In 2019, we set to work campaigning for local and national government to adopt our Climate Action Plan and tackle the climate and ecological emergencies. Then the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe and upended life as we all know it.
Much like the climate emergency, the pandemic has affected the most vulnerable both at home and abroad. As we look to rebuild our lives and systems, we need a recovery plan that changes all lives for the better, leaving no-one behind. It needs to safeguard the future prosperity of our planet by guaranteeing everyone a dignified life and a fair income. It also needs to protect the food systems and ecosystems that sustain us all.
We’ve already seen the power of community action through mutual aid groups. We deserve a plan from government that recognises this strength, empowers people and gives them the resources needed to lead the recovery.
We need the UK government to set out a green and fair recovery plan, including the following 5 priorities.
1. Prioritise health and wellbeing
We must prioritise the health and wellbeing of everyone by investing in infrastructure which improves our quality of life and helps prevent our healthcare services from being overburdened. The recovery plan should:
- Make active travel easy and safe for everyone, by spending £2 billion a year on cycling and walking infrastructure.
- Reduce air pollution to World Health Organisation standards by 2030 by investing an additional £8 billion annually in clean, affordable public transport.
- Ensure access to good quality green spaces for all and create a new legal Right to a Healthy Environment.
2. Put green jobs and livelihoods at the heart of the recovery
Instead of propping up declining, polluting industries, the government must future-proof livelihoods by investing in more sustainable jobs and making sure that everyone, no matter wherever they live, can access decent work with a fair wage. The recovery plan should include provision to:
- Create tens of thousands of new jobs and eradicate fuel poverty by rolling out a massive programme of home insulation. This will require at least a £10.5 billion investment.
- Help transition workers from failing polluting industries into clean ones with a £4.3 billion a year transition fund .
- Guarantee green jobs or training for those made unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
3. Fix the broken economy
For too long our economy has benefited a small group of people at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable.
We should re-programme our economy so that it works for everyone and looks after the planet. We need a recovery plan from government that levels the playing field and uses public money for public good. That means the plan must:
- Ensure any financial bailouts of failing companies come with strict conditions to protect workers and ensure the industry cuts emissions in line with the 2015 Paris agreement.
- Help fund the recovery by removing tax breaks from big polluters, taxing polluting activities and scrap spending on climate-wrecking infrastructure.
- Base its impact on how it improves people's lives, not economic growth (GDP).
4. Co-operate globally and act responsibly
Just like climate and social crises, the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. But while the search for a vaccine has prompted international co-operation among scientists and sharing of vital medical equipment beyond borders, the same co-operation has been absent from tackling the climate crisis.
We know global problems require global solutions. As one of the world’s richest countries – and historically a big carbon emitter – the UK has a duty to lead the way in order to protect the health of both people and planet. The recovery plan must:
- Meet our historical responsibility by providing significant climate finance to support the transition of the world’s poorer nations.
- End UK government investment in overseas coal, oil and gas projects. Shift public spending to renewable energy and support a fair transition for workers.
- Commit to only signing trade deals that guarantee the highest standards of environmental and public health protection.
5. Empower communities to lead the recovery
Our local communities are an amazing source of resilience, kindness and innovation, as demonstrated by the emergence of COVID-19 mutual aid groups. The climate crisis also deserves (and depends on) a community-led response, centred on the voices of those historically disadvantaged and disproportionately affected by environmental and social problems due to factors like age, race and class. The government's recovery plan must:
- Provide the nations and councils with significant new powers and the funding they need to deliver an inclusive and green recovery in their area.
- Require decision-makers at all levels to demonstrate that the voices of those most directly affected is heard in the development of recovery plans.
- Support community-led organisations through the pandemic and invest in them so they can grow stronger.