Greenpeace A Green Recovery & How We Get There
‘Nations will begin to emerge from lockdown and look to fire up their economies once again. When that happens it will be the duty of every responsible government to rebuild in a way that will stand the test of time. That means investing in industries and infrastructure that can turn the tide on climate change. And it means doing all we can to boost resilience by shaping economies that can withstand everything nature throws at us.’ Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister, April 2020
Greenpeace A Green Recovery
The Covid-19 crisis has created challenges to our daily lives, communities and the global economy on a scale that would have been unimaginable only a few months ago. The deliberate and necessary government shutdowns of the world’s major economies have also sparked a potentially disastrous global recession that will require a response on an unprecedented scale.
At the same time, the climate and nature emergencies have not gone away and are quietly getting worse. The current path towards at least 3°C of global heating threatens millions, if not billions of people’s lives, homes, jobs and communities – especially those who are the least to blame for our predicament. Given that the global climate crisis threatens to be ‘far lengthier and far more disruptive than what we currently see with the coronavirus’,3 it is a threat that the world cannot afford to ignore, either now or when it emerges from the pandemic and starts to reconstruct the global economy.
To stand the best chance of averting the potentially devastating impacts of both climate catastrophe and global recession, the UK government must put at the top of its agenda creating jobs, attracting private investment and boosting demand through an economy-wide recovery package. This needs to be compatible with delivering net zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2045. In the words of the UN Secretary General, we need to ‘recover better’.
In practice there is no conflict between economy and environment. As a recent study by Oxford University Smith School said, ‘there is strong evidence that green stimulus policies are economically advantageous when compared with traditional fiscal stimuli’. Done right, many of the investments and policy levers that will be key to tackling the climate and nature emergencies while driving economic recovery will also help to level up communities across the UK, stimulate local economies and improve public health and wellbeing. Better-insulated homes will be warmer and cut energy bills, as well as reducing emissions. Cleaner air will decrease the economic cost of air pollution and help save lives. Improved public transport will ease congestion. Better urban design and increased investment in broadband will minimise commuting time. A sustainable food and farming system will improve people’s diets, boosting physical and mental health.
Moreover, such policies are likely to receive widespread public support. A large majority of UK adults think the climate change crisis is as serious as that of coronavirus. This is not confined to traditional liberal voices – younger Leave voters support UK action on greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets the same as or stronger than those in the EU.
As a member of the G7 and host of COP26, the next global climate change conference, the UK has a unique opportunity to lead the world in the green recovery and demonstrate how climate-proofed infrastructure and high environmental standards can lead to greater prosperity and wellbeing for all.
The UK also has a once-in-a-generation chance to lay out and champion on the world stage a vision for new and innovative forms of international cooperation and funding – between individual countries and via multilateral institutions – to ensure that the path out of the Covid and climate crises in all countries is sustainable, equitable and resilient.
Britain has been the birthplace of some of the world’s greatest innovations and feats of engineering, and can boast cutting-edge entrepreneurship. Building on our world-leading offshore wind industry, our legal commitment to net zero emissions and our successful coal phaseout, an ambitious green recovery programme can inspire and pioneer a modern revolution that changes the way the world works in a way that benefits everyone.
A bold UK green recovery programme would help boost global zero carbon markets, making the transition more accessible for all. It would put Global Britain – Britain as a force for good in the world – firmly into practice.
Greenpeace A Green Recovery & How We Get There
Government measures to revive the economy should build on the UK’s existing industrial strengths and skills base, generate employment and offer significant multiplier effects while being mindful of the long term shape of the economy. They should also unlock private investment, level up ‘left behind’ regions, and deliver a wide range of co-benefits such as improved public health. They should also align with the Paris Agreement targets and delivery of net zero emissions.
Four priority areas for UK government action that would meet these requirements are:
- Redesigning the transport system
- Making UK buildings fit for the 21st century
- Delivering a clean power system
- Supporting nature & creating a circular economy
Below we set out the specific policy, spending and tax measures that need to be delivered in unison for each of these areas to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of the post-Covid response.
All four of these priority areas should be viewed as intertwined, with successful action in one area being dependent on actions happening in the others. Our future homes not only need to be highly insulated to be warmer, more efficient and cheaper to run, but they must also support the clean power transition by having solar panels on the roof and using power for renewable heating. Our future electric transport system will be as dependent on an upgraded, smart and flexible grid as it will be on offshore wind and solar generation; and in return, more electric vehicles (EVs) will help provide extra storage capacity for renewable energy. Transitioning our power generation to renewables will give us clean electricity that can not only power our homes, offices and industries, but also be used to produce green hydrogen that will keep our power system running when there is no sun or wind and will help tougher-to-reform sectors such as shipping and steel clean up their footprints.
