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Coronavirus pandemic shows UK not ready for climate crisis, stark report claims

The think tank has warned that an environmental crisis could "overwhelm our capacity to respond" (PA)

2 min read

Britain is “acutely vulnerable” to the impacts of climate change and a potential environmental crisis, a leading think tank has warned.

A report by the IPPR think tank says the "fragility" of the economy exposed by the coronavirus crisis shows the country is ill-prepared for a climate shock.

Their review identifies 21 measures of readiness and concludes that the UK is failing fully to meet any of them, making only partial progress in 15 areas and almost completely failing in the remaining six. 

The think tank is now calling on the Government to launch a Royal Commission on preparations for environmental breakdown to assess the UK’s current resilience. 

Other proposals include a Sustainable Economy Act and appointing a dedicated minister for sustainable development to bring all economic activity into line with ambitious targets for cutting environmental damage.

And the report proposes expanding the franchise so people can vote at 16, arguing that young people are the most at stake in the future of the planet.

Laurie Laybourn-Langton, IPPR Associate Fellow, said: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that the UK was not adequately prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The threats posed by the environmental crisis could also emerge quickly and could overwhelm our capacity to respond. 

“So the pandemic gives us a window into a future increasingly beset by the consequences of environmental breakdown."

She added: “In the UK, we are not ready for this future – far from it. But all is not lost. We can be better prepared for environmental breakdown. And the changes we need to make to our society and economy are exactly those that can also make a happier, healthier and fairer world.”

The think tank’s conclusions come after the UK’s Climate Assembly overwhelmingly backed a motion saying ministers should put green initiatives at the heart of their plans to rebuild the economy.

Chairs of six Commons select committees have also written the Prime Minister saying there is “unanimous cross-party support” for meeting the Government’s net-zero pledge.

A government spokesperson said: “This Government remains committed to being a world leader in tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, and as we rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic we will continue to shape an economy and society that is cleaner, greener and more resilient.

“We’re already championing innovative and eco-friendly technologies, and our ambitious Environment, Fisheries and Agriculture Bills will enable us to protect our precious natural environment and diverse ecosystems for years to come.”

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