CCC calls for low-carbon future post COVID-19

A low-carbon infrastructure should be at the core of Government policy to reviving the economy post COVID-19, according to the Committee on Climate Change.

The recovery must not ‘lock-in’ greenhouse gas emissions or increase climate risk, states the CCC in an open letter to the prime minister, Boris Johnson. Support for carbon-intensive sectors such as the oil and gas industry should be contingent on them “taking real and lasting action on climate change”.

The recovery should include the strengthening of incentives to reduce emissions when considering fiscal changes. Changes in tax policy should be used to aid the transition to net-zero emissions and future carbon pricing mechanisms should be supported.

Key to this will be using climate investments to support the economic recovery and jobs. This follows on from the CCC’s previous work calling for investments in sectors like renewable energy, which can help create stable jobs. This should be brought forward in light of challenges created by COVID-19, and stimulus packages should be investigated.

The need for a fixed plan to move towards net zero is again emphasised, the lack of which could lead to a “disorderly transition.” While theCCC have called for this previously, it adds that the current COVID-19 crisis has emphasised the importance of evidence-led preparations for all of the key risks facing the UK.

“Recovery means investing in new jobs, cleaner air and improved health,” states Lord Deben (pictured), CCC chairman. “The actions needed to tackle climate change are central to rebuilding our economy. The government must prioritise actions that reduce climate risks and avoid measures that lock-in higher emissions.”

James McGregor, environmental economist at engineering and environmental consultancy, Ramboll, commented: “The concern is that after relaxation of lockdown, Governments will seek a quick return to ‘business-as-usual’, swiftly trading environmental and social improvements in search of a strong economic rebound. For example, Global Energy Monitor reports data on the approval of coal-fired power plants in the first three weeks of March 2020 exceeding total approvals for 2019. Compounding this is the exacerbated differential among renewable and fossil-fuel costs owing to historically low oil prices.

“This pause in economic activity can be used to engineer, strategise and plan towards objectives that are truly sustainable. The concern is that if we don’t, the recovery period will be longer, more polluting and less beneficial to our economies, society and natural environment. We risk locking our future into unsustainable models which are less resilient and more exposed to future shocks, be these economic, epidemiologic or environmental.”

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