Rishi Sunak promises ‘eco-friendly economic recovery’ with £3bn injection for green jobs

Environmental groups say plans fall short of what was needed to create jobs in response to the coronavirus outbreak and tackle the climate crisis.

By Eleanor Langford

07 Jul 2020

Rishi Sunak is set to announce £3bn of new investment in green projects as part of a pledge to “kickstart eco-friendly economic recovery” and create jobs in low carbon industries.

Under the plan, to be unveiled in the chancellor's summer economic update tomorrow, homeowners will receive vouchers of up to £5,000 to fund energy-saving improvements to their property.

This latest funding announcement is in addition to the £5bn New Deal announced by prime minister Boris Johnson last week, which included funding for research into green technologies, carbon capture and conservation projects.

Plans include a £1bn fund which will go towards retrofitting public sector buildings, including schools and hospitals, to reduce carbon emissions.

Sunak will also unveil a separate £50m pilot scheme aimed at decarbonising social housing through measures like heat pumps, insulation and double glazing.

And up to 5,000 jobs will also be backed in green industries as part of a new £40m Green Jobs Challenge Fund, which will support environmental charities and local authorities to work on conservation projects.

Lack of ambition

Labour's shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said his party had "consistently called for a recovery which has energy efficiency at its heart, and will welcome any measures which achieve that".

“However, this is not a comprehensive plan. It appears there is almost nothing for the people who rent the 8.5 million homes in the social rented sector and private rented sector, which has the worst energy efficiency standards. That means one third of people are left out," he said.

“It also needs to be part of a much broader and bigger scale strategy for getting back on track for net zero which includes a zero carbon army of young people getting back to work, investment in nature conservation, driving forward renewable energy, helping our manufacturers be part of the green transition and a plan for our transport network.

“The French government has promised 15 billion euros for a green recovery, the German government 40 billion euros. The UK government £3bn so far. When the moment demands the government creates the most ambitious green recovery possible, the government has not so far risen to the challenge.”

Environmental groups were critical of the announcement, claiming the chancellor’s plans “lacked ambition” and fell short of what was needed to create jobs and tackle the climate crisis.

Friends of the Earth’s climate specialist, Muna Suleiman, said: "If this announcement was supposed to be a bold and ambitious move towards a greener and fairer world, it has massively underestimated the scale of the problem.

“The UK's leaky housing stock is a huge part of our carbon emissions as well as entrenching social inequality through fuel poverty, but the £50m for home insulation the chancellor is offering barely scratches the surface of what's required.

“Around £5.4bn a year is needed for insulation and installing low carbon heating options such as heat pumps.”

She added: “That’s just a fraction of the billions that the government is spending on its climate-wrecking road-building programme, so the money for the housing transformation needed exists, but it's being squandered on the wrong things or targeted badly, as we are still seeing. 

“Refocusing this investment into home insulation would provide a huge boost to jobs in green industries, another area where the Chancellor’s plan shows a serious lack of ambition."

The government’s latest pledge of green investment comes after a Committee on Climate Change report last month urged ministers to use the economic recovery to make progress towards net-zero.

Speaking to The House Live, CCC chair Lord Deben said: “The government is presented with an amazing opportunity here.

“It has to resuscitate the economy and it can only do that by undertaking measures which also will work towards combating climate change."

Measures recommended in the report included retrofitting Britain’s homes and ensuring that new housing is built to the highest standards of energy efficiency.

Eleanor Langford is a reporter at Civil Service World's sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story was first published.

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