On Wednesday 14 October the IPT hosted a virtual event looking at the Prime Minister’s call to ‘build back better’. This event was chaired by Jo Gideon MP, PPS to Alok Sharma as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. She was joined by guest speaker Emma Pinchbeck, CEO of Energy UK. The event was attended by representatives from the energy and other relevant sectors, Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
There was a feeling from the attendees that there is an established agreement from all sides of the political debate that green policy must play a significant part in the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. This is perhaps typified best by the Prime Minister’s recent conference announcement that he wants all homes in the UK to be powered by offshore wind energy by 2030. This is in addition to other significant green policy commitments from the Government including £3 billion to retrofit homes and make them more energy efficient.
As a customer service-based industry, the energy sector is focused on people and their needs. This means that many of the challenges in reaching net zero are going to be personal. Significant changes in behaviour will be asked of people and, if we fail to tackle climate change, the impact will be felt squarely by the customer.
One thing that must be achieved by both the Government and the energy sector is good engagement with customers. The benefits of reaching net zero should be explained clearly and creating incentives to encourage consumers to make changes should be implemented. It was suggested during the event ‘sexy’ technology such as electric vehicles should be utilised to drive consumer behaviour to take up more green practices.
Some attendees displayed concern that the UK is at risk of losing its leaders advantage of being at the forefront of clean energy production. With China recently announcing their intention of hitting net zero by 2060, the race to develop the critical technology – and in turn creating jobs and economic benefit – is on. For the UK to be successful in this area it needs around £20 billion a year in investment from the private sector. The general feeling from attendees is that an appetite for investment of this scale exists, but the private sector needs an atmosphere of certainty to be created by the Government through serious commitment to projects and policies.
There was some discussion on the impact that COVID-19 has had one the advancement of green policies. On one hand, it has proved that citizens are capable of making huge socially responsible behavioural changes. The pandemic has also created conditions where economic recovery and climate change are right at the top of the policy agenda, meaning the Government is able to combine the two issues. However, the virus has made some people scared of using public transport as they fear transmission. This could lead to rise in emissions as people feel safer travelling around in their cars.
Looking forward, there are some key questions that must be considered as the UK looks to recover from the pandemic, tackle climate change and fulfil its levelling up agenda: