Covid-19 & the UK Climate Assembly

Transition Keynsham’s column in Keynsham Voice, July 2020

Across the UK, citizens are emerging into a world that’s both familiar and strange. As I write, we can see our families but not hug them. We can go to pubs but not swimming pools. Only some of our children are back at school, the majority stuck at home.

For many, the human and economic costs of Covid-19 have been tragically high. For others, the pandemic has been an opportunity to reconnect with nature, learn new things and be with loved ones.

How can we support the people whose lives have been so badly affected by the pandemic and build on the positives? Many people are urging the government to prioritise a green economic recovery. This means embarking on a massive energy efficiency retrofit programme (creating many jobs), linking industry bailouts with net-zero goals and investing in green technologies, energy efficient construction and world-class public transport systems.

The UK’s Climate Assembly uncovers a consensus for this green-led recovery. Set up by Parliament to understand public preferences on how the UK should tackle climate change, it’s made up of 108 people from all walks of life selected to represent the UK’s population in terms of demographics and levels of concern about climate change.

Its newly released interim report reveals that an overwhelming majority of Climate Assembly members want Government, employers and others to support changes to the economy and lifestyles which help achieve the UK’s net zero emissions target.

79% of assembly members strongly agreed or agreed that: “Steps taken by the government to help the economy recover should be designed to help achieve net zero;” and 93% of assembly members strongly agreed or agreed that: “As lockdown eases, government, employers and/or others should take steps to encourage lifestyles to change to be more compatible with reaching net zero.”

This is a clear steer for central and local government to put their commitment to reaching net zero front and centre of recovery policies, for the health and wellbeing of our citizens and our planet. I hope they’re listening, because it would be a further tragedy of Covid-19 if we went back to filthy air, rising CO2 emissions and throwaway culture.