic form of solar power in Britain at the moment is solar water heating. Household water passes through thin pipes on the roof and is heated by the sun. Once installed it’s virtually free. This is already widely used in other parts of the world, particularly rural China.

PV cells are the second kind of solar power. These cells come in thin boxes, and are attached to south facing roofs. They turn the sunlight into electricity, even on cloudy days. PV cells are expensive, but they are the main available backup to wind. Once mass produced, they should come down in price.

For much of the time solar PV cells installed on roofs will be producing more electricity than the house needs. This extra electricity will not be wasted. The cables that carry electricity into the house from the supplier can also carry the spare solar electricity back to the grid.

Other Alternative Energies

We are still working on the phrasing for coal and nuclear here.


 The main renewable power jobs:

The majority of jobs are in factories that make the wind turbines, marine turbines, PV cells and solar heating.

Working in other factories and mills that supply parts and materials.

Transporting and assembling the wind turbines, marine turbines and solar power on site.

Maintaining the wind farms, marine turbines and solar power.

Transporting and assembling offshore wind turbines and marine turbines, using the skills learned by construction workers, divers and seafarers in the North Sea oil and gas fields.

Building the barges and boats for assembling and maintaining offshore wind and marine turbines.

Manufacturing and setting up the long distance cables and pylons for new renewable electricity.

Building batteries and other ways of storing electricity.

Research and development in marine turbines.

Training and education in the necessary skills for all the above jobs.

Energy Use

Alternative energy is half the solution. The other half is reducing energy use.

In Britain almost 80% of our CO2 emissions are due to energy used in homes, public buildings and transport. The jobs that need doing are concentrated in those areas.


Home use is responsible for about a quarter of CO2 emissions.[xiv] Three quarters of this comes from heating the home and hot water. This currently uses gas or coal, not electricity.

New houses can be made very low carbon simply by tightening the building regulations. This is about regulation, not mainly about new jobs. But we will need plenty of rigorous building inspectors.

New houses account for only one home in a hundred each year. So most of the work has to go into old homes.[xv]

Each home is different, so different techniques will apply. But the first priority is to stop the house leaking heat. For the majority of homes the easiest first step is the insulation of lofts and cavity walls. After that will come solid wall insulation, double glazing windows, and draught proofing.

The second priority is to replace all old boilers with the current generation of highly efficient boilers.

These measures should cut emissions from heating air and water by about 45% – almost half. It will take approximately 200,000 workers ten years to do this.[xvi]

This is not enough, however. Something more is necessary. Solar water heaters on roofs are possible. At present costs, it would take another 100,000 workers ten years to do 19 million homes, and cut total heating emissions by another 6%.

It would also be possible to cut another 8% by putting solar PV cells on 10 million roofs. But at present costs it would take 200,000 more workers ten years. There is an argument, though, for using solar power to back up wind when it fluctuates.[xvii]

In many cases the work could be done more efficiently by teams of building workers who move through a neighbourhood block by block, and do several jobs in each house at one time.

Ground source heat pumps are another possibility. They could cut emissions by large amounts in houses with gardens. But they run on electricity. And they will not reduce emissions until more than half of electricity on the grid comes from renewable energy. So it makes sense to install wind, wave and tidal energy first, and to fix leaky houses, before installing solar power or heat pumps.

Home Appliances

About a quarter of energy use in homes comes from lighting and appliances. Here the main solutions are not new jobs, but new regulations. For instance, old style incandescent light bulbs will be banned in the next few years.

What is needed, however, is complete regulation of all appliances and lighting for energy use. The government would set regulations for next year that fit with the best appliances currently on the market. Those regulations could bee regularly tightened as the technology develops.[xviii]

The usual practice is to regulate the energy efficiency of the appliance–how much electricity it uses for so much energy. This is a trap, however. Many manufacturers will simply make bigger, more efficient fridges to replace small inefficient fridges. What is needed instead is limits on the total amount of electricity any fridge, or TV, or whatever, can use.

It is often said that standby settings should also be eliminated. In fact this is not necessary, because regulations can simply require that none of them use more than 0.1 watts an hour.

