The Treasury Committee has relaunched its green finance inquiry, seeking additional written evidence as to whether there are any green policies the Treasury should change or commence due to COVID-19 to facilitate the transition to net zero, whether the Treasury should directly fund green infrastructure as part of its COVID-19 spending package and if there are any outcomes from COVID-19 that will enable the Treasury and HMRC to meet net zero more easily.
It is clear that the general public is supportive of a green recovery; only last month the Climate Assembly (the UK’s first national citizens’ assembly on climate change), released an interim briefing showing:
79% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that, “Steps taken by the government to help the economy recover should be designed to help achieve net zero”; and
93% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that, “As lockdown eases, government, employers and/or others should take steps to encourage lifestyles to change to be more compatible with reaching net zero”.
In addition, a number of organisations, representing wide-ranging interests, including the CBI, the Committee on Climate Change have proposed that low carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure is at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery.
What does this look like in practice? Businesses are looking to the Government to put in place policies to encourage decarbonisation of both heat and transport, which are not yet keeping pace with the changes we see in electricity generation. This must include further investment in EV charging infrastructure, a proper consideration of carbon costs and a strategy for development of renewable hydrogen, as well as a regulatory framework that allows for forward-looking, strategic investment in grid infrastructure to allow for the roll-out of EVs and domestic electric heating.
Whilst over 60% of the UK’s emissions reductions are accounted for by the power sector, there is still more to do. A recent report by RenewableUK, “Recommendations for a Green Economic Recovery”, sets out its proposed recommendations which include lifting capacity caps for next year’s Contract for Difference auction to maximise investment, addressing the barriers to achieving the Government’s 40GW target for offshore wind by 2030, and putting in place targeted measures for innovative renewable technologies such as floating wind, wave and tidal stream.
What is abundantly clear is that society as a whole is very aware that the climate emergency has not gone away and that the pandemic has highlighted the need to make sure the economy is sustainable and resilient in the long-term.
now is the time to ask whether the government can seize the opportunity presented by the crisis to further green the economy to achieve net zero by 2050