We urgently need to make substantial investment to insulate the nation’s homes, upgrade our public transport network and plant trees and restore nature.
The government should invest urgently in a jobs-led recovery focused on helping the UK meet its targets for improving air quality, lowering carbon-dioxide emissions and restoring nature, according to a new report by IPPR.
The think tank warns today that the investment promised so far by the prime minister falls well short of what’s needed. Greater investment in a green recovery and clean, low-carbon jobs – including a nationwide drive to insulate homes and prepare for new low-carbon heating - could create 1.6 million new jobs, IPPR calculates.
That makes it the most effective route out of the post-Covid economic crisis, the think tank says.
Such a move would attract strong public support, according to new UK-wide polling of more than 2,000 adults by Savanta ComRes for IPPR.
When asked about priorities for investment, three in four UK adults (74 per cent) agree that the government should spend more on action which will address climate change and protect the environment. There is similar support for low-cost loans or grants to households to support the installation of home insulation, with 76 per cent backing the idea.
Carbon-intensive investments received the least support of all options polled, with just one person in 10 wanting the government to prioritise extending the fuel duty tax cut (11 percent), building roads (10 percent) or providing financial bailouts to airlines (7 percent).
Economists at IPPR examined a range of low-carbon jobs and industries that could help kick-start the economy as it recovers from the impact of the Covid crisis. Without government intervention, they found, unemployment could rise by more than 2.1 million to almost 10 percent of the workforce. But “clean recovery” investment could generate about three quarters of these.
The IPPR report, Transforming the Economy after Covid-19: A clean, fair and resilient recovery, comes as the chancellor prepares to announce plans to support the economy as the jobs furlough scheme unwinds. It sets out detail of the investments needed and highlights how this can also support efforts at “levelling up” to address inequalities between nations and regions.
These include railway construction projects, with greatest jobs impact in the North West, the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber; and investment in low emission housing, with notably high impact in Scotland, the North West and the South East (outside London).
Carsten Jung, IPPR senior economist and co-author of the report, said: “The Covid crisis is an unprecedented disruption of the labour market. Even as the economy reopens, many furloughed workers might not be able to return to their old jobs. Concerted investment by the government, businesses and households can generate employment in new future-proof sectors.
“Now is the right time to invest in and drive a sustainable recovery. Borrowing costs are currently so low that even doubling the government’s debt would mean paying less to service it than at almost any time since 1950. And with many workers and businesses having spare capacity, shoring up demand now will also benefit the long-term health of the economy.”
Luke Murphy, IPPR associate director who leads its work on the environment, said: “Our report finds that clean recovery investments are good for jobs and good for the environment - and what’s more, the public agree.
“We urgently need to make substantial investment to insulate the nation’s homes, upgrade our public transport network and plant trees and restore nature. We can’t afford to wait for this: now is the time. These measures would not only create 1.6 million much-needed jobs, they’re popular with the public.
“If the Prime Minister really wants to emulate Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ then the government must significantly increase investment beyond what has been promised so far.”
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from the IPPR.
Image: EE Image Database, Flickr.