Here the saving is mostly by regulation, not jobs. But the workers at any factory threatened with closure should be able to retool and reopen making new efficient appliances. These could then be sold very cheaply, at much less than cost, to anyone prepared to turn in very inefficient old appliances. Even allowing for the emissions created by making the new appliances, this would still cut emissions considerably.

Public Buildings

About one-sixth of CO2 emissions come from buildings that are not homes but not factories either. The main energy users here are shops, offices, warehouses, schools, hotels and restaurants.

The balance of emissions is a bit different from in the home. Almost half of emissions comes from heating air and water, and a quarter come from lighting.

Lighting use can be reduced by regulations, more efficient bulbs, plus careful use and monitoring. Emissions from heating can be reduced by the same measures used in homes. We estimate that it would take about 100,000 workers over ten years to insulate and renovate these public buildings.[xix]


The Main Jobs in Homes and Buildings:

Most jobs will be in building trades of all kinds.

Manufacture of building materials, boilers, and heat pumps.

Manufacture of low energy appliances.

Suppliers of materials and parts for those manufacturers.

Architects, engineers, and research and development.

Housing inspectors.

Training and education for all these skills.


Transport counts for a third of UK emissions.[xx] The main thing we have to do here is switch from cars, planes and lorries to buses and trains.

Cars produce about one eighth of the total UK emissions from all sources. In the UK, buses and trains produces about half that amount of CO2 for each passenger journey. In other countries, the comparison favours buses and trains much more, partly because of better design but mainly because the buses and trains are fuller outside rush hour. In these cases, buses and trains can run on a third of the CO2 of cars, or even less.[xxi]

So the starting point is a massive expansion of buses and trains. For this we need public transport that comes often, runs late into the night, goes everywhere, is clean, comfortable and not empty or overcrowded.

To do this we need more trains, more track, and more lines. We need to have all the train lines electrified, because electric trains produce far less emissions than diesel. And in the future those trains can run on electricity from wind and other renewable sources.

We also need more buses, and more small buses and minibuses to avoid wasteful empty buses outside rush hour.

Cars, vans and taxis now account for six out of seven passenger miles in the UK. There are three ways of encouraging people to switch from cars. We can make public transport more attractive. We can ban cars from inner cities, or ban cars during rush hour. We can make public transport free. Or we can use a mixture of all three.

If three quarters of car journeys switch to buses and trains, that would cut passenger emissions by half.[xxii] [xxiii]


Aviation accounts for about 6% of UK CO2 emissions, according to official figures. However, the CO2 from planes does at least twice the damage, because it is emitted much higher in the atmosphere. Taking that into account, planes are responsivle for about 12%, or one-eighth of our emissions. This is also the fastest rising sort of emissions.

High speed trains can replace domestic and European flights. From Heathrow, for instance, this represents half of all flights, although a smaller proportion of passenger miles. And planes produce 8 to 11 times the CO2 of high speed rail.[xxiv] This is an emormous saving, but requires building more electrified high speed rail lines in Britain, and across Europe. It would also help to ban all domestic flights as a first step.


 HGV lorries in the UK currently account for about 3% of total UK emissions. Lorries emit about six times more CO2 than trains for every ton carried one mile.[xxv] Lorries also carry most of the freight – seven times as much as rail.

These numbers may overstate the advantages of rail freight. It is possible that building railways and trains is responsible for more CO2 than building roads and lorries.[xxvi] But even if the numbers are exaggerated, the cuts in CO2 emissions from transferring even half of road freight would still be very large. Again, as with passenger transport and aviation, this means building tracks and expanding the number of rail workers.

Electric Cars

Buses and trains are the main solutions. However, there will still be some cars on the roads.

Electric cars are respsonsible for smaller emissions, although the difference is not that great.[xxvii] But they have other advantages for the climate, because they have batteries. Once we have extensive wind farms, they will produce a great deal of electricity in the late night hours that has to be used then or wasted. This electricity can be used to recharge electric car batteries at night. Moreover, those car batteries can be linked to the grid and provide a store that can be drawn upon if there are sudden falls in the renewable energy supply, or sudden surges in demand.[xxviii]

There are equivalent savings to be made from electric buses.

