Committee on Climate Change puts domestic retrofit at forefront of COVID-19 recovery plan
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has urged ministers to seize the opportunity to turn the COVID-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change and has put domestic retrofit at the front of its agenda.
In its annual report to Parliament, the Committee provides comprehensive new advice to the UK Government on delivering an economic recovery that accelerates the transition to a cleaner, net-zero emissions economy and strengthens the country’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Setting out its recommendations for each government department, the report advises investment in low-carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future.
It stated: “There are vital new employment and reskilling opportunities across the country if governments support a national plan to renovate buildings and construct new housing to the highest standards of energy and water efficiency, to begin the shift to low-carbon heating systems, and to protect against overheating.”
“Roll-out of ‘green passports’ for buildings and local area energy plans can begin immediately,” the report added.
Other recommendations centre on:
- Tree planting, peatland restoration, and green infrastructure
- Strengthening of energy networks
- Infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle, and work remotely
- Moving towards a circular economy
According to the Committee, 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:
- Reskilling and retraining programmes. The net-zero economy will require a net-zero workforce, able to install smart low-carbon heating systems and to make homes comfortable; to design, manufacture and use low-carbon products and materials; and to put carbon back, rather than taking carbon out, from under the North Sea. Now is the time to build that workforce and to equip UK workers with vital skills for the future.
- Leading a move towards positive behaviours. There is a window for government to reinforce the ‘climate-positive’ behaviours that have emerged during the lockdown, including increased remote working, cycling and walking. The public sector must lead by example by encouraging remote working. It also needs to innovate in order that customer service can be provided effectively remotely.
- Targeted science and innovation funding. Kick-starting research and innovation now in low-carbon and adaptation technologies will facilitate the changes needed in the decades ahead and build UK competitive advantage. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of research if we are to understand fully the threats and learn how to manage them.
The Committee argues that taking these steps will propel the UK towards more rapid climate progress and position the country as an international climate leader ahead of the pivotal COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.
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.”
Baroness Brown of Cambridge, chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, said: “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.”
Fabrice Leveque, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said: “The UK Government’s failure to get to grips with the climate crisis is damaging progress in Scotland, with the pace of change in our energy networks and polluting industrial sectors like oil and gas far too slow.
“The Committee is right to warn that progress in Scotland is over-reliant on the electricity sector and to flag an urgent need for the Scottish Government to set out their long term vision for future agriculture policy and support once EU law ceases to apply.
“Earlier this week the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER) came up short in showing how climate action can support the economic recovery. The Government should heed the Committee’s advice that a transition to a low-carbon, efficient and resilient economy will bring productivity benefits throughout the economy.”