Blog : taskforce

Political analysis – September 2020 | Jason Torrance

Political analysis – September 2020 | Jason Torrance

UK100 Policy Director Jason Torrance kicks off his new monthly political analysis by laying out the three big challenges ahead for local leaders.

Local authorities are up against it in these unprecedented times. Having to contend with six months of pandemic-induced health and financial hardships while continuing to take forward ambitious action on climate and clean air, has been, to the say the least, extremely challenging.

Adding to the challenge has been the fact that the UK government’s policy and legislative agenda outside of Covid-19 has been largely suspended. However, three big challenges lay ahead if local leaders are to play their part in tackling the threat of climate and putting local economies on a path to a flourishing net zero economy. 

Firstly, the UK government needs to provide adequate long-term investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change. With the recent postponement of the chancellor’s upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) – there’s little clarity about what the future holds. When he sets out the next CSR it will set the direction for much local and private investment over the next four years, and either enable or disable local action on climate.

A CSR that sets the direction towards a clean, green future is surely the path down which the UK can reclaim some pride on the world stage at COP26 next year. To this end, an unprecedented mix of 24 mayors and local leaders have joined forces in our Resilient Recovery Taskforce to urge the chancellor to unlock £100bn of green investment. 

Secondly, local leaders need to be part of a long-term UK government plan that builds activity around achieving Net Zero. We have ahead of us what promises to be a huge year for UK politics that will make or break efforts for local leaders to take ambitious action to tackle climate change.

Legislation like the Environment Bill, anticipated government policy such as the recovery and devolution white paper, the results from the biggest local elections ever in May, and hosting COP26 in November 2021, will all have crucial roles in creating focus or in causing confusion.  

Lastly, it’s crucial that local leaders are able to continue to represent the needs of the communities they serve. While the lockdowns required to contain the spread of Covid-19 have opened eyes to the benefits of cleaner air and quieter streets, overwhelming support for measures to protect health by tackling air pollution emissions from cars has remained high.

With more than 280 local authorities having declared a climate emergency and many local citizens’ assemblies underway, the role of the public in political decision making on issues that affect our environment has never been more widespread. At a national level Climate Assembly UK, the UK’s first national citizens’ assembly on climate change, has been an exemplar of how citizens from across the country can come together, debate the huge issues facing us and develop well thought out solutions. 

Back in February, UK100 was called on to give evidence to this vital initiative. Our Director Polly, spoke about local energy systems and I spoke about inequality in relation to transport.

Despite what this country has been through since March, it is a time of immense possibility. As the Committee on Climate Change said in its recent progress report, “we must seize the opportunity to make the COVID-19 recovery a defining moment in tackling the climate crisis. We say to the Government: ‘act courageously – it’s there for the taking’.” 

Jason Torrance, UK100 Policy Director

Resilient Recovery Declaration

Resilient Recovery Declaration

Declaration of action from local leaders and mayors to the UK government Spending Review consultation for a resilient recovery enabling ambitious local action towards Net Zero

23rd September 2020

The need for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions has never been greater. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of our economic structures, their exposure to external shocks and the need to support people in our poorest communities. We must seize the opportunity to create healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous communities, building in resilience to climate change through investing in the green economy. Such an approach will enable us to reskill our workforce, enable job creation, create cleaner, healthier, safer places to work and live, and restore the nature upon which we all rely.

As elected leaders of our communities, we are playing an essential role in tackling the current Covid-19 crisis, and we are fulfilling our role in building a resilient recovery from it. Our knowledge and understanding of our communities means that we are well placed to design and deliver solutions that improve health, prosperity and the environment. Adequate UK government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change, would enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate and to reskill our workforces to set them on a path to a flourishing Net Zero economy.

Together, we can renew our communities by working in partnership with government if action is taken forward across government to:

●     Increase local Net Zero investment by establishing a Net Zero Development Bank to bring together appropriate UK government financing for the transition to Net Zero. The bank should have both an obligation and the capacity to work with Local Energy Hubs and support local authorities to develop place-based Net Zero projects and programmes, leveraging additional private investment to kickstart local energy schemes which are at too early a stage to be attractive to private finance.

●   Invest in renewing the electricity grid to ensure a smart decentralised energy system, enabled by a national framework for local area energy planning. The Core mandate of Ofgem and of devolved nation energy regulators should be expanded to include supporting the delivery of Net Zero emissions, and we support the regulation of future investment in Distribution Network Operators so that a greater role can be given to regional and sub-national plans and ambition.