How much difference would this make?

Let’s assume that half of the passenger miles by car each year switch to buses and trains. Let’s also assume that the remaining cars, buses and the trains are all electric. Then the 12% of CO2 emissions that come from cars would shrink by at least half.[xxix] Replacing all domestic and most European air travel with high speed rail would cut another 12% of emissions by about a third.[xxx] Add in replacing half of HGV traffic with rail freight, and we have cut total UK emissions by about 12%, or one eighth.

That will require a very large number of railway and bus workers. This is because they would carry more than four times the passengers and three times the freight they do now.[xxxi] There are about 250,00 rail and bus workers now, so we could need up to 750,000 more.[xxxii]

On the other hand, building renewable energy and renovating houses will provide a lot of jobs over the first ten years, but many fewer permanent jobs. Transport will eventually provide the permanent, continuing jobs.

The Main Jobs in Transport:

Jobs in bus travel

Jobs in rail travel

Construction work in building and electrifying high speed rail and other new rail lines

Manufacture of track, engines and rolling stock

Manufacture of electric cars and buses

Supply of parts and materials for that manufacture

Training and educating in all the necessary skills

Agriculture and Waste

Until now we have been talking about jobs that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But two other greenhouse gases are also important: methane and nitrous oxide.

These are very powerful greenhouse gases, but we only put small amounts into the air. If you measure the total warming effect of all the greenhouse gases, methane is repsonsible for 7% and nitrous oxide for 5%.[xxxiii] Both these gases, however, remain in the atmosphere for much less time than CO2. So cutting CO2 makes a long term difference. Cutting methane and nitrous oxide give you fast cuts. And fast cuts are what we want first.

The good news is that emissions of both methane and nitrous oxide in the UK have fallen by half since 1990. It should be possible to cut both quite more quite quickly.[xxxiv] The main jobs here are in waste and organic farming.

Half of methane emissions come from the slow decay of food waste in landfills. There are two solutions here. One is burning more of the methane that seeps out of landfills. The other is sorting out the food waste at home and burning it in local ‘combined heating and power’ plants.

A third of methane emissions come from agriculture. Almost all of this is in the farts from cattle, and the solution is fewer cattle.

Two thirds of nitrous oxide emissions also come from agriculture–more than half of from using fertilizer. The most effective solution is stop using fertilizer. That’s called organic agriculture, which takes a lot more work – more jobs.[xxxv]


A large proportion of the new climate jobs will be in manufacturing. We have already mentioned most of these–manufacturing wind turbines, marine turbines, solar power, power lines, building materials, boilers, heat pumps, low carbon appliances, electric buses, electric cars, rolling stock, and the parts and materials for all these industries.

There will also be work, however, in redesigning and renovating factories so they are more efficient, and in building new, more efficient machines and factories.[xxxvi]


Finally, there are jobs in education and training many new skilled trades people like electricians. There will be training in new skills for already experienced crafts people.

Over the years the nature of the new jobs will also change, and people who have been trained will need training again.

Some of the jobs in training will be on the job, and some in colleges and universities. There will be paid work for teachers and lecturers here. But workers being trained will have to be paid too, and there will be more of them than the teachers.

One Million Jobs

We have now mentioned a wide variety of jobs. The total clearly adds up to more than a million jobs a year for ten years. There are two possible ways of dealing with this. One is to take longer–perhaps twenty years–to cut our CO2 emissions properly. The other is that once we have a million jobs, people will be persuaded that the programme is a good thing. They will also become far more conscious of climate change, and there will be millions of ‘climate ambassadors’ among the new workers and their families. So if we need more jobs, we are likely to get them.


  1. We’re serious. It sounds good. Now we have to make it happen.

Because we mean it. We are not doing this to just to influence union policy, or party policy, or to make ourselves feel good. We want to make the government do it. And we’re going to have a bloody good try.

To do that, we have to bring intense pressure to bear on the government of the day, whoever they may be. We will do this whether it is a Labour or a Tory government. That means building a campaign in many different ways.

