The independent group that advises the government on the climate crisis has recommended a number of ways the UK could use the post-COVID-19 economic recovery process to cut carbon emissions and fast-track progress on environmental goals.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has written to the prime minister and the first ministers of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, arguing that the economy can not go back to the way it was before, the BBC has reported.
The letter urges the leaders to support green jobs and invest money earmarked for economic recovery into companies that have made headway on lowering carbon emissions.
The CCC also recommended that the public should continue to work from home where possible and walk or cycle to work, while the government should redirect investment in road infrastructure into improving broadband.
“Many sectors of the UK economy do not currently bear the full costs of emitting greenhouse gases. Revenue could be raised by setting or raising carbon prices for these sectors,” the letter states, suggesting that carbon-heavy industries need to be reformed.
Other recommendations for “immediate steps” the government could take include retraining people to work in sustainable, climate-resilient jobs in the green sector, scaling up efforts to refit homes to make them energy efficient, and ensuring any new homes are built to meet those specifications.
The advisers also noted that the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately hit the same groups of people who will be hit hardest by the climate crisis – like young people and low-paid workers — and steps should be taken to protect those groups.
The letter says: “The benefits of acting on climate change must be shared widely, and the costs must not burden those who are least able to pay or whose livelihoods are most at risk as the economy changes.
“It is important that the lost or threatened jobs of today should be replaced by those created by the new, resilient economy.”
The government has not yet replied to the letter sent May 6, but Alok Sharma, the energy secretary, has previously spoken in favour of a green recovery to the recession, according to the BBC.
The CCC chairman, Lord Deben, said: “The COVID-19 crisis 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.”
We've learned so much during this #Coronavirus crisis— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) May 4, 2020
👍the power of community
🙏who really makes a difference in our society
🌿why green spaces matter
🌈that we can't go back to *normal* because it was nowhere good enough
So I'm launching #GreenStepsToBetter Pls RT 👇 pic.twitter.com/vHAWf6vQCO
The CCC are not the only group advocating that the UK uses this situation as an opportunity to make progress on the climate. For example the president of the AA, a car breakdown insurer and voice for motorists, agreed that the £28 billion planned investment for roads might be better spent on broadband, he told BBC News.
In a poll of AA members, representing 20,000 motorists, a fifth said they would likely aim to drive less after lockdown ends.
The environmental NGO Greenpeace has also suggested that after lockdowns, people might not want their cities to go back to being full of traffic and pollution — and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has said that the government should harness the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to create a greener society going forward.
However, some politicians have argued the economy needs to be protected as a priority, regardless of whether carbon emissions increase, the BBC report states.