That change will happen is an inevitable part of life. Anticipating it, and managing it well, is incredibly important.
Still being a relatively newbie councillor I continue to be involved in a range of things that are intended to help me get to grips with the full scope of the role. Earlier this year I was invited to begin a policy project, on a topic of my choice, to pitch to the Mayor and the Cabinet in September. The area I felt most pressing to look into is the ‘Green Jobs Transition’. This policy area sits within my wider interest in the economic development of the borough. I want to be sure that when it comes to the opportunities presented by the race to Net Zero North Tyneside is at the front of the pack, not bringing up the rear.
Recent reports produced by a range of Think-Tanks demonstrate that over the next decade tens of thousands of positions will be required in the carbon-reduction workforce. Today I chaired a fascinating meeting involving one of the council’s senior economic policy managers and a couple of external experts – one of them bringing high level electrical engineering expertise and the other bringing in-depth knowledge of the housing sector. The hour scheduled absolutely flew by as I found myself totally absorbed in what proved to be an incredibly energizing conversation (please excuse the pun!)
Much of our conversation revolved around what needs to be done to retrofit homes so that they produce less greenhouse gases. This basically means switching power source, away from gas and towards electricity – from renewable sources of course. I know from calculating my own carbon footprint that approximately 50% of it comes from the gas boiler that sits chugging away at the back of our house. One day it’s going to need replacing with an electrically powered Heat Pump, and finding a suitably qualified engineer to do that will be a challenge – unless we start scaling up the opportunities for training/re-training. Alongside this we’ll need an army of insulation fitters, again, properly trained in managing thermal transfers, ventilation and the like.
The only real frustration at the meeting was the ongoing challenge of investment. The Government has set a target of installing 600,000 Heat Pumps into homes by 2028, but the corresponding finance stretching over the 7 years from now ’til then hasn’t been committed. Instead we get a succession of short-term announcements. This shifts the balance of financial risk towards businesses and consumers, who are simply not in a position to carry that risk. The result is inertia.
At the end of the day, locally, we can only do what we can do, whilst at the same time adding our voice to those lobbying the Government to step up at their end. As far as I’m concerned, I’m committed to doing whatever we can as soon as we can with whatever resources we can find. The job is too important to be left for tomorrow.