England & Wales, Global, Ireland, Scotland Climate action and sustainable development, Covid-19

Fostering a Green Recovery: 6 Principles from the UK Committee on Climate Change

Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

Alice Creasy examines the UK Committee on Climate Changes’s principles for sustainable recovery and signposts readers to existing LGIU resources that are designed to help councils and their partners use these principles in local settings.

Governments and organisations across the world are starting to implement Covid-19 recovery plans. Recently, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published six principles on how governments can develop a sustainable recovery. These principles act as a guide for governments across to deliver a stronger, cleaner and more resilient economy, alongside reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. As Mark Cairney said,“you cannot self-isolate from climate change”.

The CCC stressed that a recovery that addresses climate change is key to overcoming not just the current crisis but averting future shocks that lie ahead. CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said:“The Covid-19 crisis has shown the importance of planning well for the risks the country faces. Recovery means investing in new jobs, cleaner air and improved health. 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.”

The Six Principles

The CCC recommends that governments in all UK nations should prioritise actions to recover from the pandemic based on six resilience principles:

1. Use climate investments to support economic recovery and jobs.

Over the past year the CCC has identified a number of investments to reduce emissions and manage the social, environmental and economic impacts of climate change. These are detailed in a report published last year suggesting investment areas including low-carbon energy infrastructure, retrofitting buildings, development of low carbon fuels, carbon capture and storage and tree planting. Many of these investments are labour-intensive, spread across the UK and ready to be rolled out as part of a stimulus package.

Relevant LGIU Briefings:

• Covid-19: Recovering from the virus – sustainable local economic strategies
• Future proofing the provision of heat for local government: the pros and cons of heat decarbonisation technologies
• Decarbonising transport
• In Conversation with… Iain Gulland, Zero Waste Scotland
• Open Consultations: Scottish Energy Strategy, Energy Efficiency, District Heating

2. Lead a shift towards positive, long-term behaviours.

Governments have the opportunity to lead the way in encouraging new social norms that benefit wellbeing, improve productivity and reduce emissions. These behaviour changes include actions to support home-working and improving active transport. The CC has done a number of pieces of work on the issue of behaviour change including a report published last year entitled: Behaviour change, public engagement and Net Zero.

Relevant LGIU Briefings:

• Covid-19: reclaiming the Streets
• An obesogenic environment? Childhood obesity and urban planning
• Opening our Streets for people and not vehicles? International lessons for local government
• Creating Walking Cities
• Brisbane’s Green Bridges: Quantifying the benefits of active transport
• Supporting staff resilience through the Covid-19 crisis

3. Tackle the wider ‘resilience deficit’ on climate change.

In order to minimise future suffering, building resilience at all levels of society needs to be a key aspect of any recovery plan. The CCC notes that strong policies are needed to reduce the UK’s vulnerability to the destructive risks of climate change and to avoid a disorderly transition to Net Zero. These policies must be implemented alongside the response to Covid-19 and will bring benefits to health, well-being and national security.

Relevant LGIU Briefings

• Utilising local authority powers to address climate change and build more resilient communities
• Swift Read: Covid-19 and civil society responses
• Size Matters: COVID and small charities
• Severe weather: building climate resilient communities
• Disconnected Communities: could direct democracy be the path to a more representative form of politics?

4. Embed fairness as a core principle.

The Committee urges that the benefits of acting on climate change must be shared widely, while the costs of a sustainable transition must not fall on those least able to pay, or whose livelihoods are most at risk as the economy changes. Lost or threatened jobs of today, write the committee, should be replaced by those created by the new, resilient economy.

Relevant LGIU Briefings

• Launch of the IFS Inequality Review (the Deaton Review)
• Leave no Place Behind
• How can we make urban planning work for women?

5. Ensure the recovery does not lock-in greenhouse gas emissions or increased risk.

As the economy starts to recover after this shock, governments at all scaled should avoid locking-in higher emissions or increased vulnerability to climate change in the long-term. Decarbonising the economy is key to a sustainable recovery with support for carbon-intensive sectors should be contingent on them taking real and lasting action on climate change, and all new investments need to be resilient to future climate risks.

Relevant LGIU Briefings

• Maximising local socio-economic benefits of low-carbon development through shared learning
• Keeping the Lights on: Local Authorities’ Role in Community Renewable Schemes
• Building the carbon neutral economy: creating business and economic opportunities from climate change

6. Strengthen incentives to reduce emissions when considering tax changes.

One suggested revenue stream for governments is through setting or raising carbon prices for sectors of the economy that do not bear the full costs of emissions. The Committee notes that low global oil prices provide an opportunity to increase carbon taxes without hurting consumers.

Relevant LGIU Briefings

• Ireland’s Climate Action Plan: facing up to urgent responsibilities
• Commercial opportunities from addressing climate change in Ireland

Letters to Leaders

Alongside the recommendations CCC sent out letters to the leaders of the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments. These letters recommended the immediate expansion of the following initiatives:

• Investments in low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure.
• Supporting re-skilling, retraining and research for a net-zero, well-adapted economy.
• Upgrades to our homes ensuring they are fit for the future.
• Making it easy for people to walk, cycle, and work remotely.
• Tree planting, peatland restoration, green spaces and other green infrastructure.
Alongside these initiatives, the Committee recommends the expansion of cross-sector collaboration and for governments to distinguish between the outlook for the short, medium and long term.

Comment

Every crisis brings opportunities to learn from our mistakes and to build back better. The recommendations set out by the Committee on Climate Change offer a framework for decision-making and outline the importance of developing a more sustainable and resilient society.

As the articles highlighted in this piece demonstrate, local government is front and centre of this transition and is already taking the lead on some of the important work needed to address climate change. Going forward, councils will play a key role in expanding the localisation of these recommendations, delivering on the ground and making sure no place or community is left behind in the transition to a fairer, cleaner, healthier world.

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