How the green agenda can form an integral part of the recovery from COVID-19 dominated the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) 2020 progress report, describing it as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
The report looked at the entire breadth of action needed to reach net zero by 2050, assessing progress that has been made in the past year and once again making recommendations for the future.
Below are the thoughts of some of the industry’s leading figures in response:
Audrey Gallacher, interim CEO, Energy UK:
“This report underlines the crucial role the energy sector will play in a green economic recovery following the pandemic – not just in increasing still further the power we generate from low carbon sources but in enabling the decarbonisation of transport and heating as well as developing new technologies.
“The need to kickstart our recovery, along with our net zero ambitions, means we have an unprecedented opportunity to set out our future path to tackle both challenges. As the CCC notes, transforming an entire economy will require full commitment and action from right across every government department and the devolved governments. The energy sector already invests £14 billion a year and is ready to work closely with government to help power our economic recovery and meet our net zero target.”
Sir John Armitt, chair, National Infrastructure Commission:
“The committee’s report is a timely reminder of the clock counting down to 2050 and the fact that we must do more and go faster to deliver a low carbon economy. The committee’s proposals are in tune with the National Infrastructure Commission’s own assessment of the priorities for investment which will bolster parts of the economy in the shorter term while helping set up the end goal of cutting emissions drastically and for good.”
Rebecca Williams, head of Policy and Regulation, RenewableUK:
“To meet net zero and recover from COVID-19, we need to put a rocket under our economy and that rocket has to run on clean energy. The CCC is clear about the huge opportunities right across the renewable energy sector and if we can invest early in emerging technologies like floating offshore wind and renewable hydrogen, the UK can build world-leading industries. A green economic recovery after the pandemic can create tens of thousands of jobs and attract billions in investment.”
“It’s good to see the CCC highlighting the government’s upcoming white paper on energy as an ideal opportunity to accelerate progress on electrifying and decarbonising the heat and transport sectors, as well as scaling up battery storage to provide even greater flexibility."
Chris Hewett, chief executive, Solar Trade Association:
“We welcome the committee’s recognition of the valuable contribution that onshore renewables can make to a green recovery; driving decarbonisation, deploying high quality jobs and delivering significant economic growth.
“The committee rightly points out that other forms of generation are more carbon intensive and expensive too. If we are to emerge from this crisis with a renewed economy that is geared towards net zero, the UK needs to rapidly shift to low cost, reliable, and job-intensive technologies like solar.”
Danielle Lane, UK country manager, Vattenfall:
“The UK is going to need a wide mix of low-carbon and renewable heat and power if it is to reach net zero, and the Committee on Climate Change is absolutely right to call for at least 40GW of offshore wind generation by 2030. This is a critical moment for offshore wind in this country, and the industry is watching for a strong signal of intent that the government is serious about maintaining the UK’s position as a global leader.
“The CCC also highlights the possibilities for reducing emissions in all areas of our lives beyond power generation, including heating and transport. But if we are to make the rapid progress needed in these areas, then policy choices should prioritise the lowest carbon options now – such as green hydrogen for transport and heavy industry – rather than CCS.
“Likewise, when it comes to heating buildings, decision-makers must stop trying to incentivise one technology over another. Heat is an essential service, and heat networks, heat pumps, and other technologies all have a role to play.”
Adair Turner, senior fellow, the Institute for New Economic Thinking:
“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.
“In world of rock bottom interest rates, now is the time to invest in renewable energy and other key forms of green infrastructure; faced with huge employment challenges, policy must focus on creating green jobs and government support for firms should be contingent on strengthened commitments to emission reductions and avoid supporting old technologies and potentially stranded assets."
David Flood, managing director, Statkraft UK:
“This report comes at a critical time, with the UK responding to the dual challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global climate emergency.
“In the year since the UK’s 2050 net zero target was enshrined in law, we have welcomed positive developments, including the potential reintroduction of a government scheme to support the growth of onshore wind and solar.
“While the past few months have been troubling and uncertain, it is encouraging to see widespread recognition of the need for a green recovery powered by renewable energy. It is vital that we redouble our efforts, building on progress to date and ensuring that we do not miss this opportunity to create positive change.”
Muna Suleiman, climate specialist, Friends of the Earth:
“The UK government can’t be viewed as anything like the climate leader it wants to be until the measures in this report are introduced. It’s a tale as old as time, recommendations are very different from implementation.
“According to the report the government has made only ‘partial’ progress on transport, which is not surprising, as the Department for Transport has gone rogue on climate change. Road transport is still the largest emitting sector, so this is a priority area to make changes.
“Lockdown made pollution from emissions go down, because we didn’t have a choice. Now we can travel again it’s up to government to keep pollution down by giving people better choices to walk, cycle and take public transport when it’s safe to do so. It can also stop squandering tens of billions of pounds on new roads."
Luke Murphy, head, IPPR Environmental Justice Commission:
“This report makes clear that while steps have been taken, the UK is not making anywhere near the progress needed to achieve net zero.
"The findings of the CCC are also clear that we can and must use the economic recovery to deliver a clean, fair and resilient economy. A clean recovery can be good for jobs and for quality of life and good for the environment too - it's win win."
Juliet Davenport, CEO and founder, Good Energy:
“This report is clear: we are not yet doing enough to tackle the climate emergency. We can and must do more.
“2020 was meant to be the Year of Climate Change, announced with bringing forward the sale of petrol and diesel cars. Now we know that this token policy is not ambitious enough. Transport contributes our highest emissions as a country, but progress is necessary across the board. Industry and heat are increasingly urgent areas, and we need more clean power.
“This year will rightly be remembered for COVID-19, but there is still time to make it a year of climate action. If this pandemic has demonstrated anything, it’s that in the face of great challenge, we can make major changes to society for the greater good. We must now maintain this momentum to proactively respond to the climate crisis and build a cleaner, more resilient future for us all.”
Ian Johnston, CEO, Engenie:
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring about a step-change in low carbon transport. By taxing cheap oil and using the revenue to subsidise electric vehicles, drivers will have the confidence to make the switch to electric on mass, while also creating countless green jobs. Electric vehicles can be the driving force behind our economic recovery but the government must act on these recommendations immediately to avoid being left behind.”
Caroline Bragg, head of policy, the Association for Decentralised Energy:
"The UK is falling behind on meeting our carbon budgets. As the Climate Change Committee has set out, net zero must sit at the heart of our economic recovery. To achieve this, the number one priority for government must be backing a national buildings renovation programme.
“Better buildings will create 50,000 real quantifiable green jobs in the next two years and nigh on 200,000 by 2050. Better buildings will predominantly create jobs outside of the South-East – putting decarbonisation to work to level up our regions. And, better buildings will be a crucial part of the just transition, allowing those impacted by these extraordinary times to reskill and be part of the future green economy.”