Legal briefing | Environment & Regulatory, Environment & Climate Change |

Building back better, greener and faster

Overview

On 25 June, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) presented its annual report to Parliament, reflecting on progress over the last year and recommending action for the next. Not surprisingly given the extraordinary circumstances, the tone and content of the 2020 report is quite different from previous reports, with a strong focus on a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and a message that short-term measures have the potential to significantly impact long-term climate goals.  

For the first time, the CCC makes department-specific recommendations, which could, if the Government so chooses, form a de facto Net Zero action plan. All departments are encouraged to integrate Net Zero into their policy making; this "mainstreaming" of sustainability and climate goals is also a key tenet of the EU's Green Deal. Like the Green Deal, the CCC report spans many sectors and promotes a multi-faceted approach to emissions reduction, climate change mitigation and adaptation; these range from compulsory water efficiency labelling of household water products through phase out of diesel trains to mandatory food waste reporting for businesses.

For businesses, assessment and disclosure of risks and actions, including via voluntary tools such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, are noted as a key first step. The report recommends that BEIS continues to use the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) framework to improve transparency and shift investment away from high-carbon infrastructure, including setting clear deadlines for listed companies and large asset owners to report by 2022 (as per the July 2019 Green Finance Strategy).

The Committee recommends that the Government's immediate investment priorities should be:

  • energy efficiency in buildings, both in terms of existing stock renovation and new building standards;

  • developing natural capital - tree planting, peatland restoration and urban greenspace development, the need for which was acutely felt during the strictest phase of the COVID-19 lockdown;

  • strengthening energy networks to prepare for the electrification of heat and transport and further promotion of renewable power generation;

  • transport and technology infrastructure to encourage walking, cycling, and working remotely; and

  • moving towards a circular economy, with further changes to waste rules.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved that the Government is able to mobilise and implement solutions to a crisis in days rather than years. The Prime Minister, in a speech of 30 June, repeated the "build back better" mantra but added "build back greener" and "build back faster" to that commitment. All eyes are on the Government to see whether it can begin to convert words into actions and apply this uncharacteristic speed to kick-start a green, resilient recovery plan.

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