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Transition to green economy may cause disruptions comparable to the decline of coal in Wales says think tank

18 Jan 2022 4 minutes Read
Picture by fromthevalleys (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Welsh Government may be “overly optimistic” about the transition to a green economy, which has the potential to greatly disrupt certain industries and cause unemployment in a way similar to the decline in the coal industry, a think tank has said.

A new report by the Institute for Welsh Affairs, Turning rhetoric into reality: decarbonising the Foundational Economy, notes that the transition to Net Zero would parallel the effects of the decline of the coal industry in Wales among certain industries.

Summarising the report, the IWA said that the report “advises that the Welsh Government may be overly optimistic about the potential impacts of green jobs”.

“The IWA’s analysis notes that the potential for disruption and unemployment on certain industries and places due to the transition to Net Zero would parallel the effects of the decline of the coal industry in Wales.”

The report suggests that Wales’ experience of transitioning for coal can inform its approach to the current transition, and also provide lessons for the rest of the world.

“The negative lessons are very clear,” the report says. “The first wave of decline, in the mass unemployment of the 1930s, saw a huge loss of population from Wales and from the coalfield in particular.

“The rapid acceleration of the decline in the 1970s and 1980s was associated with immense political strife, leaving many people in Wales with the belief that their government in London was at war with them, and creating a feeling of distrust that still remains today.

“Productivity remains very low by western European standards, with knock-on effects for earnings and wealth.”

‘Ambitious’

The report’s summary notes that the Welsh Government has adopted an “optimistic take on what a Net Zero economy will look like” which is “clearly valuable for winning support”.

“However, there is strikingly little analysis, modelling, public engagement or policy development that reflects the potential for significant disruption,” it says.

The report notes that interviews with workers and industry bodies in the motor repair and gas industries highlighted a lack of understanding about the proposals for their industries under the Welsh and UK Net Zero strategies.

This is despite fast-approaching timelines for the phasing out of both gas central heating and petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030, it says.

Dr Jack Watkins, author of the report, said that the report’s key findings was that “very few individuals and organisations are achieving their full potential in terms of reducing their carbon emissions”.

“Much more is needed in terms of skills, research and innovation, business support and incentives, and the Welsh Government must be much more ambitious with its devolved powers,” he said.

It will be up to the Welsh government to support workers to adapt their skillset or retrain out of declining industries, the report says.

That will require a significant increase in the budget available for vocational education and for post-19 education in Wales, potentially through a guarantee to fund training for anyone who stays to work in Wales, and by greater parity in the student finance offer between academic and vocational education.

The IWA also calls for more powers to be given to regional bodies from the Government in Cardiff, in order to reflect different opportunities in different parts of Wales and encourage stronger engagement with businesses.

The report also highlights Wales’ weak performance in research and innovation, which may limit economic opportunities stemming from net zero with Wales likely to repeat historical patterns of reliance on foreign investment.

To enable the growth of highly-productive indigenous firms, the think tank has called for an “ambitious programme of investment in research that creates more flexibility for universities and colleges in exploring early-stage ideas”.


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adopted cardi
adopted cardi
4 months ago

well if anyone can do it Llafur and Plaid together would have the will. Unlike Westminster. Problem is for Britain as a whole that it sold off all its industry. You can’t sustain 65 + million citizens without it. The most of us wont be able to take the hit. Even those of us who haven’t been left to the wolves. Those with the deep pockets will have to dig a lot deeper. Independence could work well for Cymru – take the example of other smaller countries. But it needs a re-structure.

hdavies15
hdavies15
4 months ago

In other words – be careful you don’t chuck the baby out with the bath water ! For instance – “The report notes that interviews with workers and industry bodies in the motor repair and gas industries highlighted a lack of understanding about the proposals for their industries under the Welsh and UK Net Zero strategies.” That’s probably because those strategies were published with very little if any detail regarding implementation. The startegists are generally divorced from what goes on at the sharp end. That inability or unwillingness to get closer to the reality is a big factor in making… Read more »

Doctor Trousers
4 months ago

Wouldn’t need to worry about the economic impact if we were to just start properly taxing the bastards who have held back the transition to green energy for so long that it may now be too late.

Cai Wogan Joned
Cai Wogan Joned
4 months ago

Are we being prepared for the closure of the Port Talbot steelworks? I truly hope not, because it can and should be saved. We will always need steel. Not just for the economy, but also for national security.

Dean Thomas
Dean Thomas
4 months ago

Sadly Cai, Port Talbot Steelworks will be gone in a short space of time. With around 22% of our CO2 emissions it will be an early victim of the environmental lobby that control decision-making at the Senedd. I worked at Tata as a contractor a couple of years ago, and the employees accept that their days are numbered, thanks to the green dreamers who think that Wales will save the world. We are in a very sorry state.

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
4 months ago
Reply to  Dean Thomas

We have no choice in the matter. We have to deal with this problem asap. Maybe TATA needs to find a way of producing steel without f’ing up the planet.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
4 months ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

For Port Talbot what is needed is a Government + Private project to build a full scale hydrogen smelter. The technology has been well tested and works. Wales produces more electricity than it can use so generating hydrogen with renewables is possible. It will need some careful planning to ensure that sufficient gas can be produced and stored, but surely that is within the skill set of such industries. Talking skills sets, the Port Talbot workers ought to be able to transfer straight across the Hydrogen smelting since it is the same task as doing it with coal. As for… Read more »

Barbara
Barbara
4 months ago

We need the steelworks for the wind turbines. Sweden has already proved steel can be made using green hydrogen so the technology already exists.

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
4 months ago

We have no choice because the planet is dying anyway. It’s either this or permanent damage to our planets weather systems and life.

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