Column: Green Industrial Revolution

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 26th April:

You may have seen on the news recently the protests down in London on climate change.

There was some controversy over the protestors’ decision to block roads, stop traffic, and shut down certain areas.

But whilst we may disagree with their methods, we shouldn’t overlook their message.

Because though their exploits down in the capital likely didn’t affect people here in Barnsley, climate change certainly will.

The environment is vital to us all.

It’s the foundation of our economy and our lives as we know them.

It’s the basis of what we eat and drink, our wellbeing and security.

But the evidence is here; climate change is with us, and if we don’t act soon we’ll be past the tipping point where the effects are irreversible, and utterly devastating.

Radical action is urgently required, and we can start with responsible energy.

This does not mean fracking, which ignores local communities it affects, increases air pollution and locks us into a high carbon energy infrastructure.

So if fracking is not the answer, what is?

Investing heavily in new technology and projects that will help generate wind, solar, hydrogen and other renewable or low carbon energy sources is key.

We should target a seven-fold increase in offshore wind, a doubling of onshore wind and a near tripling of solar power – enough to power nearly 20m homes.

And this is also where a crisis can be an opportunity.

The development of technologies and undertaking new projects mean an entirely new industry.

In fact, a recent report from several energy industry experts estimated a radical plan that properly tackles climate change could be worth 410,000 jobs.

These ‘green’ jobs could be highly skilled, properly trained, secure, and well paid – exactly the sort of employment Barnsley needs since the last energy industry that powered our nation left our town.

People in Barnsley could be the next generation of green energy engineers, scientists, developers and construction experts.

Climate change and our economy can’t be separated, and damage to our environment will damage our work and livelihoods.

But positive action on climate change could also power our economy.

A Green Industrial Revolution will benefit us all, and proper investment in areas like ours could mean it is people in Barnsley that are driving it forward.