We need policy to unleash a business-led Green Recovery in the years ahead
Given healthy consumer demand for EVs, ministers should be bold and bring forward the phase-out date for new petrol and diesel car sales to 2030, writes Felicity Buchan MP | PA Images
Government policy should focus on driving more private-sector investment towards the vital green industries of the future, such as clean technologies and electric vehicles.
The Chancellor’s £30 billion jobs package was a fitting response to the scale of the economic challenge in front of us.
As we build back better, it’s right that our goals to level up the country and tackle climate change have not been sidelined, but put front and centre of our economic recovery.
Government cannot deliver a green jobs revolution alone, however; we need business to step up too. The next phase of the recovery needs to build on these short-term employment-boosting measures and set us on the path to a cleaner, more prosperous future.
Government policy should now focus on driving more private-sector investment towards the vital green industries of the future.
That environmental measures have already featured prominently in the Government’s economic response shows ministers have heard the Green Recovery message loud and clear from me and my colleagues in the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), as well as the impressive coalition of businesses, academics, and civil society.
We know the public want to see a Green Recovery too. According to polling by Ipsos MORI on behalf of CEN, this is a priority shared by the majority of the country - regardless of age, region, or voting behaviour.
Seventy-three percent of British adults agree that failing to tackle climate change in the recovery would ‘harm future generations’, while 67% agree it would be ‘bad for the economy in the long run’.
The evidence is clear that a Green Recovery makes economic sense, with green spending following the financial crisis outperforming other economic measures.
Clean technologies like batteries and offshore wind can play a key role in creating jobs and economic growth across the country now too.
The drivers of our Green Recovery will be entrepreneurs, businesses and financial institutions in the private sector. With appropriate government support, the private sector stands ready to invest.
Take electric vehicles (EVs) as an example. Not only are they better for the environment, they’re already cheaper than their petrol and diesel counterparts in terms of lifetime costs, and in a few short years their upfront cost will be lower too. Helped by more favourable company car tax rates since April, EV sales have held up well during lockdown.
To bolster EV sales, we need smart regulatory reform to motivate private investment into the UK’s EV charging network
Given this healthy consumer demand for EVs, ministers should be bold and bring forward the phase-out date for new petrol and diesel car sales to 2030, as the Committee on Climate Change has advised, so that industry has confidence to invest in new electric supply chains sooner. This would help areas like mine in Kensington to deal with unacceptably high levels of air pollution.
To further bolster EV sales, we need smart regulatory reform to motivate private investment into the UK’s EV charging network, which still acts as a barrier to more motorists going electric.
Kensington and Chelsea already has a very ambitious plan to get all residents within 200 metres of a charge point, and we are already 90% there.
Investment in new technology such as Vehicle to Grid (which allows EVs to act as energy storage, to be fed back into the national grid during periods of high demand) can be a further incentive for motorists seeking a return on their investment.
I am keen to see more Vehicle to Grid charging infrastructure in Kensington, to reduce reliance on non-renewable peak energy during periods of high demand.
New regulation requiring public and private car parks to install electric charge points and requiring developers to include charge points in new homes will also help Kensington and Chelsea Council deliver on their car charging commitment.
Similarly, the energy regulator Ofgem could allow electricity networks to invest in anticipatory upgrades to the network so that it can cope with the additional future demand from charge points.
Renewable energy presents another huge opportunity for a private-sector-led Green Recovery.
Were the Government to lift the cap on the amount of new renewable energy capacity it contracts for at the next auction round, it could unleash over £20 billion of private investment according to the trade body Renewable UK, bringing investment to local supply chains immediately and supporting 12,000 direct jobs in the mid-2020s.
All of this could be done without adding to household bills due to the tumbling cost of solar and wind power.
Another regulatory reform would be to change the process for connecting offshore wind farms to the mainland grid. Since we now have ambitious targets for building more offshore wind, energy companies should be allowed to invest in grid infrastructure more strategically and in a way that is less intrusive for coastal communities.
The Government has put the economy on the front foot with its ambitious jobs package. But the private-sector ultimately will power both our recovery and the delivery of our net zero target. We need its unique ability to generate wealth, drive innovation, and improve economic efficiency.
We’ve had the necessary government stimulus to kickstart green job creation across the UK. We now need policy to unleash a business-led Green Recovery in the years ahead.
Felicity Buchan is the Conservative MP for Kensignton.