Climate action 'will enable post-Covid recovery'

Speedy and bold initiatives by governments on climate change could be the catalyst for a global economic recovery in the post-pandemic era, according to the head of the UK's largest business organisation.

Illustration of a green globe in a forest
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told the organisation's first, virtual Net-Zero Conference, that the UK must become a global leader in climate action to create green jobs and lift productivity following the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The link between Covid-19 and climate change

Launching the CBI’s 'Green Recovery Roadmap', she said, “For so many, this feels like a time of fiercely competing goals.  The world faces two seemingly separate yet fundamental problems.  Covid-19 – the biggest health crisis in living memory - and climate change, the defining challenge of the modern era.“But they are not separate. The response to one affects success on the other.  And the defining question is: how does the UK use this moment to rebuild our economy and the greener and stronger world we want to return to?

Climate change: the UK in a unique position to prove itself a leader

“The UK is in pole position to lead the world in green tech – hydrogen, carbon capture and storage. We have the science, ambition and expertise to succeed."Dame Carolyn said that as the UK was to chair the COP26 climate change gathering and was to hold the presidency of the G7 next year, the nation had a unique opportunity to prove itself a global climate leader post-Brexit, by securing ambitious international commitments and by taking action towards its own net-zero transition.“Together business and government can lay the foundations for a strong, sustainable future. Not just for the UK, but through our global leadership, beyond our shores as well. A to-do list for this generation to pass on a better world to the next,” she added, urging the government to use the rest of the year to reinstate global efforts to achieve net-zero by 2050.

The 'Green Recovery Roadmap': business and climate change

The 'Green Recovery Roadmap' proposed six priorities to "reignite business investment, create green jobs and kickstart a sustainable economic recovery":
  • Lifting the cap on auctions for renewable power and introduce a financing model to encourage domestic and international business investment in new nuclear capacity.
  • Accelerating the delivery of electric vehicle charging points and introduce a net-zero mobility credit scheme, alongside government funding for a UK-based Gigafactory (battery manufacturing for electric vehicles).
  • Becoming a world leader in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology – by introducing a privately-financed Regulated Asset Base model and developing plans for an auction mechanism for CCUS.
  • Earmarking at least £1 billion of government funding for hydrogen testing programmes and introducing a variant of the Contracts for Difference auction for the production of hydrogen.
  • Creating an Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels to secure the development of low-carbon alternatives and commit £500 million of matched public-private funding (£1 billion in total) to support the UK’s first commercial sustainable fuel plant.
  • Delivering jobs and energy savings by retrofitting homes and buildings to be more energy efficient and switch to low-carbon heating.  And for government to publish its Heat and Buildings Strategy.
“Business has been promised and is waiting for the government’s climate blueprint: the Energy White Paper, National Infrastructure Strategy, as well as plans for the decarbonisation of transport, heat and buildings," said Dame Carolyn.“Enabling firms to strike ahead with their investment plans for a net-zero future with confidence. There’s no more powerful way to unlock private investment for the UK and set the agenda and pace of COP26 negotiations.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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