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Prime Minister's speech is an important first step in recovering from COVID-19

30th June 2020

Following the Prime Minister’s economic recovery speech, Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “The Prime Minister’s speech today is an important first step. It demonstrates his vision to build back better and tackle some of the UK’s unresolved challenges as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Welcome announcements include investments of £900m for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, as well as the Prime Minister’s commitment to reforest Britain by planting over 75,000 acres of trees every year by 2025."
Nick Molho added: “The Prime Minister’s speech rightly identifies the importance of ‘building back greener’ but this has to be rapidly backed up by support for shovel ready projects and policy decisions that are aligned with the UK’s climate, environmental and clean growth goals. This means focusing public investment and policy measures in areas such as nature restoration, energy efficiency, clean transport, industrial decarbonisation, and skills [1]. Such an approach is not just needed to meet the UK’s environmental ambitions, but it is also essential to ensure that the UK’s recovery plan can address key public interest concerns around unemployment, regional inequality and resilience.”


[1] The Aldersgate Group will soon be releasing a commissioned report, authored by economists at the London School of Economics on what a successful recovery plan should look like and the role of environmental and climate considerations within that.


It is now or never for the UK’s climate targets and clean growth

25th June 2020

Reacting to the Committee on Climate Change’s Progress Report out today, Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “It’s crystal clear from today’s report that actions taken this year and during this parliamentary term will have a decisive impact on whether the UK can meet its net zero target, build a competitive low carbon economy and successfully recover from the COVID-19 crisis [1]. Businesses need this to be a priority for the whole of government, with the Prime Minister leading a two-pronged approach to this challenge.

First, new regulations and fiscal incentives must urgently be introduced to accelerate emission cuts in areas where solutions are well known, such as in buildings and surface transport. Second, the Government must adopt a ‘learning by doing’ approach and put in place a truly ambitious innovation policy that accelerates the development of critical technologies to drive down emissions in more complex sectors like heavy industry.”

Nick Molho added: “The CCC hits the nail on the head today by highlighting the central importance of restoring the natural environment to help the UK adapt to climate change and deliver much needed negative emissions to get to net zero. It is absolutely vital that the work being done to drive more investment in the natural environment as part of the Agriculture and Environment Bills is accelerated and made fully consistent with delivering the UK’s climate targets.”  


[1] On 12 June 2020, the Aldersgate Group launched a policy briefing, Seize the moment: building a thriving, inclusive and resilient economy in the aftermath of COVID-19, setting out a wide range of environmental and low carbon projects that could support a successful economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis whilst also delivering the UK’s climate and environmental goals

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UK trade policy must be aligned with environmental and climate goals

24th June 2020

In its latest briefing out today, Aligning the UK’s trade policy with its climate and environmental goals, the Aldersgate Group calls on the UK government to ensure its upcoming trade agreements are supportive of the UK’s environmental and climate ambitions. The Group argues that putting environmental and climate considerations at the heart of trade deals will strengthen the competitiveness of UK businesses, protect the UK’s right to regulate to achieve its domestic targets and strengthen the UK’s international standing through the promotion of high environmental standards and best practice on the world stage. 
With the UK legally committed to achieve net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, a landmark Environment Bill nearing completion and growing business support calling for a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis [1], today’s briefing sets out key policy recommendations to help maximise opportunities and minimise potential risks from upcoming trade agreements.
Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “Free trade agreements could strengthen the UK’s competitive advantage in the growing global market for low carbon goods and services [2] and increase the UK’s international standing by promoting high environmental standards and global climate co-operation. But without the right provisions, these agreements could make it harder for the UK to achieve its domestic targets and could create an uneven playing field for British businesses forced to compete with imports abiding by lower climate and environmental standards.”
To maximise opportunities, today’s briefing argues that future trade agreements should include enforceable environmental provisions, such as a reciprocal commitment between trading partners to deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. It calls on the Trade Bill to provide for robust parliamentary and stakeholder scrutiny of the environmental impacts of free trade agreements and encourages the government to prioritise the removal of barriers and lowering of tariffs for trade in low carbon goods and services.
To minimise risks, the Group argues that the UK’s right to regulate should be clearly enshrined in future trade deals and that the government should avoid agreeing to any kind of dispute settlement or regulatory co-operation mechanisms that could impose restrictions on its ability to introduce new climate and environmental policies in the future. In parallel with its trade policy, the briefing also calls on the government to put in place ambitious domestic policies such as product standards to grow the market for low carbon goods and services and require all businesses active on the UK market to comply with the same standards.
Nick Molho added: “Existing free trade agreements have paid insufficient attention to environmental and climate considerations, with environmental terms often playing second fiddle to economic terms. With the business community strongly behind the UK’s environmental and climate ambitions, the Global Britain agenda should be about creating a first of a kind trade policy that puts environmental and clean growth considerations at the heart of future trade deals.”