●   Ensure that the nation’s homes and buildings are retrofitted to be energy efficient by designing and delivering, with local government, a government-led long-term plan to decarbonise buildings and heat that sets out actions and investment needed to enable all existing homes and buildings to be Net Zero carbon by 2050 at the very latest. The plan should at least meet the manifesto commitment of £9bn public investment to deliver Net Zero in our homes and buildings and seeks to crowd in further private investment to meet this goal.

●   Speed up the transition to low and zero emission travel and enable the UK to be a global leader in developing zero emission vehicles including buses and freight. This should include a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. Further support should be provided to citizens and businesses to switch from polluting vehicles to greener ones while also providing long-term investment in public transport networks and in creating built environments that prioritise walking and cycling.

●   Expand local powers to take action on Net Zero by enabling the national Net Zero effort through an enhanced devolution settlement, combining ambitious national strategy with a fresh and fair mix of powers and resources for local & combined authorities; enabling clear & accountable local Net Zero carbon delivery that unleashes the social and economic potential of every community.

Leeds City Council, Bath and North East Somerset, Belfast City Council, Birmingham City Council, Bristol City Council, Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, London Borough of Camden, Cardiff City Council, Cornwall Council, Leicester City Council, Liverpool City Region, Greater London Authority, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester City Council, Newcastle City Council, North of the Tyne Combined Authority, Nottingham City Council, Oxford City Council, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, Southampton City Council, West Midlands Combined Authority, West of England Combined Authority

Find out more about the Taskforce or get in touch at info@uk100.org

White vans go green: Army of half a million builders and plumbers needed to reach Net Zero as local leaders urge £100bn green investment to kickstart green recovery

White vans go green: Army of half a million builders and plumbers needed to reach Net Zero as local leaders urge £100bn green investment to kickstart green recovery

●     455,076 jobs could be created in construction and property sectors across Great Britain

●     Cross-party taskforce of 24 Mayors and local leaders calls for £100bn in Spending Review along with 5 point Resilient Recovery Declaration

●     Calls for Government-led plan to retrofit homes and become world leader in low emissions vehicles

●     Net Zero Development Bank would increase private investment in zero carbon economy

RETROFIT ARMY

New research published by UK100, a group of mayors and local government leaders today shows that a “retrofit army” of nearly half a million builders, electricians, plumbers will be needed to meet the Government’s objective of becoming Net Zero by 2050.

The figures are being published as a cross-party taskforce of 24 Mayors and local leaders, representing 24 million people across England have submitted a proposal to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to unlock £100bn as part of the Spending Review, which closes today (24 September). The finance should be predominantly met from the private sector with the Treasury pump-priming £5bn via a Net Zero Development Bank.[1]

In total 455,076 jobs could be created or in demand in the construction and property sectors[2]. The construction industry has been one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, with 90% of construction businesses having applied for the furlough scheme, second only to the hospitality sector[3]. In total, over 3 million jobs are expected to be in demand or created as part of a shift to a green economy across a range of sectors.

Essex is the area with the highest number of potential new construction and property jobs – with a total of 12,841 roles likely to be created or in demand. Outside London (64,551 jobs) and the South East (67,467 jobs) the areas with the greatest number of new jobs are the North West (50,380), the East of England (48,427) and Scotland (42,978).

£100BN GREEN INVESTMENT

Analysis conducted by UK100 and Siemens, shows that a £5bn investment by the Government could unlock £100bn of private sector investment toward meeting the Net Zero goals by 2050. It includes £40bn for ‘retrofit’ such as energy saving and efficiency in homes and businesses; £10bn for renewables such as solar, wind and biomass; £30bn for low carbon heating such as district heating networks; £10bn for smart energy systems; and £10bn for low emissions transport such as electric and hydrogen vehicles.[4]

The UK Green Building Council has estimated that to achieve Net Zero carbon by 2050, we will need to improve almost all of the UK’s 29 million homes, meaning we need to retrofit more than 1.8 homes every minute between now and 2050.[5]

The new ‘retrofit army’ would be supported to go green with incentives to switch from diesel and petrol white vans to electric vehicles[6], as well as seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. There would also be support to encourage public transport use, walking and cycling.