The scale of the problem of climate change and the scale of the real solutions require union activists to think in ways less routine and more daring ways. The precedent in this country was when the unions founded the Labour Party, and used it to fight for a health service and a welfare state.

This challenge means that unions will have to join and lead all kinds of other groups. We cannot solve this problem without jobs and massive government programmes. Unions understand that.

At the same time, though, union activists and environmentalists will have to learn to work together. We will not win this one unless union activists are fighting not just for themselves, but for the planet.

This means leadership from the top, and engagement at the national level, with an extraordinary unwillingness to compromise. Nature, after all, is not going to compromise with humanity.

But it also requires union members and local representatives who are willing and determined to lead the campaign at a local level and to involve other groups. We want climate scientists talking to meetings of postal workers, and union branch secretaries going to talk to mosques. In the end, we also need union members prepared to make their national leaders act.

This adds up to a very tall order. But the projects starts more easily, with persuading people and organisations to back the idea.

In some unions the national leadership already backs the idea. There we need to go the branches and workplaces.

In other unions some national leaders will be hesitant, and some sections of workers will be worried about their jobs. Here we need to argue carefully and listen patiently. We will need to persuade workplace groups and branches, and then take resolutions to national conferences.

However, unions have a long tradition of passing motions on policy. The proposers of the motion then feel good and nothing happens. We don’t want that.

So every step of the way we need to be saying that we mean this. If you say that often enough, people start believing that you mean it. Even you believe it. Then you can make it happen.

We need to move out beyond unions to the whole of society. We can ask local councillors to support a milliono g climate jobs, and then mayors and whole councils. The key here will be polite but consistent lobbying. We can do the same with local branches of political parties, with members of parliament, and with the assemblies of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We can approach the churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. National environmental organisations, and their local branches, can be another stronghold. So will the many local clubs with obvious links to the issue – cyclists, bird watchers, train enthusiasts, and all the rest.

In addition, there are all the groups with no obvious connections to the issue. Choirs, the patrons of a particular hairdresser, parent teacher associations, book groups, amateur dramatic societies, pub patrons, youth groups, and many thousands of other possibilities.

The point of all this will be to establish, in front of everyone, that most people in the country support a million climate jobs.


Persuasion and support on their own will not be enough. We will need action.

Action will put pressure on the government of the day. But there is an equally important fact about human psychology. If people just listen to arguments, they feel passive and don’t care that much. If they organise and act, they feel more deeply committed. Even seeing others taking action makes people stronger. It makes them feel that something can be done, and people like them can do it.

So campaigning for support can lead to action, but action also leads to support.

Action can be of many kinds. In unions, one form of daily action is the work of union environmental representatives. These ‘reps’ are like shop stewards or health and safety reps, but for the environment.

Management currently refuse to recognise environmental reps. But we can elect them, and make management talk to them. The government is also refusing to give environmental reps statutory rights. We can push them too.

Union environmental reps can fight to cut energy usage. Management will generally go along with that. But union reps, backed by union members, can also fight for management to actually spend money on the climate.

For instance, union members can force employers to insulate and ventilate buildings properly. They can insist that new buildings are built to the highest standards, with solar panels on the roof.

In addition, disputes over the closure of local offices, depots, and hospitals effect the climate. Every time a local office closes, both staff and service users have to travel further every day, with more emissions. Strikes to prevent local office closures are battles to defend the climate, and deserve wide support.

Campaigns and actions over climate in the wider society will bring unions and other activists together. We can build local campaigns to fight for planning permission for wind farms. We can campaign for local councils to insist on solar roofs and low carbon buildings as a condition of all permission for new buildings. Students can fight for the same thing in universities, and tenants associations in council housing.

It is also essential for unions to be part of national climate campaigning. Climate jobs are only part of what we have to do to halt climate change. On December 5 there will be a big national demonstration in London over climate change, as part of global attempts to bring pressure on the United Nations talks on a new climate treaty. We need union banners and union members all over that demonstration.

