Briefing

What are UK and Irish politicians doing on net-zero Covid-19 economic recovery?

On Thursday, 26 November, Project Cygnus put on an event on the topic of what the main political parties in both the UK and Ireland are doing in order to make sure the economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis is as sustainable and local as possible.

We had speakers from across the political spectrum: Bim Afolami, Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden; Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne and Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Digital; Neasa Hourigan, TD for Dublin Central and Chair of Ireland’s Committee on Budgetary Oversight; Alan Brown, SNP MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun and the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson on Transport, Energy and Infrastructure; Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South; and Tom Sasse, Associate Director at the Institute for Government.

Bim kicked things off outlining both the government and the Conservative party’s general position on green Covid-19 economic recovery. He pointed out that 2030, while it seems a long way away by some measures, is in fact very close at hand in terms of even the things the government wants to achieve by that date. Supporting nuclear energy is a big deal to this government; comforting to Project Cygnus as we are building one of our major policy announcements around this topic, it was recognised that retrofitting of existing housing stock is absolutely vital to green recovery.

Chi Onwurah starkly laid out the terrain: climate change is an existential crisis – and we are facing the biggest economic downturn in 300 years. She outlined Labour’s Green Recovery plan, which calls on the government to spend £300 billion and create 400,000 green jobs. Neasa Hourigan made the immediate point that one of the key ways that Ireland’s green Covid-19 response will be different from the UK’s is that Ireland is still part of the EU; the European Union is laying out a €750 billion Covid-19 recovery fund.

Alan Brown spoke to the local side of things, pointing out that in order for communities to be able to activate their own green Covid plans, the appropriate competencies need to be devolved to them. He also talked about the importance of Carbon Capture, particularly its role in NE Scotland. Clive Lewis said that a 2050 net zero target lacked ambition and needed to be brought forward. If democratic governments not markets led the way, we could even try for 2030.

Tom Sasse gave a non-partisan view. He said the new 10-point Tory plan gives some renewed hope of the government taking green Covid recovery seriously. In particular, the 2030 ban on petrol car sales was seen as suitably ambitious. Also, the link between the levelling up agenda and green recovery was applauded – it shows that the Tories are thinking about the green agenda in a jobs and business light as opposed to seeing it as something strictly to be costed.

It was a great event that highlighted the fact that Project Cygnus is on the right track. Retrofitting of homes and sustainable transportation, two flagship Cygnus polices, were brought up by the speakers repeatedly. It was a fitting final event for this phase of Project Cygnus. A recording of the event is available here.

If you’re interested in gaining access to our exclusive Project Cygnus data, insights, tools and apply it to your Covid-19 recovery planning, please join our workshop on 20 January 2021. It will help you understand the impact of remote working, benchmark your organisation and leverage our data-sets to help you make more informed decisions. Sign up here.

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