Thursday 25 June 2020 12:01 am

Crisis is 'defining moment' in climate change battle, government told

The government must use its recovery from the coronavirus crisis to accelerate the country’s transition to a net zero economy, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said.

In its latest guidance to parliament released today, the CCC urged ministers to seize the opportunity to turn the crisis into a “defining moment” in the fight against climate change.

Read more: What can the Covid-19 crisis teach us about tackling climate change?

The report lays out a series of urgent steps which it says the government must take in the coming month in order to initiate a green recovery.

Lord Deben, the independent body’s chairman, said: We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address these urgent challenges together; it’s there for the taking. 

“The steps that the UK takes to rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic can accelerate the transition to a successful and low-carbon economy and improve our climate resilience”.

Five key investment priorities are identified by the report, including the need to retrofit old homes and build new ones to the highest environmental standards.

It also says the UK should strengthen its energy networks and develop infrastructure which encourages people to use active methods of travel like walking or cycling.

In order to do so, the CCC said the government should take the chance to invest in reskilling a workforce for a net zero economy.

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It should also continue to push the “climate positive” behaviours that have been on display during the lockdown, like encouraging further remote working.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge, the chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said: Now is the moment to get our house in order, coordinate national planning, and prepare for the inevitable changes ahead. 

“The UK’s domestic ambition can be the basis for strong international climate leadership, but the delivery of effective new policies must accelerate dramatically if we’re to seize this chance.” 

Industry body Energy UK welcomed the findings, saying that the UK had an “unprecedented opportunity” to tackle the two challenegs at once.

“As the CCC notes, transforming an entire economy will require full commitment and action from right across every Government department and the Devolved Governments”, said chief executive Audrey Gallacher. 

“The energy sector already invests £14 billion a year and is ready to work closely with Government to help power our economic recovery and meet our net zero target.”

Read more: BoE governor Andrew Bailey: Fiscal stimulus should keep climate change in mind

Activists Friends of the Earth also praised the report, but warned that the government could not be considered a climate leader until the recommendations were implemented.

“We should be inspired by what a green and fair COVID recovery can do for everyone. The Chancellor’s speech in early July is the next opportunity for the government to show that they get it”, said spokesperson Muna Suleiman.