Report argues government has unique opportunity to unleash a wave of low-carbon and nature restoration projects that would accelerate the net zero transition
The government should use its imminent economic recovery programmes to incentivise investment in low carbon and nature restoration projects in order to reboot the economy and chart a path towards net zero emissions, according to a major new report from the Aldersgate Group.
The report, published today by the sustainable business body, joins a growing library of studies that have argued the government should place climate action at the heart of its promised coronavirus economic stimulus packages.
Entitled Seize the Moment: Building a thriving, inclusive and resilient economy in the aftermath of Covid-19, the report argues the government should aim "targeted public investment" at key sectors while pushing through policy reforms that can help green infrastructure projects attract further private sector investment.
Aldersgate Group's executive director Nick Molho stressed that entrenching a climate and environment agenda at the heart of recovery plans need not be "overly reliant" on public money.
"Targeted public investment will be important to support early stage innovation in areas such as hydrogen and carbon capture but a lot of the heavy lifting can be done through the introduction of clear public policy signals to attract private sector investment in areas such as energy efficiency, charging infrastructure, and natural capital projects," he said.
The right sustainable recovery package could ease regional inequality and unemployment, strengthen the UK's economic competitiveness and improve public health, reduce air pollution, and improve the country's resilience to future environmental shocks, the report suggests.
It argues that a recovery plan with climate and environmental criteria "at its core" can also establish a more resilient financial system, boost the UK's influence ahead of its role as host of the G7 and COP26 climate conference in 2021, and increase the international competitiveness of British low-carbon goods and services.
"There has rarely been a time when the economic, social, and environmental agendas have been so closely aligned," said Molho. "It is clear from the case studies in our report that incentivising low carbon and nature restoration projects as part of the UK's recovery plan could do much to tackle economic and social concerns around jobs, regional inequality, long-term competitiveness and resilience."
A raft of case studies that highlight the economic benefits of green investment are included in the report, ranging from a carbon capture and storage project in Teeside that is expected to generate 6,000 jobs, to a partnership between Tesco, TLT, and Triodos which will see hundreds of EV charging points installed at supermarkets, and modelling from National Grid that suggests the clean energy transformation could create 400,000 jobs across the country.
The government has been subject to a deluge of campaigns and publications in recent weeks that have made the case for a green recovery to the coronavirus crisis as .
Last month, climate economist Lord Stern and Nicholas Stiglitz argued in a University of Oxford paper that green stimulus packages would generate bigger economic benefits than high-carbon plans. And on 1 June, more than 200 businesses wrote to the Prime Minister to call for a recovery aligned with the net zero target. The Labour Party also recently joined the chorus of voices demanding a green recovery, stressing the need for a major green jobs drive to tackle a looming employment crisis. Just yesterday the Local Government Association published a report detailing how the net zero transition could create over a million jobs across the country, while the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group released an analysis explaining how a two year £2.8bn building efficiency programme could deliver a massive economic boost as generate £1.25 of tax revenue for every £1 of public spending.
Ministers have offered a warm response to the various reports, signalling that they regard climate action as a top priority for the imminent recovery plan. However, more will be revealed when the package is unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak with reports suggesting the plans will not be confirmed until next month.
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