Green groups express disappointment in Boris Johnson’s ‘New Deal’ recovery package

Key members of the UK’s green economy have been offering their thoughts on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 recovery package, the fundamentals of which have now been unveiled. The general feeling is one of dismay, following months of campaigning.

In a speech delivered in the West Midlands on 30th June 2020, Boris Johnson unveiled an initial £5bn for infrastructure and skills projects across the UK. He vowed to “build, build, build” and bring about a “New Deal” for the nation, in which the rebound from the economic crisis borne of the Covid-19 pandemic addresses key social issues.

But the New Deal is far from “Green”, key NGOs, think-tanks, trade bodies and thought leaders are warning.

Johnson has received a string of policy briefings and open letters in recent weeks, urging him to align the recovery package with the UK’s net-zero target and to prioritise funding for sectors spurring the low-carbon transition or working to protect nature. He and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have repeatedly assured the authors of such documents, as well as MPs, journalists and the general public, that policies to boost the manufacture of low-carbon goods and to decarbonise the nation’s most-emitting sectors would form a “vital” part of the Government’s recovery strategy.

Now, key figures are accusing Johnson and Sunak of overstating their “green” commitments and calling for better environmental provisions to be unveiled by the Treasury in July.

The key concerns which the package has raised across the UK’s green economy.

Poor provisions for retrofitting

Buildings account for around 40% of global emissions and one-third of energy use in the UK and, while improved standards for new housing and business properties are forthcoming, the UK Government has repeatedly been accused of failing to support the decarbonisation of existing stock.

The Department for Education has this week outlined a £1bn package to retrofit schools, but Students Organising for Sustainability claims that £23bn would be necessary to ensure that all schools are net-zero by 2030.

A lack of movement on heat and flexible energy

11 months ago, Citizens Advice warned that the Government’s failure to implement a “credible” framework for the decarbonisation of heat for commercial and domestic use could undermine public confidence in the net-zero transition.

Poor clarity on skills

Up to 2.2 million Brits could face unemployment unless the UK’s Covid-19 recovery package contains measures to reskill them for “green-collar” roles.

The UK Government was reportedly set to launch a dedicated fund for reskilling Brits to work in the renewable energy, cleantech and built environment sectors, coupled with additional investment in these sectors to assist with their expansion. The Conservative Party is notably targeting two million “green-collar” jobs in the UK by 2030.

Jobs, skills and infrastructure are core to the UK’s green recovery. Building ahead of need so that electric vehicles can be rolled out at pace, gas can be greened and industry can be decarbonised, creating the green collar jobs that will keep the UK at the front of the fight against climate change.

“The Prime Minister’s speech rightly identifies the importance of ‘building back greener’ but this has to be rapidly backed up by support for shovel-ready projects and policy decisions that are aligned with the UK’s climate, environmental and clean growth goals,” Aldersgate Group director Nick Molho added. “Such an approach is not just needed to meet the UK’s environmental ambitions, but it is also essential to ensure that the UK’s recovery plan can address key public interest concerns around unemployment, regional inequality and resilience.

News Source