Although the UK100 jobs data is not time specific, a recent report by the New Economics Foundation which interviewed industry experts found that “a period of three to four years was thought to be required to train up the supply chain to full capacity.”[7] Homes are a major source of climate change: accounting for 15% of emissions in the UK in 2018, primarily from natural gas use for heating and cooking[8].

JOINT DECLARATION AND SPENDING REVIEW SUBMISSION

The joint declaration by the 24 mayors and council leaders says: “The need for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions has never been greater. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of our economic structures, their exposure to external shocks and the need to support people in our poorest communities. We must seize the opportunity to create healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous communities, building in resilience to climate change through investing in the green economy…Adequate UK government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change, would enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate and to reskill our workforces to set them on a path to a flourishing Net Zero economy.”[9]

The declaration includes a five point Resilient Recovery Declaration which is being submitted to the Chancellor’s Spending Review:

  1. a long-term government-led plan to retrofit homes across the country, which are some of the leakiest in Europe;
  2. a new duty for Ofgem to support the delivery of Net Zero as part of a renewable, locally planned electricity grid;
  3. creating a Net Zero Development Bank to increase private investment in renewable technologies;
  4. a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK; and ensure UK is world leader in developing low emissions vehicles
  5. new powers for mayors and local authorities to deliver Net Zero.

CASE STUDIES – NEW RETROFIT JOBS

A number of new jobs are expected to be created in the construction and property sectors as part of the shift to a green economy. Many of these are outlined in a framework of technical standards for retrofit, known as PAS 2035/2030:2019. These include[10]:

●     Retrofit surveyors and advisers. Surveyors and advisers would provide advice to homeowners on how best to reduce energy waste from their houses, on the financial benefits of a variety of retrofit measures and support available.

●     Retrofit builders and insulation specialists. Builders and labourers will need additional skills and experience of constructing energy efficient homes, as well as installing the latest insulation in existing homes to reduce energy leakage and meet the highest EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings.

●     Retrofit heating specialists. Specialist technicians, who may have worked as gas boiler engineers could install technologies such as ground or air source heat pumps which can convert renewable-sourced electricity into heating and hot water, or biomass boilers which can burn waste timber with low emissions.

●     Retrofit roofers, carpenters and electricians. A range of specialist roles will be envisaged in the retrofit industry covering the design and installation of technologies including solar thermal systems; home battery storage and thermally efficient facades, which create an airtight and insulated shell around an existing property.

●     Retrofit co-ordinators. The Retrofit Co-ordinator has a key role in ensuring that effective standards are maintained such as the Trustmark accreditation[11] and is involved in all work stages to help reduce risks.

QUOTES

Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Chair of the UK100 Resilient Recovery Task Force, said: “With the furlough scheme coming to an end, this country now faces both a climate and a jobs emergency—with both requiring urgent action.

“By investing in nearly half a million skilled and secure jobs as part of the Spending Review, the Chancellor could lay the foundation for a resilient and sustainable recovery across the country and ensure that we have the workforce we need to actually build back better and greener. Local authorities are ready to play our part in helping the country meet its legal Net Zero obligations. We will continue to lead the way, in partnership with businesses and the Government.”

Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “From Essex to Edinburgh, the move to a greener economy will create thousands of new jobs. By unlocking private sector investment through a Net Zero Development Bank, we can reduce the taxpayer burden and ensure the money is spent prudently by disciplined allocators of capital.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “I have been clear that a strong economic recovery and a green recovery are not mutually exclusive but one and the same. With green investments in jobs, skills, technology and infrastructure, we can create millions of new jobs, boost the economy, tackle inequality and unleash sustainable growth at the same time as tackling the climate emergency. I encourage the Government to do more to invest in green jobs and skills, and to help us power a recovery that leads London towards becoming a zero-carbon city.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “There is no hiding from the climate emergency we are facing as a country, and we must do everything we can to tackle this and reach our carbon emission goals. A key part of this will be a green and inclusive recovery from the Coronavirus crisis – one that delivers high quality, well paid jobs in high-tech new green energy sectors. Tackling climate change and providing people good jobs of the future go hand in hand. The UK100 Resilient Recovery Declaration sets out some critical priorities for cutting emissions and securing those vitally important green jobs for the future. That’s why we’re proud to sign-up to this declaration.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “We need a new economic model to drive recovery that is based on fairness and building back better. This research shows there is an opportunity to generate thousands of new jobs in a green economy by putting local communities in the driving seat. By working in partnership with businesses and leaders across the country, the Government can unlock sustainable growth.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Front loading green infrastructure spend will give cities and regions the certainty and stability we need to plan for our recovery. It will enable us to line up the local labour and supply chains, supporting inclusive economic growth, as well as delivering on our climate and ecological goals.”

