Blog : APPG

Parliamentary update – September 2020 | Sophie Lethier

Parliamentary update – September 2020 | Sophie Lethier

In our Parliamentary Officer Sophie Lethier’s new monthly update, she gives the inside track on Westminster. This month she gives an update on the APPG on Sustainable Finance, for which UK100 is the secretariat, including how it will examine the link between pensions and climate change, the Green Shares Bill, and climate-related legislation working its way through parliament.

The APPG on Sustainable Finance, led by UK100, has had an extremely successful first few months since its launch in spring 2020. It was established to support MPs to better understand how the finance sector can contribute to the government’s target of Net Zero emissions by 2050. The APPG hosts regular meetings and events, including quarterly, party-specific parliamentary briefings. We held the first of these in June with Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas, Chief Executive of the Green Finance Institute, and Polly Billington on the role of public finance in the ‘green recovery’ to the Covid-19 crisis. They recommended the establishment of a Net Zero development bank.

We’re now looking forward to hosting our next briefing for MPs in October which will examine the link between pensions and climate change. You can read the House of Commons Library’s research briefing on the Pensions Schemes Bill 2019-21, which will have its second reading in the Commons on Wednesday 7 October. 

This bill started in the House of Lords earlier this year. Peers agreed a series of government amendments empowering the Department for Work and Pensions to issue new regulations, requiring pension schemes to disclose their exposure to climate change and their strategy to address it. While these amendments altered the bill to better enable pension schemes to address the financial risks of climate change, more work is needed to ensure schemes are aligned with the interests of savers. We hope to see APPG members call for strong measures in the Commons.

Labour MP for Cardiff North and Shadow International Development Minister Anna McMorrin’s proposed private member’s bill, the Green Shares Bill, has now been withdrawn following a lack of government support. The bill aimed to enable cooperatives to raise funds for green projects. In response to the proposed bill, Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen MP said that the cooperatives were not supervised by the Financial Conduct Authority and therefore investors lacked scrutiny and protection.

We are still expecting the Energy White Paper to be published in the autumn, as well as the Treasury’s Net Zero Review, and the return of the Commons committee stage of the Environment Bill. It has been announced that the public committee for the Environment Bill will report back on 1 December. This will leave little time for it to pass through the House prior to the end of the transition period.

Sophie Lethier, UK100 Parliamentary Officer

Local Government: a breath of fresh air for public health and wealth, by Geraint Davies MP

Local Government: a breath of fresh air for public health and wealth, by Geraint Davies MP

Coronavirus has made people stop and think about public health like they have never done before, which has galvanised the campaign for Clean Air.

People have enjoyed cleaner air during lockdown. They have recognised the flourishing of nature, appreciated the reduced noise pollution and they have, in part, enjoyed the flexibility that remote working has brought to their lives.

These things should be safe-guarded and encouraged in a new normal and local authorities, with the right support, can use this time to deliver these changes as part of a localised response to coronavirus.

Evidence from universities around the world link air pollution with increased infection and deaths, which means it affects prevalence and should therefore be read alongside R value for avoiding a second peak.

A report published by a cross-party group of MPs that I chair, sets out a series of cross-department and multi-governmental proposals, supported by 90 parliamentarians, to keep air pollution low.

The proposals, based on evidence from scientists, businesses and local authorities include the continuation of home working, the phasing out of wood and coal burning in homes, a scrappage scheme for dirty vehicles, and changes to the Environment Bill which include Air Pollution targets and incorporates indoor air quality so harmful domestic chemicals are banned and planning regulation improved.

Most significantly for local authorities it calls for the roll-out of clean air zones, increased cycle lanes and more frequent public transport services – which will of course need the right central government support.

Having been the Leader of Croydon I oversaw the introduction of the UK’s busiest tram system – a public-private £200m 26km electrified orbital link between Wimbledon, Croydon and Beckenham. I believe similar schemes should be supported across the UK.

Greener planning and building regulations can bring in-built power generation, insulation and ventilation, less need to travel and more public transport with local government procurement boosting demand for electric vehicles on an upgraded charging grid.

These changes will revolutionise public spaces and give a much-needed boost to local economies by increasing footfall.

Further, it will encourage the UK to develop a greener and cleaner infrastructure, which can create jobs and establish a new industry and expertise that can boost our exports.

Polls shows that public support for cleaner air is at an all-time high and people are prepared and willing to change their lifestyles to achieve it. Some businesses, too, have been early to adopt flexible working and encourage public transport usage ahead of the coronavirus hitting, and many more have been forced to follow.

Likewise, local authorities have been proactive responding to air quality and have an opportunity to be more ambitious than ever before, if given the correct support.

Through a local approach people will be empowered to make the changes that will allow them to lead healthier lifestyles, during the next year or so where the threat of Coronavirus lingers and beyond.

Now, the government must embrace the opportunities of the next few months to ensure a green recovery that build Britain back cleaner and greener than ever before.

As ever, local approaches will be different and should be flexible– but they must be unified in their desire to improve air quality, and with-it public health.

 

Geraint Davies, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution

 

To feed into the APPG’s work, join the mailing list or to have the council become an associate member email Geraint.Davies.mp@parliament.uk