We also need national limits on total emissions, and government regulation of flights, appliances, housing and so on. Then there are the campaigns and direct actions against plans for new developments of roads, airports and power stations that will hurt the climate.

The most important kind of action, though, will be the fight to defend jobs at workplaces threatened with mass redundancies or closure.

For example, the Vestas wind turbine blade factory on the Isle of Wight faced closure this summer. Seventeen workers occupied the plant and held it for 18 days. They have now been evicted, but are fighting on.

But the Vestas workers only started talking about an occupation two months after redundancies were announced. They only occupied the factory after most production was finished. If they had moved immediately the redundancies were announced, they say, they would have had 400 workers in the occupation, not 17.

Even without that, the resonances of the Vestas occupation have been enormous. In the early days of the occupation, hundreds of Vestas workers stood outside the plant in support. It is now difficult to find anyone on the island who did not support the occupation. The Tory council has swung to support for the workers. The occupation was on national television, and in the newspapers in Britain, the United States, Denmark and all over the world.

That’s the resonance when 17 workers fight for their jobs and for the planet. Imagine a million.

We need more fights like Vestas. They were lucky, it was a wind power factory. But the great advantage of a widely known national plan for a million jobs is that workers can fight to be a part of it. Car factories are shrinking or closing all over the world. Those car workers can demand that the government rescues their jobs and they retool to build electric buses or cars. Building workers facing the sack can demand insulation work. Factory workers can demand they be funded to retool and make low energy washing machines.

This means we can fight for a million climate jobs as national government policy from the top down. But we can also fight for climate jobs from the bottom up, workplace by workplace. That will make national campaigning stronger. And if we have workers in different parts of the country occupying the same time and fighting for their jobs and our planet, the resonances will be global and the pressures on the government immense.

It may take even more than that to move the government of the day to hire a million workers. It may take a national strike by one union, or by several unions. We should be prepared to do that if we have to.

Of course we cannot solve the climate crisis just by cutting emissions in the UK. We are too small. But in another way, we can. If we do win a million climate jobs in the UK, our example will be seen on television in every country. All over the globe, workers will know what to do. And they will do it. That will change the future of the planet.

[i] See footnote on page xxx on transport jobs

[ii] Renewable energy is more expensive than coal and gas. That is why it needs a subsidy. The reason it is more expensive is that it takes more labour–more jobs –to produce the same amount of power.

[iii] The estimate of 800,000 jobs is based on the Scottish input – output tables, looking at similar industries. This assumes that the job stimulation will be roughly in line with that in similar industries. It also assumes that xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[iv] Footnote Neale and other book xxxxxxxx

[v] International Monetary Fund, Global Financial Stability Report, April 2009, page 36. The figures are given in dollars: $110 of writeoffs up to the end of 2008, and a further $200 million expected in 2009.

[vi]  European study, euromod and Murphy.

[vii] Calculations based on the figures in Mike Brewer, Luke Sibieta, and Liam Wren-Lewis, Racing Away: Income Inequality and the Evolution of High Incomes, Institute of Fiscal Studies Briefing Note 76, 2008, page 9. This paper uses data from 2005-2006, and the numbers would be slightly higher now.

[viii] This example is taken from Richard Murphy, ‘Cut Governemnt Debt by Increasing Spending’,, 10 July 2009. We have left child benefit out of the calculations, because it is the same whether or not you are in work. We have also left out employers national insurance contributions, because if the worker is in public emloyment these are equally a cost and an income for the government.

[ix] Footnote Alley xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[x]  For a readable summary of many of the possible feedbacks, see Fred Pearce, xxxxxx. The recent and worrying climate science is summarised in xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.



[xiii] Here are the calculations.

In 2008 the total UK supply of electricity was 401 TWh. 7 TWh of that came from wind. In 2008 the UK had 3.4 MW of installed wind power. So approximately 2 TWh of electricity were produced that year for each MW of installed capacity. 150 MW of installed capacity should produce 300 TWh, half of current electricity production.

In 2008 the US wind energy industry employed 85,000 workers directly. The US had 25 MW of installed capacity, including 8MW installed that year alone, but many turbines were imported.

