The following is a press release from the Department of Energy & Climate Change.
David Kidney spoke at the the Launch of Open University Environmental Courses: Low carbon skills and the role of Further Education in a low carbon economy. Details of his speech are below:
I wanted to show my support for the excellent training and education
that the Open University provides, to talk a little about how this work
complements government policy, particularly in the area of energy and
climate change, and I want to say something about the opportunities
that this presents for careers in the environmental sector.
And that’s really the crux of what I want to speak to you about
today. The move to low carbon / a sustainable economy can sound quite
radical – and to some might even sound a little daunting, particularly
in these challenging economic times.
But the reality is that it is a massive opportunity and it will rely
heavily on young people having the right skills, knowledge and training
to take us to a different future.
The move to a truly low carbon economy will change every aspect of
our society: the way we live and work, the skills that we will need and
the jobs we do. And it will mean a complete transformation of our
At a national government level we have already written into law an
80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and an interim 34%
reduction by 2020. Alongside last year’s financial budget, the
Chancellor set the first ever legally binding carbon budgets.
To meet these budgets we need nothing less than a second industrial revolution across the UK.
But we’re not starting from scratch.
First let’s take a look at the enormous progress the low carbon sector has already made.
The UK already holds a 3.5% share of the global market for low carbon
and environmental goods and services, worth around £107 billion and is
responsible for the employment of 880,000 people in this country.
And by 2015 it’s estimated that this sector in the UK alone could be worth as much as £150 billion.
The opportunities for growth are huge – globally this market is set
to grow from £3 trillion to £4.3 trillion by 2015 – with jobs
throughout many sectors of the economy.
With a global market of this size we want the UK to continue to be
at the forefront in seizing the economic benefits of the transition to
a low carbon economy.
Last summer we published our UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, and our
strategies for renewable energy, low carbon transport and low carbon
industry. The Low Carbon Industrial Strategy that sets out how we
intend to use Government policy and funding levers to ensure businesses
in the UK can maximise their competitive advantage and secure benefits
from the global shift to low carbon.
That strategy set out a clear narrative on what a low carbon economy should look like. It focuses on four key areas:
- removing barriers to market in key low carbon sectors,
such as offshore wind and marine, where the UK has a competitive
- developing low carbon economic activity across the country, so no region is left behind;
- getting the conditions right for low carbon businesses to grow and prosper; and
- making sure the low carbon transition applies equally and fairly across the whole economy – that it’s a just transition for people across the country.
So these are the policy measures we have set out – now we are working to make these measures a reality.
We recognise that in addition to providing significant funding to
key sectors of the economy we also need a strategic approach to the
development of low carbon industries that applies at all levels:
national, regional and local.
That is why we have created the idea of Low Carbon Economic Areas
(LCEAs) that bring together Regional Development Agencies, Local
Authorities, employers, educational experts and sector specialists to
accelerate low carbon activity in locations where existing industry or
geography gives us clear advantage.
We see this as helping UK regions and devolved areas compete on an
international scale, attracting foreign and inward investment and
building collaborations to improve R&D and drive innovation and
For example the first LCEA that was announced in the South West
where there is a focus on marine technology – as a result, work has
already begun and investment of around £100 million, has gone into
projects such as Wave Hub.
So there are many actions that government can take to move the UK
onto a permanent low carbon footing but underpinning all of this has to
be a strong skills and knowledge base.
This country’s low carbon future can only be built by people who
have the skills demanded by new and dynamic industries in a globalised
Skilled people are more productive and more innovative. Skills give
individuals wider options; they climb higher, earn more and get more
out of work. And skilled people are the foundation of successful
Government has taken action to address the complex skills needs as a result of this transition to a low carbon economy.
We know that there are challenges for skills in the energy sector,
not least due to an ageing workforce and a reducing number of young
people in the recruitment pool, but government is taking action and
And we need our skills policy to reflect the growing need for workers with low carbon expertise.
We have said we are committed to developing a world-leading low
carbon energy sector, and we therefore need a UK workforce equipped to
compete at the forefront of the future global marketplace.
This is why in the autumn we published both a new Higher Education Framework and National Skills Strategy.
The National Skills Strategy will prepare Britain for the upturn and
low carbon skills will be a critical component. The Strategy will help
sharpen our focus on supporting skills development in those industries,
occupations and technologies that will drive economic growth.
We now need to turn the clear direction given by the National Skills
Strategy into action; my departments is leading work to find and remove
the barriers for delivering a skilled workforce into low carbon
sectors, and to allow all to benefit from the new job opportunities. We
shall be consulting on this low carbon skills strategy shortly – it
will be important to hear from organisation like the OU to ensure our
strategy is well grounded.
I’d just like to mention a couple of other examples of work we’ve done in this area:
- In 2008 we launched two National Skills Academies – one
for Nuclear and one for the Process Industries. The Industry-funded
Academy for Oil and Gas was also set up. They’ve set really good
standards for training in their sectors, in collaboration with the
relevant SSCs and the RDAs.
- Now Ministers in BIS and DECC
are working really hard with employers and SSCs in the power sector to
establish a National Skills Academy for Power as well.
So in summary I would like to stress that even if none of us knows
exactly what the low carbon economy will eventually look like we do
know that it is inevitable. We will learn as it develops. The low
carbon transition will – must – be complete. The skills we need to see
us through this transition will shift and shine as we make that move.
The jobs on offer will inflate and diversify.
Because ultimately, low carbon is not a sector of the economy – it is the economy.
I believe that by working together our government, our businesses and
our education sector can put the UK at the very forefront of this new