Demands grow for ‘green industrial revolution’on June 3, 2020 at 11:45 pm

Offshore wind farm

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Greenpeace has joined a growing list of organisations demanding that the UK government puts protecting the environment at the heart of any post-Covid-19 economic stimulus package.

The campaign group has produced a detailed “manifesto” with measures to boost clean transport and smart power.

The document follows a comparable call from some of Britain’s most powerful business leaders earlier this week.

Last week, the prime minister also expressed a similar ambition.

Boris Johnson said he wanted to see a “fairer, greener and more resilient global economy” after Covid-19 and that “we owe it to future generations to build back better”.

The manifesto also contains measures to support the protection of nature, green buildings and the creation of an economy in which virtually everything is reused.

Greenpeace says the crisis has given Britain a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to transform life, travel and work.

It added that the plan would create hundreds of thousands of secure jobs.

Green business

On Monday, more than 200 chief executives of some of the UK’s top firms – including HSBC, National Grid, and Heathrow airport – signed a letter to the prime minister asking him to use the Covid-19 lockdown as a springboard to “deliver a clean, just recovery”.

Many people may be surprised how similar the recommendations of these two very different interest groups are.

  • Both Greenpeace and the chief executives are asking the government to prioritise investments in low carbon technologies and calling for the decarbonisation of the British economy to be speeded up
  • Both say they want to see a focus on sectors that best support the environment
  • Both are demanding that financial support for ailing businesses must come with a requirement for them to commit to take action to reduce their impact on the environment.

Greenpeace’s manifesto is, however, considerably more detailed.

It is a 62-page document with specific policy, spending and tax measures covering most of the British economy.

It calls on the government to deliver its 2050 net zero emissions goal before 2045.

Controversial policies

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Many voters say they support tackling climate change when polled.

However, lots of the policies Greenpeace proposes would prove very controversial.

For example, motorists say they are ready to change their behaviour to improve air quality, according to a recent AA survey.

But many drivers may balk at Greenpeace’s proposals to radically redesign the road network to favour walking and cycling, at the suggestion that petrol and diesel cars are banned by 2030 or that fuel duty is steadily increased.

Many homeowners might be reluctant to spend money to upgrade their properties to meet tough energy efficiency standards.

At the same time, many local communities are likely to resist the plan for a big increase in onshore wind and solar power to complement a proposed massive expansion of offshore wind farms – few things unite local communities like a proposal to put in an array of wind turbines.

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But, says Greenpeace, tough policies like these are essential if the government is going to take meaningful action to tackle climate change.

“The choices our government makes now will define… whether or not we succeed in the fight against the climate emergency”, says John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace.

“If we fail to get this right, we may never get another chance. Now is the time for a green recovery, and for that we need action not words.”

It says there would be huge dividends in terms of job creation, should its programme be adopted.

Greenpeace calculates that its plans would create hundreds of thousands of new high-skilled jobs as well as helping to level up inequalities between communities in the UK.

Unique opportunity

The UK government has already indicated that protecting the environment will feature heavily in any stimulus package.

Back in April, Boris Johnson said a post-Covid-19 recovery plans should include efforts to “turn the tide on climate change”.

Meanwhile, the European Union has unveiled what it called the biggest “green” stimulus in history.

Last week, it said it planned to commit a whopping €750bn (£667bn; $841bn) to its recovery package.

Add in spending from future budgets and the total financial firepower the European Commission says it will be wielding is almost €2tn (£1.8tn; $2.2tn).

Fighting climate change is at the heart of the bloc’s recovery from the pandemic.

There will be tens of billions of euros to make homes more energy efficient, to de-carbonise electricity and phase out petrol and diesel vehicles.

The idea is to turbo-charge the European effort to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

“If we do not do it, we will be taking much more risk,” Teresa Ribera, deputy prime minister of Spain, told the BBC.

“The recovery should be green or it will not be a recovery, it will just be a shortcut into the kind of problems we are facing right now.”

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