Promises of a ‘green recovery’ from the coronavirus downturn must offer quick and tangible financial benefits and job opportunities, a new report argues.
The Social Market Foundation (SMF) think-tank is urging politicians to back up environmental rhetoric with early action on household finances and jobs, and a sustained argument that “greener is cheaper”.
Priorities for “quick-impact” projects should include directly employing people to reduce household carbon emissions and bills by insulating homes.
Some environmental activists have argued that the crisis-management approach used to manage the virus should be applied to climate policy. Boris Johnson has recently promised that government plans will “deliver a stronger, cleaner, more sustainable economy after this pandemic.”
In a report drawing on conversations with senior politicians and officials, the SMF warned that promises of a “green recovery” should be handled with great care or risk losing public support for climate action.
Directly linking the efforts made to mitigate COVID-19 and those required to reduce carbon emissions are unlikely to win public support, the SMF said. Doing so may even prove harmful to the Net Zero agenda, if voters believe that climate action will mean more of the economic hardship they face over the coronavirus.
The SMF said that instead of appealing to the public’s willingness to endure more economic and social discomfort to deliver environmental objectives, leaders should emphasise the benefits that could arise from decarbonisation, especially for household finances and employment.
‘Green recovery’ policies should prioritise small-scale, quick-impact decarbonisation work, especially the decarbonisation of homes, the report concludes.
Large-scale infrastructure projects bring economic benefits and will be necessary to achieve Net Zero in the long-term, the SMF said. But the quickest way to delivering short-term economic stimulus, employment and household savings would be a programme of home insulating and other adaptations, the think-tank said.
“Voters largely accepted economic disruption to control the virus because they could see its immediate dangers. Assuming they would accept more hardship over climate change would be a big risk,” said SMF researcher Amy Norman.
“To win and keep consent for the Net Zero agenda, leaders must explain clearly how green policies will deliver financial benefits and jobs to people living in an economy under serious strain.
“Big infrastructure projects have their place, but promising them before voters feel any benefits of a ‘green recovery’ risks losing public support.
“Better insulation and low-carbon homes may not seem exciting but delivering them could mean more jobs and lower energy bills this winter. Quick, tangible wins like this are essential to maintaining public support during the long journey to Net Zero.”