Councillor Sarah Bunting, Belfast City Council’s UK100 Taskforce representative said: “Covid-19 has led to an acceleration of our action to transition to a zero-emissions economy within a generation. It has focused minds, and led to more partnership working across the city to drive jobs-led growth. However, investment from government is needed to ensure projects at scale are brought forward quickly, either through retrofitting of local housing or stimulus for low-emissions transport. Like many cities, Belfast needs to make a step change towards decarbonisation in this decade. This is a profound challenge but offers substantial opportunities for our local economy.”

Cllr Joshua Schumann, Chairman of Environment and Sustainability committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Covid-19 has brought challenges to many local government responsibilities and activities – protecting and supporting our communities has had to be our primary concern. In addition to the challenges there have also been opportunities that have been identified in how we can recover from the impacts of the pandemic and how the environment could have lasting benefits from new ways of working.

“Cambridgeshire is delighted to be part of the UK100 resilient recovery taskforce and pleased to add its name to the declaration. Green investment will be an essential part of economic recovery and creating a workforce that can deliver that, with the necessary skills and training, is one example of how we will facilitate it.”

ENDS

EDITOR’S NOTES

Members of the UK100 Resilient Recovery Taskforce

  • Leeds (Chair) – Cllr Judith Blake, Leader
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Cllr Dine Romero, Leader
  • Belfast – Grainia Long, Commissioner for Resilience, Belfast City Council
  • Birmingham – Cllr Ian Ward, Leader
  • Bristol – Marvin Rees, Mayor
  • Cambridge – Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader
  • Cambridgeshire – Cllr Steve Count, Leader
  • Camden – Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader
  • Cardiff – Cllr Huw Thomas, Leader
  • Cornwall – Cllr Edwina Hannaford, Cabinet Member – Climate Change and Neighbourhoods
  • Leicester – Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor
  • Liverpool City Region – Steve Rotherham, Mayor
  • London – Sadiq Khan, Mayor
  • Greater Manchester – Andy Burnham, Mayor
  • Manchester City – Sir Richard Leese, Leader
  • Newcastle – Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader
  • North of the Tyne – Jamie Driscoll, Mayor
  • Nottingham – Cllr Sally Longford, Deputy Leader
  • Oxford – Cllr Susan Brown, Leader
  • Sheffield – Cllr Julie Dore, Leader
  • Sheffield City Region – Dan Jarvis MBE, Mayor
  • Southampton – Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader
  • West Midlands Combined Authority – Andy Street, Mayor
  • West of England Combined Authority – Tim Bowles, Mayor

and

  • Professor Andy Gouldson, University of Leeds – Adviser to the Taskforce
  • Polly Billington, Director, UK100 – Taskforce Secretariat

++ FINAL DRAFT ++

RESILIENT RECOVERY TASK FORCE DECLARATION

23rd September 2020

The need for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions has never been greater. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of our economic structures, their exposure to external shocks and the need to support people in our poorest communities. We must seize the opportunity to create healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous communities, building in resilience to climate change through investing in the green economy. Such an approach will enable us to reskill our workforce, enable job creation, create cleaner, healthier, safer places to work and live, and restore the nature upon which we all rely.

As elected leaders of our communities, we are playing an essential role in tackling the current Covid-19 crisis, and we are fulfilling our role in building a resilient recovery from it. Our knowledge and understanding of our communities means that we are well placed to design and deliver solutions that improve health, prosperity and the environment. Adequate UK government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change, would enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate and to reskill our workforces to set them on a path to a flourishing Net Zero economy.

Together, we can renew our communities by working in partnership with government if action is taken forward across government to:

●     Increase local Net Zero investment by establishing a Net Zero Development Bank to bring together appropriate UK government financing for the transition to Net Zero. The bank should have both an obligation and the capacity to work with Local Energy Hubs and support local authorities to develop place-based Net Zero projects and programmes, leveraging additional private investment to kickstart local energy schemes which are at too early a stage to be attractive to private finance.

