Alok Sharma to chair series of meetings with businesses, academics, and trade bodies, as government continues to work on green stimulus package
Business Secretary Alok Sharma will this week chair the first of a series of new 'recovery roundtables', bringing together businesses, trade bodies, and academics to discuss how to maximise the impact of the government's imminent economic recovery package.
The roundtables - which are expected to involve between 20 and 25 leading experts - are set to cover five "key themes" with one group dedicated to delivering a green recovery and ensuring the UK "captures economic growth opportunities from the shift to net zero carbon emissions".
The other roundtables also cover topics that could help to shape a green recovery and drive investment in low carbon and climate resilient infrastructure.
They will focus on accelerating business innovation and boosting R&D investment; making the UK "the best place in the world to start and scale a business"; "levelling up" economic performance across the UK, including through skills and apprenticeship programmes; and attracting more high value inward investment to the UK.
"These roundtables are a redoubling of our efforts to listen to and work with the business community and academic experts as we consider the measures needed to support our economic bounce-back," said Sharma. "This will undoubtedly lead to a cleaner, greener, more resilient economy which will create new jobs.
"The output from this initiative will feed directly into the government's work on economic recovery and will help deliver the commitments we made to the British people only last December, which now take on an even greater sense of urgency and importance."
The launch of the roundtables follows another weekend in which media reports revealed the Treasury regards a major increase on the Conservative's manifesto commitment to boost green investment as a top priority for its economic recovery package, which is expected to be unveiled next month.
Hydrogen infrastructure, carbon capture and storage, tree-planting and flood defences, electric vehicle (EV) charge points, grid upgrades, building energy efficiency programmes, and green R&D have all been flagged as areas that can expect increased spending.
However, The Times reported that the Prime Minister's top advisor, Dominic Cummings, has expressed concerns that the current proposals are "not enough about the future".
Meanwhile, The Telegraph reported today that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering proposals for a green car scrappage scheme that would see motorists provided with grants worth up to £6,000 if they swap their petrol or diesel cars for an electric model
The proposals would see grants for EVs double from the current £3,000, after the government cut the level of grants available under its Plug-in Grant scheme last year.
The reports follow the German government's announcement last week that it would double grants for EVs to €6,000 as part of a €40bn green recovery plan, while resisting calls from manufacturers to introduce a scrappage scheme that covered petrol and diesel vehicles.
It remains to be seen whether the UK government will fully mirror the German government's approach and lock internal combustion engine vehicles out of any scrappage scheme.
Moreover, former Treasury official Josh Buckland noted on Twitter that while the government may yet introduce an EV scrappage scheme it remained challenging to construct a scheme that delivers a cost effective boost to the transition to zero emission vehicles.
"Govt has long grappled with a scrappage scheme to boost EV uptake but never bitten," he observed. "Issue is 'dead weight loss' (purchases would of happened anyway) and EV demand already outstrips supply many times over. Hence focus on charging infra and manufacturers."
The Telegraph also reported that Johnson has pencilled in Monday July 6th for a major speech on the government's economic recovery plans.
The latest developments came after Johnson marked World Environment Day on Friday with a clear commitment to prioritising climate action as part of global economic recovery plans.
"As we come through this pandemic and begin to rebuild our economies, it's time to invest in the industries, infrastructure and jobs that will endure any storm - or even another virus - so we bounce back stronger than before," he wrote on Twitter. "We're reminded on World Environment Day that nobody can do this alone. That's why we must move towards a greener, cleaner, and more resilient future, and the UK looks forward to working with countries around the world in the run up to @COP26 in Glasgow next year."
The reports that a green recovery package is being prepared has been broadly welcomed by green businesses and campaigners. However, concerns remain that increased investment in low carbon infrastructure could also be accompanied by a similar increase in road-building programmes, cuts to fuel taxes, and planning reforms that could sideline environmental concerns. Meanwhile, Greenpeace last week criticised the Bank of England for handing loans to carbon intensive businesses without attaching any climate-related conditions.
The pandemic hit at a critical time when climate action started to gain momentum - we must now renew that momentum, writes Arçelik CEO Hakan Bulgurlu
The current crisis shows that properly understood, robust data is vital for making timely policy decisions, argues the EIC's Matthew Farrow
CDP beefs up non-disclosure campaign as investors publicly call on leading businesses to respond to their requests for climate-related information
Low Carbon Farming, Black Mountain and Zero Carbon Yorkshire have joined a campaign that calls on the government to revise its low carbon heat strategy to support the development of large-scale heat pumps, a sector they contend could help the UK drive...