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20/07/2021

Commission offers path to fairer net-zero transition

Words: Huw Morris
Solar panels on house

Wide-ranging plans to decarbonise the UK economy, repair nature and build a fairer society have been unveiled by a special commission investigating how to achieve net-zero and protect the natural world.

The IPPR Environmental Justice Commission is calling for fairness and for people to be put at the heart of the drive to hit national targets for net-zero carbon emissions and restoring nature.

In a direct challenge to “climate delayers” who claim that net-zero transition will harm the poorest, the commission says ambitious action on climate and nature can and must be delivered in a way that also improves people’s lives. Without such a prospect, it warns, the public could wield an effective “veto” on delivering net-zero.

The commission, which developed its findings over 18 months, held a series of citizens juries drawn from different walks of life, including people who had never been engaged in climate change discussions. These took place in four areas likely to be most affected by the move to net-zero – Tees Valley and County Durham, the South Wales Valleys, Thurrock in Essex, and Aberdeenshire.

Its report says the UK is failing to make sure that the costs and benefits of the transition to net-zero will be fairly shared and accuses the government of having no coherent plan.

Its recommendations include:

  • Upgrade local public transport and make it free to all users throughout the UK by 2030, with free bus travel by 2025 as a first step.
  • Launch a £7.5 billion-a-year GreenGO scheme’ or financial one-stop shop, akin to the government’s help-to-buy scheme, to help households switch to green alternatives on heating, home insulation and transport.
  • Increase public investment in a low-carbon economy by £30 billion a year throughout the UK until at least 2030.
  • Offer workers in high-carbon industries the right to retrain for new low-carbon jobs.
  • Establish a permanent, UK-wide climate and nature assembly, alongside a new law to ensure that all business and policy decisions must take account of their impact on future generations.
  • Grant English combined and local authorities new powers over economic strategy, transport and planning and giving the public a direct say over how local budgets are spent.

The commission contends that despite the UK’s claim to climate leadership, the country is way off track to meet legally binding net-zero commitments and has a “wholly inadequate plan for repairing nature”. It cited last month’s warning by the Climate Change Committee of a “large policy gap” between the government’s ambitious promises and its actions.

Read the report by the Environmental Justice Commission, Fairness and Opportunity.

Image credit | NRQemi, iStock

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