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Make Covid-19 recovery green, say business leaders

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More than 200 UK business leaders have urged the government to invest in a Covid-19 recovery that is in line with climate goals

More than 200 top UK firms and investors are calling on the government to deliver a Covid-19 recovery plan that prioritises the environment.

They say efforts to repair the economy should support the government’s commitment to tackle the climate change crisis.

They believe ministers should use the Covid-19 lockdown as a springboard to propel a green economy.

The signatories to the letter include Lloyds Bank, Asda, Siemens and Sky.

The proposals outlined by firms such as Mitsubishi, Signify and Yorkshire Water in a letter to the prime minister include:

  • Driving investment in low carbon innovation, infrastructure and industries.
  • Focusing support on sectors that can best support the environment, increase job creation and foster the recovery – whilst also decarbonising the economy.
  • Putting strings on financial support to ensure firms getting bailout cash are well managed, and in step with climate goals.

In a speech on Thursday Boris Johnson briefly committed himself in principle to the so-called Green New Deal slogan “Building Back Better” for a more resilient society.

And there are rumours that the Treasury is planning cash for labour-intensive home insulation, and further investment in electric vehicles.

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The letter signatories suggested further investment in electric vehicle infrastructure

But the signatories to the letter urge ministers to publish detailed plans that will put the UK back on track to meet the medium-term climate goals, from which it’s slipping.

They come from both multinational and national businesses across industry sectors including energy, finance, consumer goods, retail, construction, water and communication.

‘Job creation’

Their letter says: “Measures that cut greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate the economy have the potential to be more effective in supporting jobs and economic growth.

“They’ll also support our long-term climate goals and deliver better outcomes in other key areas of public interest, such as public health and wellbeing.

“Investments in projects such as building renovation, offshore wind, electric vehicles, environmental improvements and low carbon industrial clusters have the potential to bring investment and job creation across multiple regions of the UK.”

The initiative has been co-ordinated by The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG).

It told BBC News: “Clearly the immediate focus has been on keeping the economy going and, understandably, there will need to be some urgent support measures that have not had significant ‘strings attached’.

“But as long-term support measures are introduced, there should be measures within them to ensure that the money is going to well-managed companies supportive of the UK’s long term goals.

‘Green strings attached’

Green groups have called for all bailout cash to go to firms that agree green objectives.

But the corporate leaders said: “While we can’t say no exceptions ever, green strings should be the rule, not the exception.

“Airlines would be a very strong example of a sector that will likely need support but should also be doing its bit to adapt to the challenges of climate change and support the transition – as many senior leaders in the sector recognise.”

Liz Barber from Yorkshire Water said: “It doesn’t have to be a hard choice; I see lots of opportunities which would rebuild the economy at the same time as helping the vulnerable, securing the stable climate and protecting the natural environment.”

She gave the example of the Hull project Living With Water, which focuses many partners on making the city resilient to floods.

Meryam Omi from Legal & General warned: “The government is understandably focusing on the present crisis, but they must heed the dangers of reacting too late to threats and remember one of the gravest in the world – the climate emergency.

“Decisions policymakers take now will decide the success of the UK’s ambitious net-zero target. They’ll have implications for decades.

“Implementing an ambitious ‘green’ recovery package, with clear pathways for companies to build aligned strategies and for investors to direct capital into ‘green’ projects at scale is now matter of necessity, not choice.”

The government was approached for comment.

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