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General Election 2019: next five years crucial to deliver climate and environmental goals

19th November 2019

Today the Aldersgate Group publishes its manifesto report, Time to deliver: building a competitive and inclusive green economy, setting out key priorities for the new government following the General Election. The report – which received significant input from business and civil society organisations – calls for the next government to deliver a step change in policy ambition to put the UK on a credible pathway to achieve net zero emissions and urgently reverse the decline in the state of the natural environment.

* This report will be debated at an Aldersgate Group General Election event on Wednesday 27 November at 6.15pm, hosted by BT, with senior representatives of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green parties [1] *

Policy decisions over the next five years will have a critical impact on whether the UK is on track to deliver its net zero target and broader environmental ambitions. They will also determine whether UK businesses can be placed in a competitive position as global efforts to cut emissions intensify. Growing public concern about climate and environmental issues has been matched by cross-economy business calls for more ambitious action, as demonstrated by a letter signed by over 130 businesses earlier this year calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to legislate for a net zero target [2].

The Aldersgate Group manifesto argues that tackling climate change and environmental degradation should therefore be a central priority for the new government and sit at the heart of the UK’s economic policy. The next five years should also be about accelerating innovation in low carbon technologies and business models, supporting the UK’s economic competitiveness during the net zero transition and driving job creation as industries evolve and new supply chains are created.

The Aldersgate Group manifesto calls for the next government to:

  1. Put the UK on a credible pathway to achieve net zero emissions, by publishing a targeted update of the Clean Growth Strategy well ahead of the COP26 climate summit. This should include new policies to drive rapid emission cuts in sectors such as buildings and road transport, complete the decarbonisation of the power sector and deliver large scale trials of critical technologies needed to decarbonise industry, long-distance transport and the provision of heat; 
  2. Facilitate a just transition for workers and communities across the UK, by developing a national low carbon skills strategy and ensuring industry, local public bodies and government work together to help attract low carbon investment in parts of the countries in need of economic regeneration;
  3. Pass an ambitious Environment Bill that not only safeguards environmental protections currently enshrined in EU law but also goes beyond the status quo. This should include setting ambitious and legally binding environmental improvement targets and establishing delivery policies covering key areas such as air, water, soils, peatland, biodiversity and resource efficiency. Such targets are important in their own right but also crucial to help the UK adapt to climate change and deliver net zero emissions;
  4. Radically improve the UK’s resource productivity by implementing the Resources and Waste Strategy. Priority actions include introducing detailed regulatory measures (such as product standards) and fiscal incentives (through extended producer responsibility schemes and tax rebates for resource efficient products) that drive greater resource efficiency and cut waste across the economy;
  5. Grow the flows of private finance into green infrastructure by strengthening the Green Finance Strategy in both detail and ambition. This should include introducing a mandatory requirement for businesses and investors to disclose their exposure to climate-related risks from the early 2020s in line with the “TCFD recommendations” [3]; 
  6. Increase global ambition on climate change by capitalising on the UK’s presidencies of the COP26 climate summit in 2020 and G7 in 2021. An ambitious diplomatic policy on climate change should be matched by a trade policy that encourages greater trade in low carbon goods and services and promotes high environmental standards in line with the UK’s domestic goals.

Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “This General Election is taking place at a crucial moment for the environment and the UK’s future competitiveness. Actions over the next five years will determine the UK’s ability to achieve its environmental targets and will also have a profound impact on whether UK businesses can become leading providers of the low carbon goods and services the world economy will increasingly demand.”

Nick Molho added: “The UK will be hosting the critical COP26 climate summit less than a year after the General Election. To be in a credible position to encourage international partners to increase their commitments on climate change, the next government will need to demonstrate that the UK has a comprehensive plan in place to deliver its own net zero target.”

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors, said: “With COP26 in Glasgow, the UK Government has the opportunity to confirm its global leadership in green finance and showcase to other countries what level of ambition and toolkit of policies and incentives are necessary to successfully deliver net zero.”

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT, said: “We support the UK’s net zero leadership and urge all political parties to prioritise investment in growing the green economy. BT was one of the first companies in the world to set a science-based target aligned to a 1.5 degree pathway, and we have a target to be a net zero emissions business by 2045. We hope the UK’s climate leadership will inspire other countries to take further climate action at the upcoming summits in Madrid and Glasgow.”

Martin Casey, Director Public Affairs Europe, Cemex, said: “Now that the UK has legislated for a Net-Zero target, it is incumbent on the new Government to put in place the right framework and policies that will enable both businesses and people to make the changes necessary. CEMEX supports the need for an ambitious new Environment Bill, that will deliver for the natural environment and ensure that all businesses live up to their legal and social obligations. We look forward to working with the new Government to achieve this whilst promoting business competitiveness.”

Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said: “This election offers parties the chance to show real leadership by going beyond headline strategic targets, and committing to specific policies and priorities that will deliver the UK’s ambitious environmental and climate change goals. In the run up to the UK’s role as host of COP26 – the 2020 international climate change negotiations – it is vital that the UK shows real progress in moving towards a cleaner, greener future that is fair for all.”

