The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) calls on the government to prioritise investment in a green recovery.
In their new report which was published today, the cross-party committee has warned that if the economic recovery from Covid-19 is not used as an opportunity to ‘grow back better’ then climate change and biodiversity collapse may deliver an even greater crisis.
The committee has highlighted that while the PM’s Ten Point Plan for a green revolution is in the right direction, further work needs to be done and strategies need to be published.
Based on this, the report calls for the government to increase investment into areas such as energy efficiency, the circular economy, climate adaption and nature recovery, to counter rising unemployment by creating green jobs.
The report highlights that investment in green transport is key, not only to improve air pollution but also to cut carbon and improve health and fitness.
Air pollution has been linked to higher Covid-19 mortality rates, therefore the EAC says that the Government should use the upcoming transport decarbonisation strategy to set out plans for long-term investment in public transport, and enhance travel infrastructure to support more walking and cycling in towns and cities.
The EAC also recommends that the government introduce embodied carbon targets for the construction of new homes and they also state that the Green Homes Grant must be overhauled and given a multi-year extension.
The report also highlights that there should be VAT reductions to repair services and items that have been recycled to encourage a circular economy.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: ‘The Covid-19 crisis must be treated as a wake-up call. It is a symptom of a growing ecological emergency. The economic recovery will shape our national economy for decades to come, and it is crucial that tackling climate change and restoring nature is at its core.
‘A tax system fit for net-zero Britain is key. It will encourage innovation, give confidence to the sector and support companies to make the low-carbon transition.
‘There are endless initiatives that can lead to a greener future and the Chancellor should use his upcoming Budget statement to start this process. Boosting energy efficiency of homes by reducing VAT on retrofits can spur growth in low-carbon manufacturing. The funding allocated to the Green Homes Grant should be rolled over to meet the target to issue 600,000 vouchers. The electric vehicle transition must be accelerated with further tax incentives to encourage take-up.
‘But a greener future hinges on the health of biodiversity and ecosystems. The economic recovery must not overlook nature recovery. Planning and infrastructure decisions must take into account the impact of nature, and piloting a new National Nature Service can protect wildlife while offering employment opportunities.
There will be no vaccine against runaway climate change, and it is our responsibility now, using the opportunity of the economic recovery, to set the UK on track for net-zero.’
Jamie Sawyer, a lawyer at ClientEarth who gave evidence to the EAC in September 2020, said: ‘The Environmental Audit Committee’s report makes clear that to ensure a resilient recovery from Covid-19, the UK’s economic and monetary policies must be fully aligned with its net-zero goals.
‘The Government’s recent support to companies – whether through a bailout loan under ‘Project Birch’ or loans to airlines with Government guarantees – have not been transparent and had no or limited climate conditions attached.
‘For all future bailouts and public support, the Government and the Bank of England must require recipients to provide climate-related financial disclosures.
‘But climate-related disclosures are not enough. They must attach legally enforceable conditions to public support that require a commitment to reach net-zero by 2050, and a clear strategy to get there.’
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