Keir Starmer has called for “rapid green investment” across the UK as new figures reveal more than 75,000 green jobs have been lost over the past five years.
The Labour leader said the UK had to “lead by example” on the climate crisis and invest more in jobs in renewable energy and technology via a “Green New Deal”, as he toured Scotland on a two-day visit.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics cited by Labour show a loss of 33,800 “direct” jobs and a further 41,400 jobs in the supply chain for low-carbon and renewable sectors between 2014 and 2019.
This includes thousands of fewer jobs in solar power, onshore wind, renewable electricity and bioenergy.
Sir Keir said: “Tackling the climate crisis must be at the heart of everything we do. We are at a critical moment. In less than 100 days, Cop26 will be over and our chance to keep the planet’s warming below 1.5 degrees will have either been grasped or abandoned.
“The UK must rise to this moment and lead by example. That means rapid action to create good, green jobs across the country. And it means a proper strategy to buy, make and sell more in Britain, to create good, unionised jobs in clean energy and through supply chains.
He added: “Nobody here in the UK can afford for this issue to be yet another example of Boris Johnson bluster. We need real action, now. It is time for a Green New Deal.”
The Labour leader also criticised the Scottish Government’s record on green jobs, claiming the SNP “broke its pledge to create 130,000 green jobs by 2020”.
In 2010, the Scottish Government predicted that jobs in the low-carbon sector would reach 130,000 by 2020 according to a now-archived official web page, but the latest ONS figures show 21,400 direct green jobs in Scotland, compared to 23,200 in 2014.
Labour has called for £30bn in planned investment to be brought forward to support up to 400,000 jobs in manufacturing and low-carbon industries.
Sir Keir and the Prime Minister have both visited Scotland this Wednesday and Thursday.
The Labour leader is focusing on the fight against climate change in the run-up to the United Nations Cop26 climate summit.
Boris Johnson has declined an invitation to hold talks with Nicola Sturgeon while in Scotland.
The Scottish First Minister had invited Mr Johnson to meet at her official Edinburgh residence, Bute House, to discuss the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: “As we build back better and greener from the pandemic, this Government is firmly committed to seizing the economic opportunities presented by the transition to a green economy.
“The data from 2019 and 2014 cannot be compared as there was a change in how the survey was conducted. In fact, ONS has concluded that the low-carbon and renewable energy economy has remained stable.
“We have welcomed the recommendations put forward by the Green Jobs Taskforce, which are a big step forward in delivering the skilled workers and green jobs essential for the UK’s transition to net zero. This will now be considered by the Government, starting with the development of the our Net Zero Strategy, due to be published ahead of the UN’s climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow this November.”