The UK’s post-pandemic recovery is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead a “positive green revolution“.
That’s the conclusion reached by a group of University of Manchester academics following a recent study, which calls on policymakers to make the most of the current situation and turn the country in the direction of a more sustainable and fair future.
It notes that despite the UK recently announcing a new raft of financial aid to stimulate economic recovery, including a £3 billion plan to cut emissions, clearer policies are needed to support the removal of greenhouse gases – it says the extent to which this should be relied upon should “reflect confidence in the existence of proven technologies, robust monitoring approaches and sustainable supply chains”.
The study highlights the UK has already recorded a significant reduction in energy demand, driven by a decrease in economic activity and increased home working.
It stresses that at a national level, it needs to be clear that “substantial emissions reductions” are expected from the vast majority of sectors, and states that rather than being ‘difficult to decarbonise’, the shipping sector has significant room to cut its emissions, even over the short time horizon required by the Paris Agreement.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “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.”
Stefan Bouzarovski, Professor of Human Geography at The University of Manchester, said: “We often hear the phrase ‘no one must be left behind’ in the movement towards a climate friendly future. Low carbon initiatives, including net zero policies, should take into account existing social and economic inequalities, while ensuring that disadvantaged people are adequately represented and supported.
“Climate policies, however, require deep reconfigurations of socio-economic patterns of energy supply and demand. Not only can climate policies transform existing inequalities, but they may also create new ones as they unfold. Recent international research argues that energy transitions may adversely affect the social, economic and political vulnerability of actors involved in and affected by the process; from individual households to entire states. Thus vulnerability to domestic energy deprivation cannot be considered as a household issue, but rather a phenomenon that is distributed throughout the ‘energy chain’.”