All relevant government departments should therefore work together on these priorities in a coordinated way, and they should be approached together as a whole – with a just transition to a fair and sustainable future as the guiding principle.
Unless otherwise specified, all recommendations below are applicable UK-wide, with responsibility for delivery sitting with the Westminster government or devolved nations as appropriate.
A Green Recovery & How We Get There – Recovery Packages
‘I must be the first transport secretary in history who celebrates the idea that there are fewer cars on the road.’ Grant Shapps, UK Transport Secretary, April 2020
- Speed up the transition to electric vehicles
- Expand, electrify and increase the affordability of public transport
- Fundamentally redesign urban transport
‘[We need to] set a different course towards a higher skilled, higher waged, higher productivity recovery… [One option is] replacing the 25 million gas boilers, which we need to replace in the next 10 years or so anyway if we have any chance of meeting our carbon targets… [the project is] quite labour intensive, skill intensive, and… dispersed around the country.’ Sir John Gieve, Former Deputy Governor for Financial Stability of the Bank of England, April 2020
- Kick-start a nationwide home and public sector energy efficiency programme
- Require all new buildings to support a net zero emissions future
- Establish and sufficiently fund a new Warm Homes Agency
‘On renewable energy being an ideal place for governments to focus post-Covid stimulus programmes: ‘It fits very nicely. You’re killing two birds with one stone by providing new sources of renewable energy to decarbonise power, and also providing pension funds with stable revenues. I think if governments are going to do fiscal spending they’re going to have more credibility directing it towards renewables and climate change initiatives than towards oil and gas.’ Paul Flood, Portfolio Manager at Newton Investment Management, April 2020
- Make offshore wind the backbone
- Support a thriving onshore wind and solar
- Upgrade the electricity grid
Nature & Circular Economy
‘The transition to a climate-neutral economy, the protection of biodiversity, and the transformation of agri-food systems have the potential to rapidly deliver jobs, growth, and improve the way of life of all citizens worldwide, and to contribute to building more resilient societies.’ The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, May 2020
- Significantly restore and enhance nature and wildlife
- Establish world-leading environmental legislation
- Get the UK on track to a zero-waste economy
A Green Recovery & How We Get There – Encouraging Investment
Many of the green recovery measures detailed in the recovery packages will work to reignite the economy and boost demand by leveraging private investment in zero carbon infrastructure and technologies. To ensure that investor confidence in such infrastructure and technologies is not undermined by negative market signals, specific regulatory and policy measures must be taken.
Company Rescue Packages
Any short term financial rescue packages for companies in response to the coronavirus outbreak should be granted only on strict conditions that are compatible with a green recovery. This is particularly important given that the sectors in which companies are asking for bailouts include some of the most polluting industries, such as aviation and fossil fuels, with billionaire business owners asking for taxpayer money to prop them up in order to continue with business as usual once the crisis has ended.
- Put people and workers first
- Protect the environment
- Account for public spending on rescue packages
A Green Recovery & How We Get There – Funding
The historically low interest rates favour continuing significant government borrowing, as many commentators across the political spectrum have now observed. One Conservative MP has suggested that the government should issue sovereign green gilts to help finance the clean infrastructure programmes necessary for the recovery. Rather than the conventional method of borrowing on the international markets, an alternative approach could be to change the tax status of ISAs for the purchase of green stimulus funding. Changes could also be made to pension rules. Together, the two measures could raise £100 billion and allow people to choose to have a stake in the green recovery.
One of the features of the coronavirus pandemic is that it has recast expectations of public behaviour, especially travel. This, coupled with the need to consider the compatibility of new infrastructure with net zero emissions and the requirement to restore and enhance nature with green infrastructure, calls into question some existing government infrastructure projects. In particular, the value for money of the £106 billion HS2 project and the £27 billion Road Investment Strategy 2 is now highly questionable, as is the strategic rationale for developments to support the construction of new airport runways, such as at Heathrow. These projects should be cancelled and the funds substantially redirected to support the green recovery measures set out above.
Sector-specific taxes, some of which are identified above, will be useful to help provide a balance of incentives while raising revenue from more polluting industries. However, environmental taxes are not silver bullets and need to be used carefully, alongside a wider package of measures to support an equitable transition.