Germany had 38,000 directly employed wind workers and 23MW of installed capacity, including just less than 2MW installed that year. But Germany was a major exporter of turbines.

If we add the German and US figures together, we get 123,000 workers employed directly, 10 MW of capacity installed each year, and 48 MW of total installed capacity.

If the comparison holds, we can install 15 MW a year for ten years, produce half of current electricity from wind within ten years, and employ 189,000 wind workers directly.

But we will need more wind workers in the UK, because much of our wind will be offshore, which is more expensive. A rough guess would be 300,000 workers if half the power comes from offshore wind.

That would give us three quarters of our current production levels from wind. However, ten years from now energy efficiency savings should also have reduced the amount of electricity needed. But more electricity will be needed in transport and housing to replace fossil fuels. These figures also do not allow for rising productivity on the one hand, or the need for increased capacity because of intermittency on the other.


[xiv] 27% if you don’t count emissions from international aviation and shipping, 25% if you do.

[xv]  The following section is based on a background paper for this report by Fergus Nicol on ‘The Building Industry’. There is also a very useful summary of the numbers is in Department for Communities and Local Government, Review of the Sustainability of Existing Buildings: the Energy Efficiency of Dwellings – Initial Analysis, 2006. The numbers below are based on Box 1 on page 7. We have not included combined heat and power, because of questions about the use of biomass.

[xvi] Nicol, ‘The Building Industry’, estimates this from Energy Efficiency of Dwellings, Box 1 on page 7, on the assumption that there would be one job for each £50,000 expenditure. It is likely that both technology and skills would increase greatly with mass production, in which case we would need fewer jobs. The calculation that it would reduce energy use by more than half comes for potential carbon saving in Box 1.

[xvii] Figures for solar water heating and PV cells come from Energy Efficiency of Dwellings, on the same assumption of £50,000 per job. We are assuming that some of the jobs would be in installation, but many would be in manufacture.

[xviii] Footnote McKay for use of various appliances.

[xix] See Nicol, ‘The Building Industry’; and R. Gupta and S. Chandiwalla, A critical and comparative evaluation of approaches and policies to measure, benchmark, reduce and manage CO2 emissions from energy use in the existing building stock in cities of developed and rapidly-developing countries – case studies of UK, USA, and India, Research paper for the World Bank, 2009.

[xx]  Transport is sometimes counted as 24% of ‘domestic’ emissions, but this does not include international aviation. Include that, and the percentage rises to 28%. A conservative estimate of the impact of CO2 released by planes into the atmosphere is that it doubles the warming effect. Allowing for that, transport emissions would be 34% of the UK total. Calculations based on the figures in Transport Statistics Great Britain 2008, page 56. The data there are for 2006.

[xxi] See Neale, other sources in Neale, MacKay, Carbon Pathways Analysis, and Transport Statistics Great Britain.

[xxii] The source for the statistics here is Department for Transport, Transport Statistics Great Britain 2008. The key tables are table 1.1 on page 14 and table 3.7 on page 56. I have arbitrarily assumed that one half of light van mileage is similar to car travel, and one half similar to HGV useage.

[xxiii] Footnote dft tables and studies quoted in neale

[xxiv] John Stewart, Who Says There Is No Alternative: An Assessment of the Potential of Rail to Cut Air Travel, report for the RMT union, June 2008.

[xxv] All the lorries together currently emit 43 times as much CO2 as all the freight trains together. But the lorries are only carrying seven times as much freight as the trains. That means that lorries are emitting six times as much per ton as freight trains. See Transport Statistics Great Britain 2008, pages 56 and 66: and Department for Transport, Carbon Pathways Analysis: Informing Development of a Carbon Reduction Strategy for the Transport Sector, July 2008, page 18. These calculations are only for the fuel used – diesel in both cases. They do not take account of the CO2 emissions from building lorries and roads, or from building trains and railways.

[xxvi] Studies comparing the costs of rail and road construction produce conflicting results, but tend to favour roads. We have been unable to find any studies that compare the emssions.