●   Invest in renewing the electricity grid to ensure a smart decentralised energy system, enabled by a national framework for local area energy planning. The Core mandate of Ofgem and of devolved nation energy regulators should be expanded to include supporting the delivery of Net Zero emissions, and we support the regulation of future investment in Distribution Network Operators so that a greater role can be given to regional and sub-national plans and ambition.

●   Ensure that the nation’s homes and buildings are retrofitted to be energy efficient by designing and delivering, with local government, a government-led long-term plan to decarbonise buildings and heat that sets out actions and investment needed to enable all existing homes and buildings to be Net Zero carbon by 2050 at the very latest. The plan should at least meet the manifesto commitment of £9bn public investment to deliver Net Zero in our homes and buildings and seeks to crowd in further private investment to meet this goal.

●   Speed up the transition to low and zero emission travel and enable the UK to be a global leader in developing zero emission vehicles including buses and freight. This should include a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. Further support should be provided to citizens and businesses to switch from polluting vehicles to greener ones while also providing long-term investment in public transport networks and in creating built environments that prioritise walking and cycling.

●   Expand local powers to take action on Net Zero by enabling the national Net Zero effort through an enhanced devolution settlement, combining ambitious national strategy with a fresh and fair mix of powers and resources for local & combined authorities; enabling clear & accountable local Net Zero carbon delivery that unleashes the social and economic potential of every community.

Full data is available at: bit.ly/uk100greenjobs (GB regional and local authority breakdowns available)

Methodology

The calculations draw on the paper ‘Characterising green employment: The impacts of ‘greening’ on workforce composition’ by Alex Bowena, Karlygash Kuralbayevab, Eileen L. Tipoec, in Energy Economics, April 2018. The paper finds x% of jobs in different US sectors have ‘green skills’ and y% require significant changes due to ‘greening’. The calculations assume these proportions apply, sector by sector, in the UK. We apply these proportions to existing jobs using the BRES survey.

Further details: See Robins, N., Gouldson, A., Irwin, W., Sudmant, A. and Rydge, J., Financing inclusive climate action in the UK An investor roadmap for the just transition. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2018 and Robins, N., Tickell, S, Irwin, W., and Sudmant, A. Financing climate action with positive social impact. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2020.

About UK100

UK100 is a network of highly ambitious local government leaders, who have pledged to secure the future for their communities by shifting to 100% clean energy by 2050. This is not just good for the planet but for the people and communities they serve, be they in villages, towns or cities. Local leaders are working together to create flourishing communities, seizing the opportunities of technology to create jobs and establishing a nationwide project of renewal, focussed on local needs and ambitions.

UK100 is the only network for UK local authorities, urban, suburban and rural, focused on climate and clean energy policy. We connect local leaders to each other, to business and to UK government, enabling them to showcase their achievements, learn from each other and speak collectively to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

We work closely with elected representatives, policy experts and grassroots campaigners to make the clean energy transition a reality. This involves developing solutions to challenges faced by each and all of our local leaders, whatever their geography, history or makeup, so as to influence UK government and building public support for clean energy solutions. www.uk100.org

[1] See Editors Notes and p21 of https://www.uk100.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UK100_Report.pdf £5bn investment for £100bn return: This is based on the typical development cost range of 10-15% of overall capital costs for large scale district heating projects down to 2-5% for more straightforward energy efficiency projects.

[2] England, Wales and Scotland figures. Detailed figures available here: bit.ly/uk100greenjobs (GB regional and local authority breakdowns available). Data derived from Bowen, A., Kuralbayeva, K. and Tipoe, E.L., 2018. Characterising green employment: The impacts of ‘greening on workforce composition. Energy Economics, 72, pp.263-275. Also see Robins, N., Gouldson, A., Irwin, W., Sudmant, A. and Rydge, J., Financing inclusive climate action in the UK An investor roadmap for the just transition. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2018 and Robins, N., Tickell, S, Irwin, W., and Sudmant, A. Financing climate action with positive social impact. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2020

[3] https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/financial/constructions-furloughed-staff-down-to-one-in-four-02-07-2020/

[4] See Editors Notes and p21 of https://www.uk100.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UK100_Report.pdf

[5] https://www.ukgbc.org/news/towns-and-cities-to-work-together-on-home-retrofit-as-calls-for-green-recovery-mount/

[6] https://www.uk100.org/city-leaders-across-country-join-forces-to-call-for-diesel-scrappage-fund-worth-up-to-3500