Alan Tinline, Head of Environment at ABP, said: “ABP welcomes this briefing setting out how the UK can develop an ambitious trade policy which grows trade and enhances environmental standards. As the UK’s leading port owner and operator, ABP is committed to working with government and industry partners to build sustainable supply chains for UK businesses. An ambitious trade policy can further boost UK exports in low carbon technologies, goods and services, helping to achieve shared objectives on decarbonisation, sustainable trade growth and economic rebalancing.”

Shaun Spiers, Executive Director of Green Alliance, said: “If the government is to become a true global leader on climate action, it must use the current opportunity to promote a net zero trade policy. This will benefit both business and the environment. It will be much easier to achieve if the UK gives top priority, in the coming months, to forging a close future environmental partnership with the EU.”

Nick Blyth, Policy Lead at IEMA, said: “There are internationally some concerns around ‘barriers to trade’ and the notion that additional carbon accounting requirements (for example on products) could economically disadvantage some countries. However, at the same time, carbon itself is a growing global commodity, its trade recognised as having a role in implementing the Paris Agreement and in transitions to net-zero. Trade deals and governments must all factor in and support this developing market and address concerns around leakage, competitiveness, and offshored emissions.”

Mike Cole, Head of Public Affairs UK & ROI at Michelin, said: “In this post Brexit new world, the UK will forge new trading relationships with its longstanding partners. It is absolutely vital, however, that no compromise is made on the exacting environmental standards on which the UK is at the forefront. Indeed, the UK will have the opportunity to leverage its excellence and expertise in the low carbon field to grow and expand the sector both at home and abroad. To that end, ensuring a level environmental playing field at the highest possible level will be absolutely crucial.”

Nick Shenken, partner at TLT LLP, said: “As we move towards net zero there’s a real opportunity for the UK to develop a green economy, and aligning the UK’s trade and climate policy would provide a strong foundation from which to shape this future. It would also allow the UK to foster green supply chains which in turn will boost economic recovery, provide jobs in sectors such as clean energy, and allow the UK to take advantage, both at home and via future exports, of the growing market for low carbon goods and services. Key to the latter however will be a joined up government approach so that DIT have clear forward visibility on UK energy policy and are well positioned to negotiate trade agreements that promote trade in those low carbon goods and services on a level playing field.”

Nick Shenken, partner at TLT LLP, added: “Just as importantly, there’s an opportunity for the UK to use FTA negotiations as a method by which to show international leadership in the context of climate change generally – if more detailed, enforceable provisions can be negotiated which incentivise our trading partners to promote similar environmental standards (and not allow those standards to regress), this will maximise the impact that the UK has.”

[1] On 1 June 2020, around 200 business leaders – including several Aldersgate Group business members - wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and called for an economic recovery plan aligned with the UK’s net zero target and other environmental goals. More information is available here
[2] It is estimated that the global market for low carbon goods and services could grow to around £1trillion a year by 2030:

Low carbon projects are a key solution to jobs, inequality and resilience concerns

12th June 2020

Today, the Aldersgate Group launches a new policy briefing, Seize the moment: building a thriving, inclusive and resilient economy in the aftermath of COVID-19, showcasing a wide range of low carbon and environmental projects that could address some of the key economic and social challenges facing the UK following the COVID-19 crisis. From energy efficiency and charging infrastructure investments to hydrogen trials, green tech and wetland restoration projects, today’s briefing argues that low carbon and nature restoration projects can deliver key benefits in terms of employment, greater regional equality, long-term competitiveness and resilience. 

