NGOs call for a post-COVID green recovery

A letter signed by 57 leading charities urges the government to ensure public spending in the wake of the coronavirus puts the country on track to reach its goal of net-zero emissions.

Boris Johnson must implement policies to ensure a “resilient and inclusive” economic recovery in line with achieving net-zero emissions, a group of NGOs said in a letter to the prime minister in June.

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The letter, signed by 57 leading charities including WWF, Oxfam, RSPB and the National Trust, urges the government to ensure public spending in the wake of the coronavirus puts the country on track to reach its goal of net-zero emissions.

All bailouts for business should also be conditional on plans and action to meet this goal, the letter adds. It also calls for support for the clean energy transition abroad, ending fossil fuel finance and helping developing countries to leapfrog to sustainable renewable.

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“We’ve got almost all the solutions we need to deliver net zero in the UK, and to deliver the emissions reductions we need globally,” said Gareth Redmond King, head of climate change at WWF. “Why would we not invest in those? The green recovery is sustainable in lots of other ways as well as just environmentally.”

The prime minister has previously agreed the recovery should be “sustainable” but has so far provided few details on plans to do this. Green groups have criticised the huge amounts of stimulus money announced by many governments to support high-carbon industries, without any conditions attached to reduce emissions.

“We recognise the importance of maintaining our global leadership in the fight against climate change as we recover from COVID-19,” a spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) told BBC Science Focus. “Our proven track record of cutting emissions while growing the economy will ensure the recovery is green, resilient and keeps us on the path to net zero emissions by 2050.”

NGOs call for a post-COVID green recovery © Getty Images
Leading economists believe that investment in renewable energy will create jobs with strong short-term economic impact and long-term benefits for the climate © Getty Images

A host of other voices including business leaders, academics and politicians have also called for a green recovery in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. In May, the government’s climate advisers urged the government to focus on climate investments and avoid locking-in greenhouse gas emissions.

Cameron Hepburn, professor of environmental economics at the University of Oxford who was not involved with the letter, said there is a growing global consensus that a green economic recovery from COVID-19 could be better for jobs and the economy as well as the environment.

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“Many of the specific policies outlined by the [NGO] report – particularly in renewable energy, electric vehicles and protecting and restoring key ecosystems – match those identified by leading economists as creating lots of jobs with strong short-term economic impact and long-term benefits for the climate,” he said.