The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has called for low carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure to be at the heart of the government’s approach to rebuilding the UK after COVID-19.
In an open letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, the CCC outlined five measures that should be taken as the country moves on from the current pandemic lockdown.
The recovery must not ‘lock-in’ greenhouse gas emissions or increase climate risk, the letter states, meaning that support for carbon-intensive sectors such as the oil and gas industry should be contingent on them “taking real and lasting action on climate change”.
Additionally, the recovery should include the strengthening of incentives to reduce emissions when considering fiscal changes. As such, changes in tax policy should be used to aid the transition to net-zero emissions and future carbon pricing mechanisms should be supported.
Beyond this, the recovery process should seek to be embed fairness and tackle inequality, and lead a shift towards positive long-term behaviours.
Along with investments in low-carbon infrastructure, reskilling, retraining and research for a net zero, well-adapted economy and upgrades to homes, the CCC also calls for making it easier for people to walk, cycle and work from home and efforts to restore green spaces including tree planting.
By focusing on these measures and prioritising actions based on key principles put forward by the CCC, the UK can help to facilitate a resilient recovery, the letter continues.
Key to this will be using climate investments to support the economic recovery and jobs. This follows on from the CCC’s previous work calling for investments in sectors like renewable energy, which can help create stable jobs. This should be brought forward in light of challenges created by COVID-19, and stimulus packages should be investigated.
The need for a fixed plan to move towards net zero is again emphasised, the lack of which could lead to a “disorderly transition.” While the CCC have called for this previously, it adds that the current COVID-19 crisis has emphasised the importance of evidence-led preparations for all of the key risks facing the UK.
CCC chairman, Lord Deben, added that the pandemic has shown the importance of “planning well for the risks the country faces".
“Recovery means investing in new jobs, cleaner air and improved health. The actions needed to tackle climate change are central to rebuilding our economy. The government must prioritise actions that reduce climate risks and avoid measures that lock-in higher emissions.”
Already, the CCC has amended its work programme to delay its advice to the government on the level of the Sixth Carbon Budget until December, to allow it to take into account COVID-19.
The letter has been welcomed by those in the energy sector, with RenewableUK’s public affairs manager Nathan Bennett adding that while the first priority must be COVID-19, the CCC’s letter shows a clear path to rebuild the UK and meet the net zero target.
“The climate emergency has not gone away; if anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the need to make sure our economy is sustainable and resilient in the long-term.
“The CCC highlights that climate investments support economic growth and jobs, and this is precisely what renewable energy companies are doing through investing tens of billions of pounds in new infrastructure.
"This investment boosts local economies all over the country, particularly in coastal communities which urgently need new job opportunities. We’ll be working with Ministers to ensure we have the right policies in place to accelerate this investment and deliver net zero.”