‘Post-coronavirus recovery could be used as opportunity to boost climate adaptation investment’

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CHAIRS of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), have written to the Chancellor warning that time is running out to ‘avert an even greater future global crisis caused by climate change’.

They stress that the UK’s post-COVID economic recovery package should be used as an opportunity to accelerate investment on climate adaptation and cutting emissions to net zero.

The correspondence to the Chancellor comes as the EAC Committee launches a new inquiry, Greening the post-COVID recovery, and ahead of the BEIS Committee’s evidence hearing on Thursday examining the Committee on Climate Change’s Progress Report (and the Climate Assembly UK interim results).

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee Chair, Darren Jones, commented: “The post-pandemic world offers an opportunity for the UK to step up our efforts to tackle climate change, to foster a green-recovery and accelerate the transition to net-zero.

“From transport, to industry, to heating, buildings and energy efficiency, there are a series of priorities for action which the UK should pursue if we are to successfully decarbonise our economy.

“I hope the Chancellor will be bold in his investment in infrastructure and people, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to tackling climate change, boosting the prospects of a green recovery, creating net zero related jobs, and bolstering the UK’s credibility as a net zero leader in the run up to COP26.”

Climate scientists warn that we only have a short window of opportunity to keep global temperature rises to a manageable level, with the Paris Agreement stipulating that nations must pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The UN Environmental Programme also states that existing commitments to cut emissions would only limit temperature rises to 3.2°C by 2100.

The post-COVID economic recovery package offers the opportunity to align the boost to the economy with the UK’s climate goals.

The Environmental Audit Committee has heard the international post-crisis stimulus spending is likely to dwarf existing spending on mitigating climate change.

If recovery packages are not aligned with net zero, the world’s nations risk investing in carbon-intensive projects that lock us into high carbon pathways.

Putting net-zero at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic will deliver benefits that can help stimulate local economies, level-up communities across the UK, and improve public health and well-being.

Many of the actions required to upgrade and decarbonise our transport, housing and energy infrastructure will create jobs, grow supply chains and deliver energy and cost savings in the longer term.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne, added: “Coronavirus has brought devastation and destruction not only to loved ones whose family and friends have been impacted, but also to the economy on which we all rely.

“If there is anything positive to come out of the pandemic, it is that we wake up to the warnings that we are hearing from scientists about the urgency of acting on climate change.

“Many of the actions we need to make our net zero ambition a reality can be used to revive our economy, creating green jobs and generating long term cost savings.

“It would be a historic mistake to miss this opportunity.”

The letter comes as the Environmental Audit Committee launches its new inquiry, Greening the post-COVID recovery.

COVID lockdown measures have resulted in GDP falling by 20.4% in April alone, and have led to over 600,000 job losses across the UK economy.

As the UK emerges from the pandemic and reopens the economy, the Government has been subject to growing calls from businesses, environmentalists and charities to align its economic stimulus packages with net zero.

The Government has indicated that it is considering options to boost economic growth as the UK shifts to net-zero carbon emissions.

The Business Secretary has also convened a series of roundtables with business leaders and academics to consider these options.

During the inquiry, the EAC will be monitoring the Government’s economic recovery packages and to identify opportunities to underpin initiatives with environmental safeguarding.

The Committee is expecting to publish its report ahead of the Autumn Budget where it is expected full spending projects will be announced by the Government.