The corona virus pandemic has had devastating consequences for lives and livelihoods around the world, while also dramatically cutting CO2 emissions.
In many countries, governments are now looking towards recovery as the pandemic’s first wave slowly recedes, with plans for economic stimulus worth trillions of dollars.
Yet as economies pick up pace, emissions are beginning to rebound. And huge stimulus plans will have consequences for CO2 emissions, even if they do not explicitly target climate change.
As a result, voices from the International Energy Agency (IEA) through to the prime minister and leading economists are among those that have called for a “green recovery” that “builds back better”, by cutting CO2 emissions as well as boosting the economy.
But what does this actually mean?...
Area’s that the government have targeted include but not limited to….
A £2bn “green homes grant” voucher scheme to fund home efficiency improvements such as insulation during financial year 2020-21.
A £1bn programme for this year to make public buildings greener, including schools and hospitals. It will fund energy efficiency and low-carbon heat upgrades.
£50m demonstration project for retrofitting social housing in 2020-21, with press reports suggesting measures could include insulation, double glazing and heat pumps.
Support for “advanced new building techniques” the government says will cut both costs and carbon emissions in the construction industry.
Up to £100m of R&D funding for “direct air capture” technology that can remove CO2 from the air. Limited information is available but the government says it could pay a price per tonne of CO.
Electric vehicles: Money available from the government for companies undertaking R&D in the automotive sector, including work to develop “more efficient electric motors or more powerful batteries”.
Support for energy efficiency in our existing homes, retrofitting being an easy win for making our homes more energy efficient (refer to article from the green building store for more insight as to what support is available)
Also looking at house building and public buildings to make greener and encourage innovative thinking – we know that it’s much easier to design energy efficient homes than having to retrofit and so why not create basic legally binding carbon specifications that house builders have to adhere to?
There has also of course been significant financial investment to improve cycle networks to encourage us out of our cars and onto our bikes, urbanisation of city centres – great to deter cars but a double edged sword with economic activity?
EV charging infrastructure is still a postcode lottery, which despite all the best journey planning in advance can still be a cause for concern when heading on longer journeys into more rural areas!
What about business? ... What about SME’s?
At the start of 2019 there were 5.82 million small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees), 99.3% of the total business.
SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population (5.9 million businesses)....and SMEs account for three fifths of the employment and around half of turnover in the UK private sector.
SME’s is where there has to be significant scope within this largest of sectors?
For instance a factory or office would, you imagine, consume far more energy than a residential property? So why not create a green factory/office grant also? Also their energy consumption – by switching to renewable energy it’s a very simple carbon win and with increased competition coming in this sector it may well be that it’s not cost prohibitive to do so.
One of the interesting things I have read is the success at local level of corona testing – it appears that the local knowledge and infrastructure has been hugely successful in managing this critical function – obviously only to be let down by the failing of the central website and UK wide testing capacity – but none the less at a local level it has shown that decentralising has real merit.
If we then consider our unemployed young people and those whose jobs have been lost in the wave of this pandemic – how can we create a valuable role for them in the green recovery?
That is an army of motivated people who would love to be doing something meaningful to support our aims of Net Zero – surely we can utilise local teams to really push “The Green recovery plan”?
We created a resource for SME’s – a roadmap if you like showing x9 steps any business can take to implement carbon savings and become a better business (www.thebetterbusinesspack.com) looking at renewable energy, waste streams, suppliers, green money, green travel amongst other things…sharing the actions we ourselves have taken over the last +20 years….
How about creating local teams which are trained up and tasked to approach local SME’s in their designated areas to carry out basic assessments of how SME’s are dealing with the key metrics we are looking to measure and then come up with an action plan?
If that sounds too complicated then we could simply look at a more basic program of energy and transportation focused on supporting the reduction of carbon in these x2 key areas?
Where would the money come to support this program?
I guess a mix of government funding (as they will be receiving unemployment payments and so easy to use this to subsidise wages) and then contributions from the companies supplying these low carbon solutions which they are encouraging businesses to adopt?
When we are looking at trying to make meaningful impacts in order to get anywhere near our committed carbon reduction targets then we have to be bold, we have to push harder than ever before and we have to make sure that we don’t leave anyone behind.
It seems to me that by engaging the part of our society that is going to be most affected by our actions today, our young people and giving them the responsibility to directly affect positive change could be one of the smartest things we could do.
Cooling down our warming planet is very much dependent on storytelling, as we see so often by the great man Sir David Attenborough – what a story it would be that an army of millennials in the UK are taking over the baton and showing us all what needs to be done to save our planet.
Managing Director, Seacourt Ltd