Public services can lead the way to net zero but not without government funding, says UNISON

Getting the UK’s public services across the net zero line will require £140bn of government funding by 2035, says new research published today (Monday) by UNISON.

If the government’s 2050 target is to be met, the UK’s hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, care homes, town halls, leisure centres, police stations, courts, social housing, plus water, transport and environmental services all need to be part of the plan, says the union.

The report, Getting to Net Zero in Public Services: The Road to Decarbonisation, says that without government funding, public services still reeling from a decade of austerity, will struggle to decarbonise.

In the absence of a significant capital injection of funds, says the report, public services would only be able to move slowly towards net zero, taking resources from already stretched budgets, with disastrous consequences.

Measures like making all public buildings energy efficient, installing roof top solar panels, the introduction of electric vehicle fleets and LED streetlighting could create almost a quarter of a million new jobs, according to the report. It would also mean cheaper energy bills and lower transport costs for public services.

According to the report, public services currently account for about 8% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the NHS alone responsible for 4% of total emissions. The NHS aims to reach net zero by 2040, and more than a third of councils have committed to get to that point by 2030.

Of all the public services examined in the report, local government requires the most up-front investment, to the tune of some £68bn. This is because councils are responsible for making buildings energy efficient, introducing a comprehensive cycling infrastructure and greening waste collection and processing.

Launching the report in Glasgow later today, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea will say:

“The cost of moving across to greener public services won’t come cheap, but there’s not a moment to lose.

“The sooner a start can be made, the quicker emissions will begin to come down and public service bills reduce. But the pace of green change needs to increase and significantly too.

“Private investment won’t provide the solution either. This would mean delay and increased taxes for those least able to pay. The government must borrow to invest now to help public services over the green line. Otherwise, the cost of making the transition will be anything but just.”

Notes to editors:   Getting to Net Zero in Public Services: The Road to Decarbonisation can be accessed here. The report is being launched at UNISON’s offices in Glasgow at noon. The event can be watched live here.– UNISON commissioned Getting to Net Zero in Public Services from the University of Greenwich Public Services International Research Unit and Transition Economics.-UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: