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James Diggle, the CBI’s Head of Energy and Climate Change, discusses the opportunity we have to deliver a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic that can help deliver our net-zero emissions goals.
The phrase ‘Build Back Better’ has been coined not just by the CBI, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the US Presidential candidate, Joe Biden. This need for renewal comes at a time when a range of technology and infrastructure solutions are giving us the tools we need to change. The challenge for us all, is whether we can maximise the opportunities at hand, and pivot to a better future.
The emissions reductions brought about by national lockdowns are a stark reminder of the global decarbonisation challenge ahead, which we want to achieve while maintaining growth and economic opportunity. Meanwhile, the prospect of an elongated economic downturn has sparked concern about a prioritisation away from cutting emissions and restoring the environment.
But critically, dramatic falls in renewable energy costs, a surge of new electric vehicle models and developments in carbon capture and hydrogen technologies are just some of the changes since the last economic crash of 2008/09. So too are the impacts of climate change, which have become more and more pronounced over the last decade.
The need to act, and the opportunities to do it, have never been clearer.
Since the start of the year we have seen fundamental shifts in work, travel, and the level of government intervention in our lives; trends which have been identified as part of ICE’s Covid-19 work. Many of these changes, and the lessons learned, can also help with our efforts to cut emissions.
A major concern is that the health crisis will lead to a jobs crisis. So we have asked the question about whether accelerating the infrastructure requirements of our net-zero target, from wind farms, to household retrofits, can help tackle falling employment. We believe the answer is yes. HM Treasury is of the same opinion, and responded to the CBI’s call for a focus on enabling energy efficiency improvements in UK homes, business and public sector buildings, with £3bn of government money to further this aim.
We have targeted development of Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technology and a hydrogen economy, as priorities for government action through financial support where needed, and the creation of business models and clear policy frameworks. Building out our electric vehicle infrastructure must also be prioritised, if we are to deliver the ramp up in EV sales, predicted for this decade. Continued improvements to energy efficiency and the development of low-carbon heat solutions in new build and existing properties.
Over the coming months, we are promised multiple strategies and policy proposals from government, including the Energy White Paper and National Infrastructure Strategy. Strategies targeting heat and buildings, industrial decarbonisation, low-carbon transport, and a hydrogen economy are also in the pipeline. Recently announced is a comprehensive net-zero strategy that will be published ahead of COP26 next year.
So we enter a critical period for delivery of the strategies that will help facilitate the private sector investment required to meet our net-zero goals. This period coincides with the requirement for sustainable employment in the wake of the pandemic, so it is vital that these strategies, and action from business, helps meet both priorities, delivering low-carbon jobs across the country.
Guest Blogger: James Diggle, Head of Energy and Climate Change, CBI.
*ICE welcomes guests to share their views about infrastructure policy issues on the Infrastructure Blog. These views are the views of the individual. If you are interested in writing for the Infrastructure Blog, please email [email protected]. ICE reserves the right not to publish articles that have been submitted.
Want to read more?
Incoming ICE President Rachel Skinner will be discussing the importance of carbon emission reduction and the need for urgent actions at her inaugural address on 3 November. Book the event here.
Find out more about ICE's work in this space by reading ICE’s White Paper setting out what infrastructure networks may look like following Covid-19 and our 2020 State of the Nation report on net-zero.