[xxvii] It is easy to exaggerate the savings from electric cars. There are two common ways of doing this. One is to compare the energy used for the electric car in KW with the energy used in a petrol car. But an electric car can use less energy to run, while still having almost the same emissions if you count the emissions way back at the power plant.

Another way to exaggerate the saving is to say the following: ‘Electric cars run on coal and gas fired power stations are respsonsible for smalller emissions than petrol cars. But if half of the electricity supply on the grid comes from renewables, then the emissions due to the electric car are cut by half again.’

This sounds reasonable. However, imagine that we have replaced three quarters of current UK electricity with renewables. So we now have 400 TW hours of electricity a year, and 300 of that comes from wind and other renewable energy. Then imagine that we add another 100 TW hours of electricity demand from electric cars. We have not yet built any more

[xxviii] See John Cowsill, In What Ways can Electric Vehicles Assist the UK Renewable Energy Strategy?, University of East London thesis, 2008.

However, we cannot cut emissions from electric cars by half if half the grid supply comes from renewables. This is because the electric cars would make extra demands on the electricity supply. If the supply of renewable electricity remains the same, the only way to charge the electric vehicles is to preserve more of the old fossil fuel supply for the power stations.

[xxix] This assumes that electric cars using fossil fuel power plants use produce two thirds the emissions of petrol cars, and that the same is true for electric buses. It also assumes that buses and trains are responsible for a third of the emissions per passenger kilometre, which assumes somewhat better passenger loads in public transport outside peak time than we currently have. In fact, the saving is likely to be more than half. This is because we have used conservative figures for the savings from electric vehicles, and because commuting to work would be proportionately more likely to switch to public transport. This matters because passenger loads for commuters are close to one person per car, while for leisure use and school runs they are about two persons per car. For all uses, there are about 1.5 people in a car on average. (See Transport Statistics 2008, table 1.5 on page 17.) All comparisons here with buses and trains have taken this into account – we are comparing passenger miles, not vehicles.

[xxx] This would cut almost half of flights, but a smaller proportion of passenger miles. However, this is based on John Stewart’s study of flights from Heathrow, and it may be that if you include all traffic from UK airports, then European and domestic flights may account for more than half of passenger miles.

[xxxi] According to Transport Statistics Great Britain 2008, 84% of passenger kilometres are by car and taxi, and 13% by rail and bus. If car and taxi miles fall by half, that will be 42% by car and taxi and 55% by rail, a four-fold increase in public transport passenger kilometers. And then we have to add the effect of moving half of aviation miles to rail.

[xxxii] Accurate statistics for public transport employment in the UK are surprisingly difficult to find. But the Unite union has 95,000 member in passenger transport. This includes some taxi drivers, but is mainly bus workers. The RMT has 80,000 members, mostly on the rail and buses. The TSSA has another 30,000, mostly in rail. Most bus workers are unionised, but many track workers for contractors in the rail system are not, and no one knows how many of them there are. These figures also do not include the workers who would make rolling stock. Nor do they include workers making buses, but in the medium run there would be less workers building buses than the jobs lost making cars. Taking all these considerations together, 250,000 to 300,000 rail and bus workers now is a reasonable approximation.

According to Transport Statistics, 84% of passenger kilometres are by car and taxi, and 13% by rail and bus. If car and taxi miles fall by half, that will be 42% by car and taxi and 55% by rail, a four-fold increase in public transport passenger kilometers.

[xxxiii] This is working from the figures for 2007 in Joanna Jackson et al (AEA), Greenhouse Gas Inventories for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, 1990-2007, September 2009. I have adjusted these figures to take account of the CO2 emissions from international aviation and shipping, which they do not include.

[xxxiv]  The next few paragraphs lean on the statistics in Jackson et al, Greenhouse Gas Inventories; National Farmers Union, Agriculture and Climate Change, November 2005, especially pp 41-44: and Barbara Harriss-White, background paper on ‘Agriculture’ for the Union Climate Commission, 2009.

[xxxv] See the background paper on ‘Agriculture’ by Barbara Harriss-White.

[xxxvi] For an idea of some of the possbilities here, see Lovins, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx