On July 12th our latest speaker meeting, with Keith Budden, manager of Be Birmingham’s Environmental Partnership, and Jon Morris, Localise West Midlands’ Green New Deal representative, sparked a lively discussion on green job creation in the West Midlands.
Keith Budden kicked the evening off, outlining the potential to create 1.5 million jobs in the UK through decarbonising the grid, developing the use of green technologies, and encouraging green skills. Such advances have the potential to build upon the manufacturing expertise already present in the region, with city-wide initiatives like the Green New Deal (now re-branded Birmingham Energy Savers) assisting investment into local businesses and training schemes.
However, the expansion of small scale, sustainable employment opportunities, such as to be a milkman driving an electric float, is equally important. Such activities create the diversity that encourages local resourcefulness, a thriving local economy, and conserves our city of ‘1000 trades’. It is therefore important to facilitate the conditions in which there is sufficient funding, coordination and commitment to allow this diversity to thrive.
At present, many small businesses do exist but largely in isolation and are made financially viable only by those taking a moral standpoint. The approach of the Green Investment Bank model would do little to strengthen local linkages, effectively putting our green future into the hands of a few bankers who would opt only to use larger, more ‘efficient’ companies.
Peak oil will have a major impact upon assisting a shift towards a more localised approach, as a decline in cheap foreign imports will encourage the re-emergence of local repair industries (with Birmingham City Council presently mapping reuse and repair businesses in the area) and make the innovation, manufacture and marketing of products and services more economic at a local level.
So what needs to be done in order to create green jobs? A need for a networking forum has potential to provide an excellent start point – matching innovative grassroots ideas with those who can make them happen. This could spark the creation of a local green directory, whilst a ‘Green Dragons Den’ could also be a great way to share advice and empower people’s ideas. It is this type of enabling activity that is essential in sparking the growth of a sustainable, green economy, enabling the creation of sustainable, green jobs.