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Tue, 11 August 2020

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What might a green recovery from Covid-19 look like?

What might a green recovery from Covid-19 look like?

Many are arguing that the pandemic has highlighted how policy makers at the local and the national level can implement plans to keep certain positive aspects of ‘lockdown life’ ongoing in the return to social normality. These include active travel, says Alexandra Goodwin | Credit: PA Images

Alexandra Goodwin | Dods Monitoring

5 min read

The term ‘green recovery’ has gained increasing traction as the economic fallout from Covid-19 has become apparent. As the economy entered a slump, there were increasing pressures from campaigners, think tanks, Whitehall and now even royalty (Prince Charles) for the Government to prioritise low carbon solutions in the UK’s economic recovery.

What does a ‘Green Recovery’ mean?

But what is a ‘green recovery’? The phrase refers to a fiscal stimulus focusing on transforming the economy, rather than simply restarting it.

In this sense, the Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to move beyond GDP in its traditional measure and accelerate fiscal investment in low carbon options. This comes as increasing analysis begins to highlight the inextricable link between addressing the climate and nature emergency and tackling economic and social injustice. 

Pressure has mounted as the lockdown and changes to everyday life under Covid-19 has shown that carbon emission reduction is possible through a change in behaviours. The Financial Times quoted figures from Sia Partners, a French consultancy specialising in energy, that stated EU lockdown measures has prompted a 57 per cent decline in daily carbon emissions.

Similarly, the UK had seen an 80 per cent decrease in transport use. Naturally, these changes to lifestyle are temporary and are simultaneously an effect of a falling economy, thus are not necessarily sustainable long-term.  

However, many are arguing that the pandemic has highlighted how policy makers at the local and the national level can implement plans to keep certain positive aspects of ‘lockdown life’ ongoing in the return to social normality.

These include active travel, prioritising our natural environment, and ensuring new investments to boost the economy are filtered into green projects. 

Voices in the debate

A true green recovery spans across nearly all sectors of Government, such as finance, industry and the built environment, and incorporates legally binding targets such as Net Zero Carbon by 2050 and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 7 by 2030. 

Labour recently launched their consultation on a Green Recovery. Ed Miliband, shadow secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds rallied businesses, workers, unions and others to contribute to how a green recovery could happen.

Pressure isn’t just coming from those in the political or environmental sphere, last week over 200 top UK firms and investors signed a letter to the Government supporting investment in line with climate goals.

The consultation outlines the opposition’s priorities to ‘build back better’, including a ‘zero carbon army’ to kickstart energy insulation, zero emission vehicles, afforestation and sustainable city redesign. The responses will help to shape proposals to the Government.

However, pressure isn’t just coming from those in the political or environmental sphere, as just last week over 200 top UK firms and investors signed a letter to the Government supporting investment in line with climate goals.

The signatories to the letter include Lloyds Bank, Asda, Siemens and Sky, while proposals in the letter were put forward by the likes of Mitsubishi, Signify and Yorkshire Water. Similarly, the Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership this week launched the 2020-2025 Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy which outlines what the sector should prioritise moving forward. 

These proposals are echoed by the Environmental Justice Commission in their report, Faster, further, fairer: Putting people at the heart of tackling the climate and nature emergency. The report, published in conjunction with IPPR, self-proclaims to provide an articulate vision for a renewed economy and a clear pathway of action of how to get there, through a rapid and fair transition which puts people at its heart. Specifically, it discusses how these actions should be implemented for the post pandemic recovery.  

What policies would be implemented

A green recovery doesn’t necessarily denote entirely new policies.

Rather, it forces certain policies in the discussion to the forefront. As the Energy and Utilities Skills Partnerships highlight, these include: collaborative partnerships across the UK and national government departments; investment in industries that are of strong economic importance to the UK economy; a stable skills and employment policy environment; and, continuing dialogue and evaluation of policy and practise with employers.

A green recovery doesn’t necessarily denote entirely new policies.

Similarly, Chris Stark from the Committee on Climate Change has been vocal on the need for any infrastructure investment to be funnelled through a net zero lens.

The 2008 crisis recovery brought carbon levels above the normal trend – the UK cannot afford to lock in this sort of pollution in 2020. Stimulating demand for low- carbon tech and infrastructure are interdependent to the Energy and Utilities Skills Partnership’s proposals.

The investment into the relevant skills would be a by-product of an increase in demand. 

The T question

The challenge in the implementation of a green recovery is getting the Treasury on side.

From early indications, the Government appears to favour a fiscal stimulus and encouragingly, the Government’s stakeholder roundtables launched this week have the stated aim of supporting a “green and resilient recovery”.

However, whether a repositioning of the narrative between the economy and climate change trade-off and, whether stimulus measures expected either this summer or at the Budget take the shape of a green recovery remains to be seen.

 

To download a complimentary report on the green recovery, click HERE.

 

Read the most recent article written by Alexandra Goodwin - Government leadership is needed for the water sector to decarbonise while reducing costs

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