Beyond COvid: The Digest

Green recoveries and nature-based solutions

July 20, 2020
SUMMARY
  • Discussion of the government's green recovery plans continues following the summer economic statement
  • "Nature-based solutions" to climate change, for adaptation as well as mitigation, are becoming more prominent in recovery programmes
  • But globally the balance of recovery funding still leans heavily towards fossil fuels

Focus: "green recovery" (continued)

  • Discussion of the government’s last set of economic interventions continues. Despite anticipation of a ‘Rooseveltian’ green stimulus package in Boris Johnson’s ‘build build build’ speech and Rishi Sunak’s summer economic statement, the government disappointed both climate campaigners and experts with a recovery package that fell short of the scale and ambition they argued necessary to seriously address the climate crisis.
  • ~~IPPR’s Luke Murphy has criticised the government’s £2bn announcement to decarbonise the UK’s housing stock through a ‘Green Homes Grant’, stating that it “falls far short of the £30bn public investment gap that needs to be filled to get the UK on track to meet net-zero and it is also considerably less than the £9.2 billion promised for energy efficiency in the Conservatives' election manifesto
  • Business leaders ~~once again urged the government to deliver a genuinely ambitious autumn budget if it is to live up to its rhetoric on unleashing a ‘green industrial revolution’ and placing it at the heart of its wider economic recovery plans.
  • The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has highlighted the importance of a circular recovery for achieving the UK’s net-zero targets; currently the government has failed to deliver on 14/21 climate progress indicators. The CCC suggested that recycling rates have ‘plateaued’ in England at around 45%, where improvement would require vital support for local authority investment in waste collection, re-use and recycling infrastructure.
  • Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) reports that a circular business model, which sees materials kept in circulation throughout the economy for as long as possible, will help the UK build back better by addressing structural employment across the country by fostering 500,000 jobs and injecting £75 billion to the economy, whilst avoiding 15m tonnes of CO2 emissions (the equivalent of taking ⅕ cars off the road).
  • Business Secretary and COP26 President Alok Sharma has stated that  "nature based solutions" are a priority for international climate change action.
  • ~~A coalition of major environmental charities and university environment departments have written to Sharma, outlining the importance of nature-based solutions to climate change, but stressing that they must operate on four principles: they must not substitute for fossil fuel phase-out; they must restore naturally occurring ecosystems; be implemented with the "engagement and consent" of Indigenous Peoples and local communities; and "sustain, enhance or restore biodiversity".
  • ~~The UK government has pledged to harness the power of nature to reduce flood risk while protecting and restoring habitats. Last week, they launched the biodiversity and ecosystems enquiry, with consultation also beginning on the England Tree Strategy.
  • ~~Natural England has updated its climate change adaptation guide, and argues that nature-based solutions are an essential part of action on climate change. The Conservative Environment Network has argued that “nature-based solutions” are cost effective approaches to revitalising natural biodiversity through protecting, restoring and expanding natural ecosystems, storing carbon and providing natural habitats for endangered wildlife.
  • ~~Whilst nature-based solutions deliver a wide range of benefits to the UK’s ecosystem, leading climate scientists have concluded that “it is essential that enthusiasm for nature-based climate change mitigation does not curtail or distract from the urgent need to rapidly decarbonize our economy, including through radical systems change
  • ~~However, the government’s ‘biggest shake-up of planning system since WW2’ has been described by experts as ‘not in tune’ with the £5.2bn investment in flood defenses, where the weakening of environmental regulations and pressure to build more houses under ‘Project Speed’ conflicts with the pledge to build better and greener homes on land safe from flooding.
  • Data from the Energy Policy Tracker found that G20 governments have put ‘green recovery’ on the back burner, with public spending favouring fossil fuels over low carbon energy in a comparison of covid rescue packages.

Our most recent Discussion Series webinar saw Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham, Sarah Longland from IPPR North, and Neil McInroy from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies discussing the critical role of local and regional governments in implementing strategies to build back better after the crisis.

In brief

Reflections

  • Looking at companies in the UK, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson’s opinion piece in the FT calls for a re-examination of the costs of labour in their business models, arguing that pay rises, training, and investments in employees eventually are positive for organisations.
  • Pankaj Mishra, in his editorial piece for the London Review of Books, untangles the UK and the US economies and shattered social contracts, arguing for the need of an extensive rewriting of the their economics curriculum and approach against entrenched inequalities.
  • Euractiv reports on gender equality issues in research & innovation (R&I), stating that the health response to the pandemic has ignored the gendered dimensions of socio-economic recovery, whilst sex and gender based differences are neglected in digitalisation, sustainability, and technology design.
  • Preet Kaur Gill’s opinion piece for Al Jazeera debates Boris Johnson’s decision to scrap the Department for International Development (DfID) – providing international life-changing services for millions – as a counterproductive economic and health measure in the midst of a global pandemic.
     
  • Stephen Bush in the New Statesman claims that the Covid economy is “what levelling up looks like in practice”.
  • The Economist features a piece on the USA, Britain, and the Eurozone and their varied response to the pandemic-driven economic crisis by means of fiscal policy, posing the question of whether it is time to wind down stimulus packages.  

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