12 Oct 2020
As we begin to rebuild after the devastating effects of coronavirus, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Do we go back to a society that left us with ever-increasing gaps between rich and poor, huge health inequalities and hurtling towards climate and ecological breakdown? Or do we move forwards to a better future, re-building the foundations of our society and economy so that they work for all of us?
We’ve had moments like this in the past. When corporate greed and the pursuit of excessive profit led the global economy to collapse in 2008, the impacts weren’t felt equally and, in the years following, lives and livelihoods didn't improve and climate breakdown worsened. Now we have a rare second chance to do what we couldn’t before.
Which is why we must build back better. Poverty, health, inequality, pollution – all spokes in the wheel of climate breakdown. We cannot fix the climate crisis unless we fix these issues too.
We need a recovery plan that genuinely changes everyone’s lives for the better, leaving no-one behind. It needs to safeguard the future prosperity of people and planet, guarantee everyone a dignified life and a fair income, and protect and sustain the food systems and ecosystems that we rely on and value.
We’ve already seen what we can do when we work together and the amazing kindness and resilience that lies in our communities. We deserve a plan from government that recognises this strength, empowers people and gives them the resources needed to lead the recovery.
We’ve already imagined a better future, now it’s time to build it together.
We need the UK government to set out a green and fair recovery plan, including the below 5 priorities.
(If you'd like to read more detail around the proposals, consult the recovery plan policies compiled by Friends of the Earth.)
1. Prioritise health and wellbeing
From the frontline workers who have kept us going to the green spaces that have been so fundamental to our wellbeing – it’s clearer than ever that what we value most is that which sustains us, and those who care for us. We must prioritise the health and wellbeing of everyone by investing in the resources, infrastructure and people that improve our quality of life. We need a recovery plan that delivers cleaner air, parks and green spaces, and a resilient and supported healthcare service.
- Make active travel safe and easy for everyone, by spending £2 billion a year on cycling and walking infrastructure and resources.
- Reduce air pollution to World Health Organisation standards by 2030 including by investing an additional £8 billion annually in clean, affordable public transport.
- Ensure access to high quality green spaces for all and create a new legal Right to a Healthy Environment.
2. Put green jobs and livelihoods at the heart of the recovery
We need jobs that are good for people and planet. Instead of propping up declining, polluting industries that aren’t fit for purpose, the government must future-proof livelihoods by investing in cleaner, fairly paid, sustainable jobs. They must also re-train and upskill workforces, focusing on the areas that need it most and invest in young people, and make sure that everybody, wherever they live around the country, can access decent work with a fair wage.
- Create 40,000 new jobs and eradicate fuel poverty by rolling out a massive programme of home insulation. This will require at least a £10.5 billion investment.
- Help transition workers from failing polluting industries into clean ones with a £4.3 billion a year transition fund.
- Guarantee green jobs or training for those made unemployed because of COVID-19.
3. Fix the broken economy
For too long, we've been contributing to a broken economy. In the pursuit of profit above all else, it’s a system that’s made a lot of money for a small number of people at the expense of everyone else, and the security of future generations. This has to end. We can re-programme our economy so that it works for everyone and looks after the planet. We need a recovery plan from government that invests in levelling the playing field and uses public money for public good.
- Ensure any financial bailouts of failing companies come with strict conditions to protect workers and ensure the industry cuts emissions in line with the Paris agreement.
- Help fund the recovery by removing tax breaks from big polluters, taxing polluting activities and scrap spending on climate-wrecking infrastructure.
- Measure the impact of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan by how it improves people's lives, not economic growth (GDP).
4. Co-operate globally and act responsibly
This crisis has impacted all of us, but not equally. The same is true of the climate crisis. Whether it’s over-consumption of luxury goods or the number of flights taken, the richest in society are the most responsible for climate change and yet it’s the poorest who bear the brunt of the impacts – here in the UK and around the world. As one of the world’s richest countries and historically a large emitter of carbon emissions, the UK has a duty to reduce its emissions here and abroad, and to use our wealth to help other countries reduce their emissions too and adapt to the impacts of climate breakdown. We should also lead the way in safeguarding environmental protections. On the global stage, the search for a vaccine to COVID-19 has seen international teams of scientists working together, countries sharing vital medical equipment beyond borders. We know global problems, require global solutions. We must work together to fix the climate crisis too.
- Meet our historical responsibility by providing significant climate finance to support the transition of the world’s poorer nations.
- End UK government investment in overseas coal, oil and gas projects. Shift public spending into renewable energy and support a fair transition for workers.
- Only do trade deals that guarantee the highest standards of environmental and public health protection.
5. Empower communities to lead the recovery
The huge surge in mutual aid groups has demonstrated the resilience, kindness and innovation that lies at the heart of our local communities. The climate crisis deserves a community-led response too. At the heart of this should be the voices of those historically disadvantaged and disproportionately affected by environmental and social problems due to factors like age, race, class.
- Provide the nations and councils with significant new powers and the funding they need to deliver an inclusive and green recovery in their area.
- Require decision-makers at all levels to demonstrate that the voice of those most directly affected is heard in the development of COVID-19 Recovery Plans.
- Help community-led organisations through the COVID-19 crisis and invest to enable them to build back stronger.