Turn the COVID-19 crisis into a ‘defining moment’ in the fight against climate change, Government told

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has issued its annual report to the Government

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The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has today issued its annual report to Parliament, providing comprehensive new advice on delivering an economic recovery that accelerates the transition to a cleaner, net-zero emissions economy and strengthens the country’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

It states that urgent steps that must be taken in the months ahead to initiate a green, resilient COVID-19 recovery. Doing so will propel the UK towards more rapid climate progress and position the country as an international climate leader ahead of the pivotal COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.

CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said:

“The UK is facing its biggest economic shock for a generation. Meanwhile, the global crisis of climate change is accelerating. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address these urgent challenges together; it’s there for the taking. The steps that the UK takes to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic can accelerate the transition to a successful and low-carbon economy and improve our climate resilience. Choices that lock in emissions or climate risks are unacceptable.”

The Committee’s new report expands on its May letter to the Prime Minister, advising on the principles required for a resilient recovery. It highlights five clear investment priorities in the months ahead:

  1. Low-carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future. There are vital new employment and reskilling opportunities across the country if Governments support a national plan to renovate buildings and construct new housing to the highest standards of energy and water efficiency, to begin the shift to low-carbon heating systems, and to protect against overheating, with roll-out of ‘green passports’ for buildings and local area energy plans to begin immediately.
  2. Tree planting, peatland restoration, and green infrastructure. Investing in nature, including in our towns and cities, offers another quick route to opportunities for highly-skilled employment, and outcomes that improve people’s lives. Substantial changes in the use of land, required to meet the UK’s Net Zero target, will bring significant benefits for the climate, biodiversity, air quality, and flood prevention.
  3. Energy networks must be strengthened for the net-zero energy transformation in order to support electrification of transport and heating. Government has the regulatory tools to bring forward private sector investment. New hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure will provide a route to establishing new low-carbon British industries. Fast-tracked electric vehicle charging points will hasten the move towards a full phase out of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 or earlier.
  4. Infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle, and work remotely. Dedicated safe spaces for walking and cycling, including more bike parking and support for shared bikes and e-scooters. Resilient digital technology (5G and fibre broadband)will be needed for home working to be truly a widespread option.
  5. Moving towards a circular economy. Within the next five years, we can not only increase reuse & recycling rates rapidly but stop sending biodegradable wastes to landfill. Local authorities need support to invest strategically in separated waste collections and recycling infrastructure and to create new regional jobs.

The CCC goes on to state that achieving the UK’s climate goals and rebuilding the economy fit naturally together and that the actions recommended will deliver an improved economy, better public health, improved biodiversity and access to nature, cleaner air, more comfortable homes and highly productive and rewarding employment.

Commenting on the report, Dr Nina Skorupska CBE FEI, Chief Executive at the REA said:

“We wholeheartedly support the CCC’s annual report. They are right to highlight the enormous opportunity the Government has to implement a Green Recovery and they are right to hold the Government to account on the lack of progress been made towards our Net Zero targets.

“Over the last few years renewables have been going from strength to strength and the release of Government data today further demonstrates this. This data being published on the same day as the report couldn’t have come at a more important time. Businesses, MP’s, Ministers and the British public are calling for the transition to a green economy to be accelerated and the Government have the opportunity to do this whilst supporting the economy.

“Following a Green Recovery is not only the right path to take morally and ethically but is in the economic interests of the nation. What is important now is making sure that we get the Green Recovery right from the outset.”

While the STA Chief Executive Chris Hewett said:

“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.”

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