New analysis has shown that time is running out to put into motion green economy recovery packages that can simultaneously repair the global economy and tackle the climate emergency.
The study from Oxford University found that higher returns on government spending were made by projects which stimulate economic growth whilst cutting greenhouse gas emissions, in comparison to conventional stimulus spending.
The director of the Smith School of enterprise and the environment at Oxford University, Cameron Hepburn, said that many of these projects are ‘shovel-ready’. They can be started quickly, create new UK-based jobs, and also comply with new social distancing requirements.
Hepburn highlights the building of electric vehicle charging networks, the redesigning of roads, and schemes to insulate draughty UK homes. “These all need large-scale deployment, offer low to moderate skilled work and will have benefits in terms of climate change as well as boosting the economy,” said Hepburn.
A comparison was made by the Oxford researchers, between traditional stimulus packages such as those seen after the global financial crisis in 2008, and green stimulus projects. They found that green projects provide higher short-term returns for the government and pave the way for increased long-term savings too. Green projects also create more jobs than traditional packages.
Co-author of the paper, Brian O’Callaghan, said that governments should be quick to act. “Following large-scale government spending, there is often a hesitancy on the part of the public to spend more,” said O’Callaghan. “The natural inclination might be to take an easy pathway. But this is the single biggest opportunity for the government to shape the future decade, and it could give a significant economic boost.”
The COP26 talks have been delayed until the beginning of next year, buying the government some more time to devise an economic recovery package that would also set the UK up for a faster approach to the net-zero target by 2050.
Economists are now calling for a new committee to be created for dealing with the climate emergency, and for the government to make alliances with other countries to set up a more sustainable recovery.
“The UK should link COP26 with the COVID-19 recovery,” said O’Callaghan. “They have a real leadership opportunity.”
Emily Shuckburgh, another co-author of the briefing, said: “Shaping the national and global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a way that supports the response to climate change and other environmental threats simply makes sense. Not only does analysis suggest green recovery packages deliver greater economic benefit, but investing appropriately in research, innovation, infrastructure and skills training, and matching that with robust institutional structures, will help create a fairer, more resilient, sustainable world with benefits for all.”
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