'Green opportunity' knocks for Brown - and is missed

Posted by jossc — 12 January 2009 at 1:42pm - Comments

Energy efficient housing - 56 Tomlins Gove in London

Making our homes energy efficient is a key step towards decarbonising the economy

With our economy reeling under the worst economic conditions for over a decade, Gordon Brown held a much trumpeted 'jobs summit' today to outline his plans to keep the country at work. Facing the dangerous combination of a credit-fuelled financial crisis, concerns over energy security and prices and accelerating climate change, he has missed an historic opportunity to boost the economy and take an important step towards decarbonising it at the same time.

So what should Mr Brown be doing? Well, scrapping his controversial VAT cut would be a start. It's costing the nation £1 billion every month, and as Next boss Simon Wolfson told the BBC's Today programme recently, if it was "designed to boost expenditure, then it really has had no effect whatsoever". Instead, he should use the £11 billion of remaining revenue for investment in green collar jobs.

For example, a £5 billion annual investment in a National Energy Efficiency Strategy could create a 75,000 strong workforce of skilled builders, fitters and joiners to insulate our housing stock, tackle fuel poverty and help to reduce household fuel bills. He could also:

  • provide financial incentives for householders to improve their energy efficiency, such as waiving stamp duty or council tax and providing mortgage relief;
  • introduce an energy 'MOT' for all homes, including minimum standards for refurbishment. This would create new jobs, and also improve property values;
  • tackle the VAT difference between work done on refurbished homes and new homes. Cutting VAT to the minimum level for domestic refurbishment would encourage energy efficiency measures;
  • improve the energy efficiency of all public sector buildings. This should provide work and jobs for private sector companies, not to mention slashing the government's own fuel bills by 20 per cent.

Adoption of these proposals would send a clear signal that energy efficiency measures are central to any coordinated response to the economic crisis. They represent the fastest route to take for both job creation and cutting emissions. Energy efficiency can be applied to many aspects of building maintenance and construction, such as heating, cooling, insulation, lighting and appliances, and also to industrial processes and transport.

Implementing these suggestions would, at a stroke, create tens of thousands of new jobs and give the economy a much needed boost, while at the same time addressing three of the key issues facing us:  fuel poverty, energy security and - above all - climate change. That's not  too much too ask for, surely?

Read our Number 10 Jobs Summit briefing paper in full »

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About Joss

Bass player and backing vox in the four piece beat combo that is the UK Greenpeace Web Experience. In my 6 years here I've worked on almost every campaign and been fascinated by them all to varying degrees. Just now I'm working on Peace and Oceans - which means getting rid of our Trident nuclear weapons system and creating large marine reserves so that marine life can get some protection from overfishing.

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