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Covid-19 could be an historic turning point in tackling the global climate crisis, says the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), as it calls on ministers to seize the opportunity

Ministers must seize the opportunity to turn the Covid-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against the global climate crisis, the CCC says.

In its annual report to Parliament, the CCC provides new advice to the government on delivering an economic recovery that accelerates the transition to a cleaner, net-zero emissions economy and strengthens the UK’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

For the first time the Committee has set out its recommendations government department by government department. These are considered urgent steps that must be taken in the months ahead to initiate a green, resilient Covid-19 recovery.

In its new report, the Committee highlights five clear investment priorities in the months ahead:

  1. Low-carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future.
  2. Tree planting, peatland restoration, and green infrastructure.
  3. Energy networks must be strengthened for the net-zero energy transformation in order to support electrification of transport and heating.
  4. Infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle, and work remotely.
  5. Moving towards a circular economy.

There are also opportunities to support the transition and the recovery by investing in the UK’s workforce, and in lower-carbon behaviours and innovation:

  1. Reskilling and retraining programmes. The net-zero economy will require a net-zero workforce.
  2. Leading a move towards positive behaviours. Government reinforce the ‘climate-positive’ behaviours that have emerged during the lockdown, including increased remote working, cycling and walking.
  3. Targeted science and innovation funding.

‘A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’

CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said: “The UK is facing its biggest economic shock for a generation. Meanwhile, the global crisis of climate change is accelerating.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address these urgent challenges together; it’s there for the taking.

“The steps that the UK takes to rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic can accelerate the transition to a successful and low-carbon economy and improve our climate resilience. Choices that lock in emissions or climate risks are unacceptable.”

Chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, commented: “Covid-19 has shown that planning for systemic risks is unavoidable.

“We have warned repeatedly that the UK is poorly prepared for the very serious impacts of climate change, including flooding, overheating and water shortages.

“Now is the moment to get our house in order, coordinate national planning, and prepare for the inevitable changes ahead.

“The UK’s domestic ambition can be the basis for strong international climate leadership, but the delivery of effective new policies must accelerate dramatically if we’re to seize this chance.”

Industry response

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC, said: “We’re pleased to see that the CCC has again highlighted the key role of buildings in reaching our net-zero target.

“Coronavirus has transformed the context of our race to net-zero and Government must now focus on directing economic stimulus spending towards areas that align with meeting our emissions target.

“The built environment is consistently cited as one of the key levers that can address all three priorities at once: jobs, climate and health.

“We fully support the CCC’s calls for Government to integrate net-zero into all policy making and ensure procurement strategies are consistent with the UK’s climate objectives.”

Christy Hayes, CEO at Tide Construction and Vision Modular Systems, commented: “We fully agree with the Committee on Climate Change’s report which makes clear that energy-efficient homes and greener methods of house building will be vital in delivering a clean recovery post-crisis.

“We believe innovative, modern methods of construction are essential to drive forward the government’s clean growth strategy.

“We continue to invest heavily in research and development with a particular emphasis on sustainability and our modular homes are proven to be more energy efficient in both delivery and operation. This ultimately translates into cost savings for our clients and residents, and the sustainable delivery of higher quality housing.”

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