Andy Walker, Technical Marketing Director, Johnson Matthey, said: “Johnson Matthey supports all policies which will help the UK maintain its environmental leadership, as exemplified by the commitment to become a net zero economy by 2050. This is a challenging target but gives a great opportunity for the UK to develop and implement the technologies which will help the world move towards becoming a truly sustainable ecosystem.”  

Andy Walker added: “The UK’s role as host of COP26 in 2020 and the G7 in 2021 provides the stage to demonstrate our environmental commitment to the world, and to encourage other large emitters to take on net zero emissions targets and increase their pledges under the Paris Agreement. Johnson Matthey looks forward to working with the next government to help the UK, and the world, meet these ambitious climate targets, in a just and inclusive way.”

Chris Smith, Managing Director, Michelin Tyre PLC, said: “Michelin welcomes all policies which will help the UK attain its ambitious environmental goals and looks forward to working with the next government to help achieve them. In particular, Michelin is determined to support all initiatives promoting resource efficiency and transport decarbonisation and will give its full backing to COP26 in Glasgow where stock will be taken of the COP21 commitments and CO2 targets will be re-evaluated.” 

Stefano Agostini, CEO, Nestlé UK & Ireland, said: “The Aldersgate Group’s Manifesto provides a clear and coherent set of recommendations for the UK to take action in moving to a green economy. Such actions will be vital in order to meet the commitment the UK has made to achieving a zero carbon economy by 2050. As a company who has made the same commitment to zero net emissions by 2050, we welcome and support policy leadership for a greener future.”

Matthew Wright, Managing Director, Ørsted UK, said: “This is a thoughtful manifesto that reminds us of the huge economic opportunity for UK businesses that awaits if Government sets the right framework for clean growth in the UK. Tackling climate change is the defining challenge of our time, but with the right ambition, and with Government and business working together, the energy transition we need is achievable.” 

Dr Adam Read, External Affairs Director, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: “Over the past two years, Defra has made great strides towards delivering radical policy reform, which will fundamentally change the way products and packaging are produced, and how post-consumer waste is treated, which in turn will drive greater resource-efficiency and reduce waste across the economy. Legislation outlined in the ambitious Environment Bill will enable future Governments to implement Defra’s new strategy, which was developed in close consultation with industries across the circular economy.”

Dr Adam Read added: “It is essential that this programme continues apace regardless of the complexion of Parliament after the General Election. The UK looks sure to miss its EU-imposed recycling target of fifty per cent by 2020, so any post-Brexit Parliament will need to pick up the mantle quickly, if we are to achieve a more sustainable economy and avoid falling behind our European neighbours.”

Bevis Watts, CEO, Triodos Bank UK, said: “We have no time to lose. A climate and environmental emergency calls for immediate action and a radical transformation of the economy. This requires a well-designed overarching transition strategy, steered by government and with participation of all stakeholders in society. The banking sector must also play its part. The Aldersgate Group manifesto provides clear steps to take the UK in the right direction and the next government should have the courage to act accordingly.”

Abi Bunker, Director of Conservation and External Affairs, Woodland Trust, said: “Let’s not shy away from the truth. It will be a challenge, it will cost money, it will mean tough choices, but the human race is at a crossroads for our environmental future. If we are serious about tackling the climate and nature crisis we have to act, that’s the reality we live in, tough choices, big challenge, but we can all rise to meet it head on.”

David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability, WSP, said: “Delivering a resilient, net zero, sustainable economy is vital for the UK’s future prosperity and productivity. Hosting the UN Climate Summit in 2020 provides a watershed moment for the UK to show it can lead on delivery as well as targets setting. All parties should commit to delivering fast action to decarbonise the UK’s economy, pass a strong Environment Bill and maintain high environmental standards to ensure we stay on track to deliver on the UK’s 2050 net zero target, in an inclusive and just way.”

—ENDS—

[1] The report will be debated at an Aldersgate Group General Election event hosted by BT on the evening of 27 November, with senior representatives of the Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrats parties. You can register here: http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/events/general-election-2019-putting-the-uk-on-track-for-net-zero-emissions-and-a-healthier-environment

[2] More than 130 leading businesses urge UK government to legislate for 2050 net zero emissions economy, Aldersgate Group Press Release (31 May 2019): http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/latest#more-than-120-leading-businesses-urge-uk-government-to-legislate-for-2050-net-zero-economy

[3] The Financial Stability Board’s industry-led Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure published its recommendations (the TCFDs) on how consistent climate-related financial disclosures can lead to better pricing and assessment of climate-related risks and more effective measures to mitigate the impact of climate change on businesses and investors. On 9 October 2019, the Aldersgate Group published its latest policy briefing on why mandatory climate disclosure in line with the TCFDs is essential to get to net zero emissions: http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/latest#mandatory-climate-risk-disclosure-essential-to-get-to-net-zero