Manifesto for a green recovery


The Covid-19 crisis has created challenges to our daily lives, communities and the global economy on a scale that would have been unimaginable only a few months ago. The deliberate and necessary government shutdowns of the world’s major economies have also sparked a potentially disastrous global recession that will require a response on an unprecedented scale.

At the same time, the climate and nature emergencies have not gone away and are quietly getting worse. The current path towards at least 3°C of global heating threatens millions, if not billions of people’s lives, homes, jobs and communities – especially those who are the least to blame for our predicament. Given that the global climate crisis threatens to be ‘far lengthier and far more disruptive than what we currently see with the coronavirus’,  it is a threat that the world cannot afford to ignore, either now or when it emerges from the pandemic and starts to reconstruct the global economy.

To stand the best chance of averting the potentially devastating impacts of both climate catastrophe and global recession, the UK government must put at the top of its agenda creating jobs, attracting private investment and boosting demand through an economy-wide recovery package. This needs to be compatible with delivering net zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2045. In the words of the UN Secretary General, we need to ‘recover better’. In practice there is no conflict between economy and environment. As a recent study by Oxford University Smith School said, “there is strong evidence that green stimulus policies are economically advantageous when compared with traditional fiscal stimuli.”

Done right, many of the investments and policy levers that will be key to tackling the climate and nature emergencies while driving economic recovery will also help to level up communities across the UK, stimulate local economies and improve public health and wellbeing. Better-insulated homes will be warmer and cut energy bills, as well as reducing emissions. Cleaner air will decrease the economic cost of air pollution and help save lives. Improved public transport will ease congestion. Better urban design and increased investment in broadband will minimise commuting time. A sustainable food and farming system will improve people’s diets, boosting physical and mental health.

Moreover, such policies are likely to receive widespread public support. A large majority of UK adults think the climate change crisis is as serious as that of coronavirus. This is not confined to traditional liberal voices – younger Leave voters support UK action on greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets the same as or stronger than those in the EU.

As a member of the G7 and host of COP26, the next global climate change conference, the UK has a unique opportunity to lead the world in the green recovery and demonstrate how climate-proofed infrastructure and high environmental standards can lead to greater prosperity and wellbeing for all. The UK also has a once-in-a-generation chance to lay out and champion on the world stage a vision for new and innovative forms of international cooperation and funding – between individual countries and via multilateral institutions – to ensure that the path out of the Covid and climate crises in all countries is sustainable, equitable and resilient. See, for example, the Glasgow Action Plan, backed by over 60 climate and development groups, outlining the action the UK government must take nationally and internationally to lead on the world stage in advance of COP26. When it comes to international support for the coronavirus recovery specifically, the UN Conference on Trade and Development has urged the establishment of a $2.5 trillion emergency fund, which it hopes will help countries to continue their progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Britain has been the birthplace of some of the world’s greatest innovations and feats of engineering, and can boast cutting-edge entrepreneurship. Building on our world-leading offshore wind industry, our legal commitment to net zero emissions and our successful coal phaseout, an ambitious green recovery programme can inspire and pioneer a modern revolution that changes the way the world works in a way that benefits everyone. A bold UK green recovery programme would help boost global zero carbon markets, making the transition more accessible for all. It would put Global Britain – Britain as a force for good in the world – firmly into practice.


The green recovery

Government measures to revive the economy should build on the UK’s existing industrial strengths and skills base, generate employment and offer significant multiplier effects while being mindful of the long term shape of the economy. They should also unlock private investment, level up ‘left behind’ regions, and deliver a wide range of co-benefits such as improved public health. They should also align with the Paris Agreement targets and delivery of net zero emissions.

Four priority areas for UK government action that would meet these requirements are:

  • Redesigning the transport system
  • Making UK buildings fit for the 21st century
  • Delivering a clean power system
  • Supporting nature and creating a circular economy.

This manifesto sets out the specific policy, spending and tax measures that need to be delivered in unison in each of these areas to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of the post-Covid response.

All four of these priority areas should be viewed as intertwined, with successful action in one area being dependent on actions happening in the others. Our future homes not only need to be highly insulated to be warmer, more efficient and cheaper to run, but they must also support the clean power transition by having solar panels on the roof and using power for renewable heating. Our future electric transport system will be as dependent on an upgraded, smart and flexible grid as it will be on offshore wind and solar generation; and in return, more electric vehicles (EVs) will help provide extra storage capacity for renewable energy. Transitioning our power generation to renewables will give us clean electricity that can not only power our homes, offices and industries, but also be used to produce green hydrogen that will keep our power system running when there is no sun or wind and will help tougher-to-reform sectors such as shipping and steel clean up their footprints. All relevant government departments should therefore work together on these priorities in a coordinated way, and they should be approached together as a whole – with a just transition to a fair and sustainable future as the guiding principle.

Read the full manifesto