A new manifesto by Greenpeace UK, sets out a detailed green recovery plan for the government to revive the economy emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The manifesto, titled A Green Recovery: How We Get There, calls for transformative recovery packages, significant funding and radical policy changes across a range of priority areas – clean transport, green buildings, smart power, nature and a circular economy.
It comes following an announcement from the Prime Minister last week, in which he said the UK will, “base our recovery on solid foundations, including a fairer, greener and more resilient global economy”.
Greenpeace has pointed out that the government is yet to give any details on how it plans to do this.
The choices our government makes now will define the shape of our society and economy for the next decade, and whether or not we succeed in the fight against the climate emergency.
The Bank of England is also revaled, for the first time, which companies it has loaned £18.5 billion and authorised a further £38.8 billion of government money to, as part of its Covid-19 rescue package.
Greenpeace says that by implementing the green recovery plan set out in the manifesto, the government could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, attract private investment, help to ‘level up’ communities across the UK, stimulate local economies and improve public health and wellbeing, all while putting the UK on track to meet net-zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2045.
Not only would a green recovery be the best way to bounce back from what the Bank of England has warned could be the “deepest recession for 300 years”, but it is the only option if we are to successfully play our part in averting the potentially devastating impacts of the climate emergency, the environmental campaign group says.
Among its recommendations, Greenpeace says, the government must get the UK on track to a “zero-waste economy” by halving the use of single-use plastics by 2025, rapidly implementing a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers of all materials and sizes, and Extended Producer Responsibility.
John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace UK, said: “For all of the suffering and sacrifice people have endured during this health crisis, it has provided us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform the way we live, travel and work – tackling the health, climate and nature crises all at the same time.
“This manifesto is a ready-made roadmap for the government to revive the economy while creating a green, clean, fairer future for everyone. By prioritising investments, policies, training and reskilling in clean transport, green energy, homes, and nature restoration we could create hundreds of thousands of new, secure jobs.
This manifesto is a ready-made roadmap for the government to revive the economy while creating a green, clean, fairer future for everyone.
“The choices our government makes now will define the shape of our society and economy for the next decade, and whether or not we succeed in the fight against the climate emergency. If we fail to get this right, we may never get another chance. Now is the time for a green recovery, and for that we need action not words.”
The manifesto highlights that as host of COP26 – the next global climate change conference, which has been postponed until November 2021 due to the pandemic – “the UK has a unique opportunity to lead the world in the green recovery and demonstrate how climate-proofed infrastructure and high environmental standards can lead to greater prosperity and wellbeing for all”.
But Greenpeace stresses that the four priority areas, and all of the specific policy, spending and fiscal measures that underpin them, must be delivered simultaneously in order to obtain the full economic, social and environmental benefits of the post-Covid response.
The manifesto states, “All four of these priority areas should be viewed as intertwined, with successful action in one area being dependent on actions happening in the others.”
The manifesto echoes calls from a coalition of NGOs, including Greenpeace, last month to urgently and fundamentally redesign transport in a way that is better for public health and the climate, helping to avoid a dangerous rise in air pollution as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Cancelling the road-building programme and HS2 would free up £133 billion currently allocated for these damaging projects, it says, enabling the government to deliver this transformation of our streets, as well as provide free public transport and increase investment in buses and trains, to support a reduction in the use of private cars.
Greenpeace sets out a series of policy measures it says would “rapidly speed up the transition to electric vehicles” and the electrification of public transport, creating thousands of new jobs, increasing export opportunities, and enabling the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be banned by 2030.
The future electric transport system will be dependent on an upgraded, smart and flexible grid as well as a huge increase in renewable energy generation. Renewables are already the cheapest form of electricity generation, offering the possibility of lower household bills.
By making offshore wind the backbone of the UK’s energy system, supported by a thriving onshore wind and solar sector, the government would increase local access to clean, affordable power and add thousands of jobs to an already successful sector, Greenpeace says.
Upgrading the electricity grid to ensure a smart and flexible energy system will increase UK energy security and strengthen the UK’s specialism in advanced digital technology.
Greenpeace says that not only would an upgraded grid unlock the full potential of electric vehicles and clean transport, but it would also enable the clean heating of our buildings via heat pumps.
The UK has the least energy-efficient housing stock in Western Europe, which means high heating costs for low-income households, according to the manifesto.
Kick-starting a nationwide home and public sector energy efficiency programme will “save vast amounts of money”, including from people’s energy bills, and help end fuel poverty, Greenpeace says.
It would also unlock “billions” in private investment and create thousands of skilled jobs across the UK.
A new policy framework should be introduced to ensure all new buildings are installed with solar panels, and required to meet Passivhaus standards, or equivalent, by 2023.
By 2030, the standard for new buildings should be even more ambitious, requiring a high level of energy efficiency, alongside meeting net-zero emissions for all power and heating applications.
Along with creating jobs, these measures will make the UK a world leader in green building design and will give savings for owners of new homes every year on energy bills.
Nature and a circular economy
The nature emergency requires a UK-wide programme of nature recovery, restoration and protection projects on land and at sea to avoid further catastrophic losses of wildlife and biodiversity, Greenpeace says.
“Properly funded” programmes to plant at least 700 million trees, suitable for local ecosystems, and restore all degraded peatland by 2030, would provide a “huge boost” to nature and wildlife, support thousands of jobs, help lock in carbon and protect homes from flood risks, it says.
Coastal communities can be supported and protected with spending commitments to boost flood and coastal resilience and marine protection. A new system to allocate fishing quota on the basis of environmental protection and local job creation would bring a “huge boost” to coastal livelihoods, it added.
The government must also get the UK on track to a “zero-waste economy” by halving the use of single-use plastics by 2025, rapidly implementing a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers of all materials and sizes, and Extended Producer Responsibility.
This would ensure that producers pay the full costs of managing materials after use, reduce waste, protect wildlife, support innovation, create jobs and unlock private investment in efficient product design and sustainable waste infrastructure.