UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


ISR Director contributes to policy briefing outlining a green recovery following COVID-19

5 May 2020

The ‘COP26 Universities Network’ has drawn on research from a team of internationally-recognised experts and other analyses to create a briefing for policymakers outlining a path to net-zero emissions economic recovery from COVID-19.

Wind turbines against sky

ISR Director Professor Paul Ekins is part of the 'COP26 Universities Network', which is a growing group of more than 30 UK-based universities formed to help deliver climate change outcomes at the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow and beyond. 

The original research was conducted by a team of experts, who came together to assess the economic and climate impact of taking a green route out of the crisis. They catalogued more than 700 stimulus policies into 25 broad groups and conducted a global survey of 231 experts from 53 countries, including from finance ministries and central banks. Their analysis of possible COVID-19 economic recovery packages shows the potential for strong alignment between the economy and the environment.

Briefing for UK policymakers

The ‘COP26 Universities Network’ briefing identifies ten fiscal recovery policies that promise to bring both short-term high economic impact and long-term structural change to ensure the UK meets its 2050 climate goals. It argues that stimulus packages following Covid-19 will not only significantly affect the UK’s future prosperity but also its potential to meet its legally mandated net zero emissions obligation.

Among the policies emphasised are:

  • Investing in renewable energy and modernising the grid to support use of renewables and the electrification of the heat and transport sectors.
  • Reducing industrial emissions, for instance by introducing financial incentives.
  • Investing in low and zero-carbon infrastructure projects, such as public transport infrastructure, that are also resilient to the impacts of climate change.
  • Investment in high impact sustainability technology research and development.
  • Investment in broadband internet to increase coverage.
  • Increasing uptake of electric vehicles through financial incentives and by enhancing infrastructure.
  • Higher carbon standards for new-build homes; financial support for households installing insulation and other energy efficient improvements
  • Funding skills and retraining initiatives, such as through digital further education, to address structural unemployment effects resulting from decarbonisation measures.
  • Nature-based solutions such as planting trees and restoring carbon-rich habitats.
  • Bailouts to be made conditional on the industry implementing climate-friendly improvements.

The group further called for the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change to be renamed the Climate Change Emergency Committee to reflect the urgent need for action. 

The briefing highlights the leadership role of the UK in the leadup to COP26, as well as the opportunity to lead by example with a green recovery package. But the universities warned that the specific designs of any policy would ultimately determine its effectiveness. 

Prof Paul Ekins said:

The UK has led the world in setting ambitious carbon-reduction targets. But it is not on track to meet an 80% reduction in 2050, let alone net zero. It needs a Climate Change Emergency Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, to give the required urgency to the task of decarbonisation, and a Net Zero Delivery Body to coordinate the contributions from different government departments, industry and the energy and financial sectors to drive the low-carbon post-COVID economic recovery that the UK so urgently needs.”

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