United Kingdom told to put green issues at heart of post-pandemic recovery

Pablo Tucker
June 28, 2020

Ministers must seize the opportunity to turn the Covid-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change and, although important steps have been taken in the past year, much remains to be done, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says today. While there will be mass redundancies because of the pandemic, there are many new jobs that could be created.

Trees: Planting projects and peatland restoration create expert work as nicely as benefiting the local weather, biodiversity, air high-quality, and flood avoidance.

"COVID-19 has shown that planning for systemic risks is unavoidable", said Julia King, who chairs the CCC's adaptation committee. Early research indicates the British public are more aware of climate risks and willing to make lifestyle changes to implement them - including positive behaviors such as walking more and remote working.

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the CBI, described the report as "vital" and said companies must use the government to produce major changes to benefit society.

Although a limited number of steps have been taken over the past year to support the transition to a net-zero economy and improve the UK's resilience to the impacts of climate change, much remains to be done, the report concludes. "In the meantime, and in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow next year, there is much to be taken from the Committee's detailed and specific recommendations", he said.

Committee chief exec Chris Stark said the UK's progress to net zero is "patchy or uncertain" in most places though, adding that the country is "not where we thought we'd be by now" after announcing the grand ambition for 2050 previous year.

"As we look to build back better from the Covid-19 crisis, we reach a critical moment in our fight against the climate emergency. Business stands shoulder to shoulder with political leaders and consumers in its desire for ambitious change".

Adair Turner, senior fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking and former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, said: "The Committee is absolutely right to stress the huge opportunity for policies which both drive economic recovery and accelerate progress towards a zero-carbon economy". It is essential to consider not only moving to renewable and sustainable sources of energy, but also how to decarbonise. "This is a clear win-win opportunity which must be seized".

Another sector in urgent need of investment is the cooling of people's homes, the report says. "This can be an important and urgent report". Yet again today, the CCC's report really highlights that we have to get a move on - as more than one house per minute will need to be retrofitted to 2050 in order to meet the UK's climate goals.

"MPs and ministers have a lot of reading to do", that he said. We're at a critical juncture in our national efforts to address climate change and host a fruitful United Nations climate conference next year, while at the same time responding to coronavirus. There are many green projects that have been in the pipeline and now - when there are people needing jobs - is the ideal time for them to become reality.

"Through its Resources & Waste Strategy and Environment Bill, the Government has already laid the groundwork for major change which will help unlock the full potential of the recycling and waste sector to deliver significant carbon reductions for the economy, but these vital policy frameworks have not yet come to fruition. We can not afford another year of stalling, patchy progress and half-developed policies".

After Covid-19: a boost for Net Zero? In its new report, the Committee has assessed a wide set of measures and gathered the latest evidence on the role of climate policies in the economic recovery.

Britain has significantly reduced emissions from the electricity sector by increasing renewable power generation and closing coal plants, but lags in other areas like homes, transport and agriculture.

The report also calls for the government to "build on the Clean Maritime Plan to develop incentives for zero-carbon ammonia and hydrogen supply chains for United Kingdom shipping".

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