'Sheffield well-placed to reap benefits of green future'

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The coronavirus pandemic has not only created a public health crisis but an economic crisis. With many people finding themselves out of work and more job losses to come, it is clear the government must act urgently.

But, while this is a worrying time, the pandemic has also created a moment that could allow us to create a fairer, greener economy for Sheffield and the country as a whole.

The scale of the challenge is significant: it is likely our economy will suffer the worst damage from the Covid-19 crisis of any country in the developed world thanks to the government’s rank incompetence in handling the lockdown.

According to a recent survey of more than 500 industry leaders, three out of every four major UK-based businesses are planning to cut jobs because of the pandemic. Already, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits is at levels not seen since the 1980s.

Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield HeeleyLouise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley
Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley

With unemployment set to rise, our post-pandemic recovery will necessarily depend not just on protecting existing jobs, but on creating new ones too.

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And while Boris Johnson has announced £5 billion of capital investment in the economy, this amounts to just more than 0.2 per cent of our national income.

In comparison, Germany’s stimulus package amounted to almost 20 times that.

Unless we see the government stepping up to meet the scale of the challenge we will see jobs disappear and millions unemployed, the like of which none of us have seen in our lifetimes.

So, given we need to create new jobs, we should ensure they are secure and well-paid, but also help tackle the threat posed by climate change.

By investing in green industries and technologies now, we can simultaneously prevent mass unemployment and rising carbon emissions.

Sheffield is well-placed to lead the way in this and should be at the heart of a green recovery. The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, which works with firms from around the globe on world-leading research, is already developing new technologies in greener energy and manufacturing.

With a proper strategy from government, these initiatives, and others like them, can be expanded to provide thousands of well-paid green jobs. Those left unemployed due to the pandemic can be retrained to work in green industries.

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Anything from planting trees to installing low-carbon heating technologies, building windfarms and manufacturing electric cars.

Investment in public transport would serve a similar purpose. Opening new railway lines, improving bus services and getting people cycling would not only make us less reliant on cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but would boost Sheffield’s economy and people’s job prospects by making us more connected to the rest of South Yorkshire, Manchester, and Leeds.

As we plan our recovery from the coronavirus crisis, the scale of government action should be defined by what is necessary to protect both the environment and people’s standards of living.

We can emerge from the pandemic with a fairer, greener economy, but it will require a massive effort and a government that cares about us and about our planet. Rather than shying away from these challenges, we should look to the future with optimism and the courage to act.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​