Committee on Climate Change urges government to take action towards ‘resilient recovery’ from COVID-19

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IN LETTERS to the Prime Minister and First Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Committee on Climate Change sets out six key principles to rebuild the nation following the COVID-19 pandemic whilst delivering ‘a stronger, cleaner and more resilient economy.’

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change is integral to the UK’s recovery package, the Committee says.

Committee on Climate Change Chairman, Lord Deben, commented on the announcement: “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.”

Governments in all UK nations should prioritise actions to recover from the pandemic based on six resilience principles.

  1. Use climate investments to support economic recovery and jobs. The Committee on Climate Change has previously identified a detailed set of investments to reduce emissions and manage the social, environmental and economic impacts of climate change. Many are labour-intensive, spread across the UK and ready to roll out as part of a targeted and timely stimulus package.
  2. Lead a shift towards positive, long-term behaviours. The Government can lead the way to new social norms that benefit well-being, improve productivity and reduce emissions. This includes actions to support home-working, remote medical consultations and improve safety for cyclists.
  3. Tackle the wider ‘resilience deficit’ on climate change. According to the Committee, strong policies are needed to reduce the UK’s vulnerability to the destructive risks of climate change and to avoid a disorderly transition to Net Zero. They must be implemented alongside the response to COVID-19 and will bring benefits to health, well-being and national security.
  4. Embed fairness as a core principle. 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. Lost or threatened jobs of today should be replaced by those created by the new, resilient economy.
  5. Ensure the recovery does not lock-in greenhouse gas emissions or increased risk. As it kick-starts the economy, the Government should avoid locking-in higher emissions or increased vulnerability to climate change in the longer-term. Support for carbon-intensive sectors should be contingent on them taking real and lasting action on climate change, and all new investments need to be resilient to future climate risks.
  6. Strengthen incentives to reduce emissions when considering tax changes. Revenue could be raised by setting or raising carbon prices for sectors of the economy which do not bear the full costs of emitting greenhouse gases. Low global oil prices provide an opportunity to increase carbon taxes without hurting consumers.

Chair of the Committee on Climate Change’s Adaptation Committee, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, added: “This pandemic has shown that global risks need global solutions.

“As President of next year’s pivotal COP26 climate summit, the UK now finds itself in a unique position to ramp-up climate action at home and supercharge the international response to climate change abroad.

“The risks we face as a globalised society are now in sharp focus – for their part, UK leaders must act decisively on a climate resilient recovery, and do so together.”