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The Potential for Green Jobs in West Cumbria 

This project aims to identify the potential for ‘green’ jobs, which are employment opportunities that are good for both people and the environment, in Cumbria as a whole and in West Cumbria in particular, focusing on Copeland and Allerdale (excluding Barrow). The research has been funded by Quadrature Climate Foundation.   

This work will contribute to the crucial opportunity we have to plan for an economic recovery of Cumbria which accelerates the transition to a cleaner, net zero emissions local economy after the devastating impacts of Covid-19. 

Read on for more information about the project approach. 


 In the 18 months prior to Covid-19 there was an extraordinary upsurge in public and political awareness of climate change and the urgent need to tackle it nationally, regionally and locally. Many local authorities in Cumbria declared climate emergencies and set ambitious target dates for achieving zero carbon emissions. The level of concern and momentum to tackle climate breakdown remains high despite the pandemic as many Cumbrian communities have experienced firsthand the devastating impact of flood events, exacerbated by rural isolation, fuel poverty, rural depopulation, limited employment opportunities and low incomes.  

In order to avoid exacerbating the climate crisis, we must rapidly shift away from extracting and using fossil fuels. We are currently highly dependent on fossil fuel in all aspects of our lives, from the the way we get around to how we heat our homes to the products we consume. So reducing fossil fuels has significant implications for jobs and for the local people, communities and businesses which depend on them. It involves challenges, but it also brings opportunities for ‘green’ jobs which are good for both people and environment.  

Decent jobs and tackling climate change are not mutually exclusive. Well managed transitions to lower carbon economies can create new jobs, upgrade existing jobs and help tackle inequalities.  

There is good evidence to suggest that ex-industrial areas such as towns on the West Cumbrian coast, which suffers from high and growing levels of deprivation, could be revitalised by making a shift to green jobs. Green jobs can be found both in familiar sectors, such as manufacturing, construction and transport as well as in newer sectors such as energy efficiency and renewable energy. They are jobs which might involve, for example, increasing the energy efficiency of existing and new build housing, the provision of public transport, electric vehicles and their charging infrastructure, support for cycling, the reuse and reduction of waste materials. Furthermore, improving resource efficiency and reducing waste can generate savings which can be invested back into employment. 

Research and analysis will enable us to identify the potential for green jobs in Cumbria but must also take account of the views of the people and communities which would be affected. Any theoretical analysis of green job opportunities must be sense checked with the people whose lives would be most affected to ensure the findings have credibility and to ensure a ‘just transition’ which takes account of  skills, social welfare, individual wellbeing and financial sustainability of employees, communities and enterprises involved.  

The research

The work will take two analytical approaches: 

Approach 1 (led by Professor Andy Gouldson) 

This will involve the identification of the County’s carbon emissions by district and the options for reducing carbon emissions in the housing, public and commercial buildings, transport and industrial sectors.  

Those options will be evaluated, taking into account the buying, installing, running and maintenance costs over their lifetimes and their projected carbon savings. The evaluation will also take into account any performance gaps and likely rebound effects. 

The scope for actual deployment of these theoretical options will be assessed. 

A league table of the most cost and carbon effective options that could be implemented in Cumbria as a whole and West Cumbria in particular will be created, along with the investment needed to put these options into effect. 

A forecast will be made of the potential levels of job creation associated with different scales of investment. 

Approach 1 will also identify the gap between the levels of carbon reduction achievable through cost-effective, cost-neutral and technically viable options, and the zero carbon target date of 2037, and propose some more innovative measures that could be deployed to close this gap. 

Approach 2 (led by Green House Think Tank) 

This approach looks at West Cumbria in detail, in the context of Cumbria as a whole. It will assess the potential for jobs in the area which are associated with ‘green’ or low carbon employment activities in renewable energy, waste reuse and recycling, low carbon transport and buildings and applies those assumptions to West Cumbria.  

A review of the plans and strategies of local authorities in West Cumbria and the Cumbria Local Economic Partnership and their implications for green jobs will be undertaken. 

Case studies in the areas of Allerdale and Copeland on how ‘green’ industries could be expanded, others repurposed and new ones created will be produced. 

As well as identifying opportunities for new green jobs, it will also identify the potential job losses from sectors reliant on fossil fuels.   


We will not be including the following areas in the research: 

  • Further development of nuclear. We will assume that the number of jobs in the nuclear industry associated with Sellafield will remain the same, with no new nuclear power station. 
  • Agriculture sector. There will be changes to this sector in the next few years due to Brexit which are complex and would require dedicated comprehensive treatment beyond the resources of this project. 
  • We will not consider the use of particular sites. 
  • The identity, history and economy of Barrow-in-Furness is distinct from the coastal areas of Copeland and Allerdale so we will not include Barrow when looking in detail at ‘West Cumbria’. 

Community engagement 

A critical feature of both approaches to this work is community engagement. Our research assumptions will be challenged by employees, communities, businesses, Trades Unions and local authorities to ensure they are appropriate to Cumbria and West Cumbria in particular. The engagement will be undertaken through a combination of one to one and group meetings. 

Project partners

Green House Think Tank

Green House Think Tank was founded in 2011. It aims to lead the development of green thinking in the UK and is a member of the Rapid Transition Alliance. In 2018, it undertook comprehensive climate jobs modelling work in the UK, Ireland and Hungary funded by the Green European Foundation, and for this project will expand and refine its existing data for West Cumbria. Anne Chapman, Jonathan Essex and Peter Sims are the project team.

Contact: info@greenhousethinktank.org 

Opal Research and Consulting Ltd

The project team comprises Professor Andy Gouldson and Andrew Sudment of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) who work on the links between economic development and carbon emissions. They prepared an analysis of the employment implications of low carbon development across the Leeds City Region in 2017, prepared economic assessments of the scope for low carbon development in all local authorities across the UK in 2017, and worked with the TUC and others to look at the impacts of low carbon development on skills and jobs across the UK and especially in Yorkshire and Humberside in 2019. Robin Fraser Williamson is also on the Opal team. He has a background in carbon management, and has experience in advising companies and cities on how to deliver carbon reductions. He led the preparation of a low carbon plan for the City of Edinburgh, including an assessment of the employment creation opportunities associated with retrofitting buildings. 

Contact: Professor Andy Gouldson, 333apg@gmail.com