Tory MPs call for Boris Johnson to go further and faster on climate in Covid-19 recovery plans
A group of 100 moderate Conservative MPs have called on Boris Johnson to beef up green legislation and investment through the UK's Covid-19 recovery strategy, and are particularly keen for the national petrol and diesel car ban to be moved forward to 2030.
In a ‘Recovery Paper’ report published this week, the One Nation group, which represents around one-third of the Conservative Party, outlined 25 recommendations for climate and environmental action from Boris Johnson’s cabinet in the context of the UK’s net-zero transition and its Covid-19 recovery plans.
A headline recommendation is for the UK to bring its ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars forward to 2030. The date was originally set at 2040 under the Road to Zero Strategy, published under Theresa May’s government. After the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and green campaign groups, think tanks and MPs urged a 2035 date, Boris Johnson agreed.
Various organisations are still backing a 2030 deadline, however, including Green Alliance and Shell. The One Nation group would like to see a more ambitious deadline coupled with legislation mandating that all new homes are fitted with an electric vehicle charging point as standard.
The recovery paper also urges more stringent measures to ensure that businesses and families “don’t revert back to using cars” after lockdown, highlighting the fact that keeping remote working at double pre-pandemic levels would result in 374,000 fewer cars on central London’s roads annually. Digital infrastructure and low-carbon, affordable public transport are touted alongside walking and cycling. On the latter, Johnson recently unveiled a £2bn active transport package.
Away from transport, the paper calls for improvements to the Future Homes Standard and further support for energy efficiency and retrofit beyond the Public Energy Fund and Clean Homes Grant, both announced at the Summer Economic Update. Higher investment in nature restoration and man-made carbon-capturing technologies, and more support for those wishing to train for roles in low-carbon sectors like renewable energy are also touted. Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reportedly set to launch a dedicated fund for reskilling Brits for ‘green-collar’ jobs, but has not yet done so.
Jerome Mayhew MP, lead author of the report, and Anthony Browne MP, former chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association, are additionally recommending an economy-wide domestic carbon tax and for further clarity on carbon border taxing post-Brexit. Funding raised through these mechanisms should be ring-fenced for major infrastructure projects which both mitigate emissions and remove carbon from the environment, they state.
“As Conservatives, we reject the anti-capitalist assertion that economic growth and rising living standards are incompatible with achieving our net-zero commitments… on the contrary, they can be mutually reinforcing,” Mayhew wrote.
“We have the opportunity to reboot our economy and create jobs, by accelerating the rollout of clean and resilient infrastructure and stimulating low-carbon industries across the UK. A clear majority of the public supports this agenda too.”
He is here referencing a recent Conservative Environment Network (CEN) poll of UK voters, which found that 67% believe that an economic recovery package which prioritises the economy in the short-term over nature and society in the long-term would ultimately “be bad for the economy”.
Find out more about the green recovery movement with edie's Explains guide
edie has launched a new Explains guide outlining the business impacts, opportunities and drivers of the broader green recovery narrative, as nations attempt to "build back better" from the coronavirus pandemic.