In a letter sent to Boris Johnson today, more than 50 UK charities warn that preventing the worst impacts of climate change is contingent on a green recovery to the coronavirus crisis
More than 50 of the UK's environmental charities, including Greenpeace, WWF, Green Alliance, Possible, and the RSBP, have today written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge him to "urgently commit" to delivering the green economic recovery his government has said it will pursue.
The letter, organised by the Climate Coalition, joins a growing stack of missives sent to Number 10 in recent weeks that call on the government to use its forthcoming economic recovery plans to accelerate the UK's transition towards net zero emissions and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
"We agree that we are at a crucial juncture in history when the actions taken now to respond to the pandemic and rebuild our economies will determine whether humanity succeeds in our goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, halt and reverse the decline of nature and eradicate poverty," the letter states.
Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, urged the government to deliver on Ministerial promises - made repeatedly over the past few weeks - that the imminent stimulus package will feature a raft of green measures. "We know a green recovery makes economic sense and is supported here in the UK and overseas by leading businesses, academics, ministers, and health representatives," she said. "What we urgently need to see now, and post-pandemic, is commitment from government on turning this into action."
Steele estimated that a green recovery could support "at least 210,000 jobs" and generate £90bn a year for the UK economy. "The government must adopt a test to ensure any recovery package helps to build economic resilience and meet our commitments to end the UK's contribution to climate change by 2050," she added.
Today's appeal, which was also backed by CAFOD, Tearfund, Oxfam, and the Women's Institute, provides a series of recommendations to the government on how it could deliver on public promises to "build back better" and build a "sustainable, inclusive and resilient" economy in the wake of the coronavirus.
Proposed measures include increasing public capital investment in renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency upgrades, and zero carbon transport infrastructure, alongside new programmes to reskill workers to work in emerging low-carbon sectors.
The campaigners also call for all bailouts to be conditional on recipients agreeing to work towards a net zero emissions economy. And they recommend the government implements a 'new economic rule' to ensure that recovery plans, public spending, and taxation are aligned with climate targets.
The campaigners stressed it is vital that recovery plans help boost private sector investment in the net zero transition. As such, they recommended that the government set up Climate Infrastructure Bank and increase financial powers for local authorities to attract investment into net zero emission infrastructure.
The letter also pushes the government to leverage forthcoming trade deals to protect and restore natural ecosystems on land and at sea, while allocating investment towards making land use and farming practices more sustainable.
It argues that the government should ensure all public finance abroad is aligned with an inclusive energy transition, and commit to ending fossil fuel finance and helping developing countries with the transition to a low carbon economy.
The groups said that the UK should provide debt relief to developing countries that will enable them to tackle the climate and coronavirus crises and do more to champion grant-based climate finance.
Finally, the signatories write, the government should work with the international community to rapidly reverse the decline of biodiversity and nature.
The government is expected to unveil its stimulus plan next month and a raft of green measures are expected to be included after both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, signalled in recent weeks that they intend to step up investment in low carbon infrastructure.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS), building efficiency programmes, hydrogen projects, active transport and electric vehicle charging infrastructure have all been tipped for increased funding, while on Friday the government announced the launch of a new 'Jet Zero Council' to help strengthen R&D efforts to slash emissions from aviation.
However, campaigners remain concerned that the new green stimulus programmes could fall short of the scale required to put the UK on track to deliver net zero emissions by 2050, may not be accompanied by supporting policy reforms, and could be undermined by fresh support for high carbon infrastructure.
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