The briefing contains a wide range of case studies from Aldersgate Group members including Anglian Water, BT, Johnson Matthey, Legal and General Investment Management, National Grid, Scottish Power, Tesco, TLT LLP, Triodos Bank and the RSPB [1]. It follows a recent letter sent by over 200 business leaders to the Prime Minister calling for an economic recovery aligned with the UK’s climate and environmental goals [2] and recommends key policies to deliver these types of projects on the ground.

Reacting to the publication of the briefing, Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “There has rarely been a time when the economic, social and environmental agendas have been so closely aligned. It is clear from the case studies in our report that incentivising low carbon and nature restoration projects as part of the UK’s recovery plan could do much to tackle economic and social concerns around jobs, regional inequality, long-term competitiveness and resilience.”

Today’s policy briefing argues that an economic recovery focused on stimulating low carbon and nature restoration projects could deliver key benefits, including:

  • Addressing regional inequality and unemployment;
  • Strengthening the UK’s economic competitiveness and productivity through investment in the sectors and technologies of the future;
  • Delivering critical public goods, including clean air, better health and improved resilience to future environmental shocks;
  • Building a more resilient financial system fit to withstand future climate shocks;
  • Delivering the Global Britain agenda by strengthening the UK government’s influence ahead of the G7 and COP26 summits that it will be hosting in 2021 and enabling UK businesses to be competitive providers of low carbon goods and services.

Nick Molho added: “Putting an ambitious environmental and climate agenda at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery need not be overly reliant on public money. Targeted public investment will be important to support early stage innovation in areas such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage but a lot of the heavy lifting can be done through the introduction of clear public policy signals to attract private sector investment in areas such as energy efficiency, charging infrastructure and natural capital projects.”

Peter Simpson, Chief Executive, Anglian Water, said: “The need for economic recovery from COVID-19 in the face of the ever more pressing climate emergency presents business leaders not just with an opportunity to create a fairer, more sustainable future, but a responsibility to do so. I believe we can recover from this pandemic in a way that brings economic, environmental and social prosperity. We stand ready to work with government and our communities on a resilient, low carbon future that leaves nobody behind.”

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer at BT, said: “As we emerge from the crisis caused by COVID-19, government, businesses and policymakers must put action on climate at the heart of their efforts to revive the economy. BT is stepping up on climate action by backing new green technologies through our Green Tech Innovation Platform and by investing in the UK’s digital infrastructure. We want to encourage and help others to do the same - creating a more sustainable, resilient, low carbon economy.”

Martin Casey, Director Public Affairs Europe at CEMEX, said: “Aligning the economic recovery package with the UK’s net zero emissions goal presents great opportunities for CEMEX. Reducing emissions is not limited to our production process but to the whole life cycle of our products and we have committed globally to reach net zero concrete by 2050. We are committed to continue reducing our direct and indirect emissions in our processes, both through the maximization of the traditional CO2 reduction levers and through implementing Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) and other carbon innovative technologies. Our aim is to enable the development of climate-smart urban projects, sustainable buildings and climate resilient infrastructures. Setting a clear policy direction for restarting the economy will enable the private sector to play its part in the recovery in a way that advances our climate and environmental goals.”

Steve Andrews, CEO at Earthwatch Europe, said: “It is heartening to see so many organisations calling on Government to ensure a fairer, greener recovery post-COVID-19.  Let’s hope they’re listening.  If COVID-19 and lockdown have taught us anything, it is the need to take science seriously and for Government to focus now, with urgency, on threats that seem beyond the electoral cycle.” 

Andy Walker, Technical Marketing Director at Johnson Matthey, said: “As this policy briefing outlines, the government has a “historic opportunity” to accelerate the transition to a low carbon and environmentally resilient economy as it develops and implements its strategy to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.  Since the Climate Change Act was passed, the UK has successfully demonstrated that economic growth can go hand in hand with emissions reductions, further supporting the widely held view that measures which cut greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate the economy can be extremely effective in supporting jobs and economic growth.  This “Build Back Better” approach has the additional benefit of putting the UK on track to deliver our 2050 net zero commitments, strengthening our leadership and influence at the upcoming COP26 and G7 summits, as well as generating lasting social, competitiveness and resilience benefits.”

