Press release

​Government urged to support creation of thousands of new green jobs in areas with greatest employment challenges


4 May, 2021


Benjamin Halfpenny

Media and communications manager, Greener UK unit
020 7630 4513

Research finds more than 16,000 new jobs can be created through coastal restoration, tree planting and urban green spaces across areas with the greatest employment challenges, particularly in the ‘Red Wall’, with more green jobs across Britain.

Research commissioned by think tank Green Alliance has found significant potential for new green jobs in areas with the greatest challenges to the local labour market [1].

The research, conducted by WPI Economics, found that investment and raised ambition in nature restoration could create at least 16,000 new jobs across the 126 British constituencies facing the most significant employment challenges coming out of the pandemic [2].

Many of these constituencies are to be found in areas often identified as the Red Wall, and include County Durham, Copeland, Wolverhampton and Ashfield. Improving the quality and quantity of urban parks could create 11,000 jobs in the constituencies with the greatest labour market challenges, which also contain some of the most limited access to green spaces.

The research found further opportunities for creating green jobs across Britain. Coastal communities with potential for seagrass planting (explained below), such as the Isle of Wight, have a higher proportion of people on furlough and more challenging employment prospects, indicating investment in these jobs could boost nature and the local economy post-pandemic.

Restoring wetlands and seagrass meadows could create jobs in Welsh coastal communities, such as Anglesey and Newport, while underemployment and lower forecast job growth across the Pennines could be tackled through peatland restoration initiatives (see the case studies below).

Two thirds of the best land for tree planting can be found in constituencies with higher than average labour market challenges, with 112,000 hectares of this land in Red Wall areas.

To define and locate green job potential, WPI matched employment data at constituency level with maps identifying the potential for nature restoration across a range of categories: woodland creation, peatland restoration, new urban green spaces and coastal restoration [3]. The green jobs identified tackle challenging aspects of the post-coronavirus labour market: entry level roles for the newly unemployed or those on long term furlough from hospitality or customer service; and graduate level roles for those entering the labour market, such as in digital mapping or research.

To drive the creation of new green jobs, Green Alliance and other environmental groups are urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to include environmental projects alongside other infrastructure in the government’s flagship £4.8 billion levelling up fund [4]. They are also calling for the new UK Infrastructure Bank to include natural capital in its scope, providing funding that can enhance projects and lay the foundations for future private investment.

When launching his Ten point plan for a green industrial revolution in November 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged a ‘green recovery’ to guide his government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic [5]. A recent pledge to cut emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 has been widely welcomed, but there have been few transformative policies to deliver on pledges around climate and nature. The popular green homes grant has been scrapped while native tree planting targets are not being met [6].

Sam Alvis, head of Green Renewal at Green Alliance said:

“The opportunity is there for the chancellor to create a legacy of new high quality jobs across Britain. Supporting innovation in these types of green jobs will put nature at the heart of the government’s levelling up agenda and help local communities build back better and greener.”

The National Trust’s Outdoors and Natural Resources Director Patrick Begg said: 

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on so many people’s lives across society. During this period, those fortunate enough to have access to green space have been taking comfort from nature and areas of beauty close to home. We are also seeing the environment and our relationship with nature rocketing up the political and media agenda.

“A greener recovery which increases access to nature is within our reach. One that offers massive social and environmental benefits as well as economic growth, but also boosts people’s health and wellbeing.

“This important research shows that by investing in projects that make a greener recovery a priority, the Government could generate green jobs for the communities that need them most. This would accelerate the journey we are on to a more prosperous future for people and planet.”

Dr Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said:

“Projects such as the Northern Forest, led by the Woodland Trust and the Community Forests, show that increasing native tree cover is a key part of the levelling up agenda shaping places people will want to live, visit and invest in. This will help increase employment opportunities as well as leading to happier, healthier communities.

“It is also clear that tackling the climate and nature crises will require not just planting more trees but planting the right kinds of trees. Investing in UK nurseries to grow the trees that we need to plant in the UK is a too often overlooked aspect of green job creation that requires greater attention.”


Case studies

Case study 1: North Pennines AONB Partnership on peatland restoration
The North Pennines AONB partnership launched a peatland programme in 2006 which has restored nearly 40,000 hectares of peatland through projects such as Pennine PeatLIFE and Carbon Connects, recently joining with other restoration programmes to form the Great North Bog initiative.

Pennine PeatLIFE will restore over 1,353 hectares of peatland and has established new restoration techniques to suit the unique climatic conditions in Northern England. The project has also showcased the use of technology such as drones to map and analyse peat conditions, and trialled innovative Payment for Ecosystem Services methods.

The project requires a wide range of skills and qualification levels including machine operators, project managers, data management consultants and land agents. The project also supports a wider supply chain. The majority of roles are permanent with additional seasonal staff brought in where needed.

Case study 2: Dale Bay Seagrass Restoration
The UK’s biggest seagrass restoration scheme is ongoing in West Wales, where 1.2 million seeds have been planted to restore ancient meadows lost to pollution and coastal development.

Seagrass is a flowering marine plant that absorbs carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforest and provides nursery habitats for juvenile fish, supporting sustainable fishing and local tourism. Over the next three to five years, two new sites will be reseeded and are anticipated to create the equivalent of more than nine full time jobs, covering technical lab work, project management and stakeholder engagement. There will be additional employment through boat hire and seasonal contractors and, in the longer term, through improved fisheries and snorkelling.

The project is a collaboration between WWF, Swansea University, Project Seagrass and Sky Ocean Rescue.

Case study 3: Yorkshire Peat Partnership
Yorkshire contains some 27% of the UK’s blanket bog, a rich habitat and important store of carbon. The Yorkshire Peat Partnership works to restore degraded bog and is a leading innovator in remote sensing techniques to monitor restoration. NASA Landsat and Copernicus Sentinel satellites are used to assess quickly how large areas of peatlands are recovering, while drone pilots capture high resolution imagery that informs future restoration. Jobs are highly skilled, especially in digital and high tech manufacturing along a growing supply chain.

Notes to editors

[1] The study analyses where there is likely to be underemployment during the economic recovery, so this is not new jobs being created out of old ones. Both the Green Alliance summary and the full report from WPI Economics will be available via Green Alliance.

[2] The research is focused on Britain, and therefore does not encompass Northern Ireland. Constituencies can be viewed and explored via the interactive map.

[3] To determine an accurate employment picture for each constituency, WPI looked at pre-pandemic underemployment, changes since the start of the pandemic, the number of people on furlough and a forecast change in employment to 2025.

[4] UK Government, Levelling up fund: prospectus, 3 March 2021 (updated 29 March 2021).

[5] Boris Johnson: Now is the time to plan our green recovery, Financial Times, 17 November 2020

[6] Green homes grant applications surged in month before scheme was axed, The Guardian, 22 April 2021; Woodland Trust, State of the UK’s Woods and Trees 2021, April 2021.

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