-to-each-car-and-van-driver/

[7] See p16 https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/Green-stimulus-for-housing_NEF.pdf

[8] See p12 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/

attachment_data/file/862887/2018_Final_greenhouse_gas_emissions_statistical_release.pdf

[9] Full text of declaration in Editors Notes

[10] The roles outlined are derived from UK100 research and the 5 roles outlined in PAS 2035/2030:2019

https://www.creds.ac.uk/new-retrofit-standards-new-roles-existing-policy-do-they-all-fit-together/

[11] https://www.trustmark.org.uk/ourservices/pas-2035v

For further information please contact:

UK100
+44 7830 195812
alex@alexbigham.com
UK100.org
Launching UK100’s Resilient Recovery Taskforce, by Jason Torrance, UK100 Policy Director

Launching UK100’s Resilient Recovery Taskforce, by Jason Torrance, UK100 Policy Director

Early in July, a cross-party coalition of Mayors and council leaders came together as a Resilient Recovery Taskforce, with secretariat provided by UK100, to call on the Chancellor to commit to a ‘New Deal for Green Skills and Growth’ in his forthcoming Spending Review, expected in the Autumn. The opportunity for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions is more possible now than it has ever been. However, success lies in a renewed partnership between UK Government and Local Governments that looks to the future and commits to large scale investment that reduces our climate emissions and builds back better.    

 

The social distancing and resulting lockdowns put in place to tackle COVID-19 is likely to cause the biggest drop in climate emissions ever recorded. Analysts estimate worldwide carbon pollution will plunge by more this year than the combined reductions seen during the global financial crisis, World War II and the Spanish flu. However, it is the actions that are taken as social distancing restrictions ease that will define our ability to tackle wider global challenges such as climate change and the need to build socially-just economic prosperity. Put simply, the opportunity to accelerate our efforts into developing a low carbon economy is now.

 

The COVID-19 crisis may of course only temporarily cut emissions. As shuttered factories begin to reopen, commuters get back into their cars and flights once again take to the air, little may have changed in the structure of the global economy – and progress towards net-zero will likely be as slow as ever and air pollution may return to city streets. Unless there are concerted efforts by governments, nationally and locally, to ensure this does not happen, our current global tragedy could sow the seeds for the next one. 

 

As we have seen with the global spread of COVID-19, no problem exists in isolation. While the UK was brought to a near standstill at the height of the lockdown, with road travel plummeting by as much as 73%, activity is now returning to near pre COVID-19 levels with car use now at 79% compared with before the COVID-19 outbreak, with vans and lorries at 92% and 97% respectively. 

 

With a COVID-19 vaccine seemingly some way off in the distance, it’s likely that there will continue to be a sharp rise in car travel over time at the expense of public transport so as to maintain social distancing. Now, more than ever, the need for UK Government increased investment in public transport is vital to keep services running.

 

For our wider economy, the post-pandemic outlook remains extremely uncertain, due to the unknown duration and severity of COVID-19 measures and doubts over the shape of the recovery. Analysis by the International Monetary Fund has resulted in them slashing their forecasts for global growth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and warning of a slump in output this year unparalleled since the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

 

Towns and cities around the world are taking the lead in post-coronavirus planning, with a raft of environmental initiatives being rolled out in places from Bristol to Bogotá to ensure public safety and bolster the actions to tackle the climate emergency. Launching the newly formed Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, as part of the C40 group of cities, the mayor of Milan, said: “Our immediate priority is to protect the health of our residents and overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we must also look towards how we will keep our people safe in the future. How we structure our recovery efforts will define our cities for decades to come.”

 

As the UK Government now begins to plot a course out of lockdown and towards a post COVID-19 new normal, the opportunity must be seized to protect jobs and safeguard the future while paying off debts created by emergency spending on the NHS and household incomes. This means re-evaluating infrastructure investments, such as the planned £28bn UK Government roads programme to ensure the country benefits from a jobs boom from initiatives such as: broadband, batteries, electric cars, home upgrades and infrastructure that enables walking and cycling.

 

Local leaders have played an essential role in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and they have an essential role in shaping what comes next. In fact, resilient recovery cannot be achieved without local leaders and the communities that they represent. Building back better requires a new dynamic partnership between the Government UK and local governments, a partnership that must be seized if we are to deliver Net Zero and renew our economy for the benefit of our environment, everyone and generations to come.  

 

Jason Torrance, Policy Director, UK100