MPs have joined growing calls from business leaders and environmentalists for the government to use its post-coronavirus economic recovery plan to accelerate investments aimed at tackling the climate crisis.
The chairs of two influential cross-party select committees have warned the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, that time is running out to “avert an even greater future global crisis caused by climate change”.
In a joint letter, the chair of the business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee, and the chair of the environmental audit (EAC) committee, said the government must align plans to boost the economy with its climate ambitions.
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Darren Jones, the chair of the BEIS committee, said the post-pandemic world offers an “opportunity for the UK to step up our efforts to tackle climate change, to foster a green recovery and accelerate the transition to net zero”.
Jones is due to lead an inquiry into the government’s climate progress at a hearing on Thursday following a report from the Committee on Climate Change, the government’s official climate advisers, which warned last week that the UK is falling behind on its climate targets.
“I hope the chancellor will be bold in his investment in infrastructure and people, demonstrating the government’s commitment to tackling climate change, boosting the prospects of a green recovery, creating net-zero related jobs, and bolstering the UK’s credibility as a net zero leader in the run up to COP26 [climate talks],” he said.
The EAC has also opened a new investigation into how the government can use the opportunities created by the post-Covid recovery plans to further the UK’s green agenda.
Philip Dunne, the chair of the EAC committee, said that “if there is anything positive to come out of the pandemic, it is that we wake up to the warnings that we are hearing from scientists about the urgency of acting on climate change”.
Dunne added: “Many of the actions we need to make our net-zero ambition a reality can be used to revive our economy, creating green jobs and generating long term cost savings. It would be a historic mistake to miss this opportunity.”
The combined calls for a green economic recovery from within the government echoes rising calls from green groups, industry leaders and the Prince of Wales to support firms that can help to spur the UK’s low-carbon ambitions and help create jobs in the “green economy”.
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More than 200 business leaders – including chief executives and chairs from nearly half of FTSE 100 companies – are due on Monday to attend a virtual meeting with the business secretary, Alok Sharma, and the environment secretary, George Eustice, to plot a route towards the UN climate talks, which have been delayed by a year to November 2021.
Ahead of the meeting, Liv Garfield, the chief executive of the FTSE 100 water firm Severn Trent, said the UK had a “once in a lifetime opportunity to recover and grow in the right way – a cleaner and greener way” and that “every business in the UK has a role to play in delivering this”.
The event, organised by the Council for Sustainable Business (CSB) in tandem with the government, will focus on the climate action that the UK can take within the next 10 years.