UK must go ‘faster, further and fairer’ to combat climate crisis

A cross-party commission proposes that only by going ‘faster, further, and fairer’ can we seize the significant national and global opportunities of a net-zero economy.

The IPPR Environmental Justice Commission has published recommendations calling for the government to deliver a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Set up to explore the net-zero transition in the UK, the commission is focused on how the transition could improve societal and environmental issues, such as the protection of nature and improving well-being for citizens.

The new report says that the failure to move further quickly risks the UK missing its climate targets, worsening existing inequalities and emerging from one major global shock only to accelerate headlong into another. Unlike the coronavirus crisis, the report points out that the threat from the climate and nature emergency has been widely predicted. Faster and more ambitious action can both mitigate the impacts and capture the opportunities.

The co-chairs of the commission, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Laura Sandys, a former Conservative MP, say that this is no time for ‘incrementalism’ but a time for ‘transformative ambition and policies’.

Among the recommendations, the report suggests the government should: invest at least £30 billion in green recovery to help build the net-zero economy of the future and restore nature across the UK; commit  to decarbonise the economy significantly faster over the next decade; add a target for the UK’s global environmental footprint; audit all government activities, policies, rules and decision-making, to ensure they conform with the UK’s obligations under the Paris Agreement, including to work towards net zero and limiting global temperature increases to 1.5C; and invest £5 billion in a national Just Transition Fund to help regions that need to make the greatest changes do so fairly, with funding devolved as far as possible.

Lucas said: “The good news is that decarbonising our economy and restoring nature offers us a vital opportunity to fix an economic model that is not only driving environmental destruction, but also failing the vast majority of people across the UK, as the fall-out from Covid-19 has so brutally exposed. We can build back better – but only if we embed an agenda of rapid decarbonisation within a broader social and economic justice agenda, and ensure that those communities most affected by change have the power to lead and shape it.”

Sandys added: “A new and green economy that is fit for the future is a real possibility if only we can grasp it quickly. At its heart will be promotion of citizens’ health and well-being, building strong and future facing businesses with secure jobs and vibrant communities. With a powerful vision, plan of action and Net Zero ‘compliant’ investment we can capture the health, quality of life, and the positive economic impacts of this transformation, delivering all cleaner air, warmer homes, access to open spaces, and healthy diets. It’s a tantalising and enticing prospect that should inspire people to seek the change.”