In May the Committee held a session on the environmental implications of the Covid-19 crisis. Witnesses stressed how critical it would be to align the post-crisis recovery stimulus with the UK’s goals on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development – given the short window of opportunity remaining to keep global temperature rises to a manageable level. The Committee has since agreed to launch an inquiry looking at how to align any post-pandemic economic stimulus package with the UK’s climate and environment goals.
Economic impact and policy response
The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a global macroeconomic shock unprecedented in peacetime. UK Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 10.4% in the three months from February to April – with monthly output collapsing by 20.4% in April after the lockdown was introduced. As the UK emerges from the initial public health crisis, the economic challenges may intensify as the Government tapers its employee and business support packages.
In Oct 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that time is running out to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5°C. In this context, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010-2016, explained to the Committee how critical it is that climate change mitigation is at the heart of the post-COVID recovery:
"Those rescue packages, US$10 trillion to US$20 trillion, will not only be defined but very likely allotted over the next 18 months. Because of the scale, they will determine the characteristics of national economies and of the global economy for several decades. It is exactly this decade, between 2020 and 2030, where climate science has been lucidly clear that we need to halve our emissions, reduce to 50% the emissions that we have right now."
The Committee also heard from Professor Cameron Hepburn, Director of the Economics of Sustainability Programme at the Oxford Martin School, about the potential for green investment to boost the economy, providing more jobs; delivering higher short-term returns per pound spent by Government, and leading to increased long-term cost savings.
In 2021 the UK will be hosting COP26 and will also hold the G7 Presidency. This provides a platform for the UK to take an international leadership role and galvanise a green and climate-friendly global response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
The Committee’s inquiry will consider how the post-pandemic recovery can be aligned with the UK’s climate and environment goals and the role that the UK can play in driving a green recovery internationally.