Alexander Burr, Global ESG Public Policy Analyst at Legal and General Investment Management, said: “The UK government is faced with a unique opportunity to show that we are not returning to ‘business as usual’ through a recovery package that accelerates green economic growth. Over recent weeks, businesses and investors have been pledging their willingness and support for this agenda. The government should build on this foundation, bringing forward mandatory climate reporting and broadening its reach. Investors like LGIM need greater transparency and comparability from companies on their climate-related risks and opportunities, to direct capital into ‘green’ projects at scale. As we have seen lately, there is such a thing as being too late – it is time to act now!”

Keith Anderson, CEO of Scottish Power said: “There is now a compelling case for accelerating investment in a cleaner, greener society to deliver positive outcomes for both the economy and the environment. Positive outcomes that will benefit all of us thanks to cleaner power, cleaner home heating and cleaner transport. We must make our recovery green – delivering the much-needed jobs and investment that will get people, businesses, towns and cities back on their feet while cleaning up the environment and decarbonising the economy. The government cannot let this moment pass the country by.”

He added: “We’re proud to be at the forefront of developing green infrastructure projects that will do just that. For example, partnering with Scottish Government and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks to support the shift to electric vehicles in a way that will ensure fair and equal access for all. Developments like this will be a real game-changer in moving us closer to net zero – as well as supporting the economy – and that’s why the two can, and must, go hand in hand. Only by doing that can we all achieve a cleaner and greener future – a better future – quicker.”

Maria Connolly, Head of Clean Energy & Real Estate at TLT LLP, said: “The positive impact that the last few months have had on the environment means that as we’re looking forward the question that’s being asked is, could a green recovery bolster the economy and accelerate our drive towards net zero by emphasising sustainable business practices and modern green industry over more traditional carbon intensive sectors? An economic recovery which places an ambitious environmental and climate agenda at its core would, without a doubt, also refocus growth, policy development and funding. While the backing of the financial sector is need to achieve this vision, for many banks and funders clean energy assets are still viewed as a stable investment, and if you consider the upscale in clean energy generation – an estimated 90GW of wind energy, 80GW of solar power and 30GW of energy storage - that will be required to achieve net zero then this represents an exciting opportunity to drive economic growth by creating jobs and developing local supply chains based on clean energy.”

Bevis Watts, CEO of Triodos Bank UK, said: “We now have a window of opportunity, as we seek to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus crisis. A recovery should seek to increase resilience across all areas of society and focus on shaping a more inclusive and low carbon economy. Triodos has always been a pioneer in sustainable finance – most recently we have been looking at linking the economic and societal benefits we take for granted from nature to real investment in its restoration. We need collaborative action to develop an economy linked to societal health and environmental limits and require a financial sector that proactively looks for solutions to achieve that. Simply a move to avoiding harm is not enough.”

Julia Barrett, Chief Sustainability Officer at Willmott Dixon, said: “We welcome this briefing from the Aldersgate Group, and believe that putting an ambitious environmental and climate agenda at the heart of the recovery will ensure that the UK economy is more competitive in the long-term whilst being more resilient to future risks. We believe that by investing in a nationwide retrofit programme supported by clear policy signals, government could deliver rapid localised job creation, whilst addressing the social inequalities associated with fuel poverty and poor health associated with living in cold homes. This is an essential step on our journey to net zero emissions as 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 are here now.”

Darren Moorcroft, CEO of the Woodland Trust, said: “A resilient economy and society require a resilient environment. This welcome work by the Aldersgate Group shows how vital it is that we seize this moment and ensure that actions to reboot the economy set us firmly on the road to net zero and show world leading ambition when it comes to restoring our natural environment.  Protecting, restoring and expanding native tree cover – with all the social, economic and environmental benefits that will bring - belongs at the heart of any ‘green recovery’ worthy of the name. The Woodland Trust has a powerful record of delivery and stands ready to play its part - working alongside business, government and our NGO partners to help transform our nation into a better place for people and wildlife.”


[1] The briefing provides an overview of a wide range of case studies and projects from Anglian Water, BT, Johnson Matthey, National Grid, Scottish Power, the Teeside Collective, Tesco, TLT LLP, Triodos, Legal and General Investment Management and the RSPB. This briefing will soon be followed by in-depth economic analysis from the London School of Economics commissioned by the Aldersgate Group, setting out what should be the key pillars of the UK’s economic recovery plan.

[2] On 1 June 2020, around 200 business leaders – including several Aldersgate Group business members - wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and called for an economic recovery plan aligned with the UK’s net zero target and other environmental goals. More information is available here.