The fourth in our series of National Policy Forum submissions considered the natural environment. Our Secretary Tom Tunney submitted it on 29 July 2020, after consulting with his friends and networks with knowledge and expertise. It follows Education after Coronavirus, Health and Social Care after Coronavirus, and our member Liz Bell’s personal submission.

Thanks to Tom and all the contributors!

What environmental conditions should be attached to government support for business during and after the coronavirus crisis?

Any financial rescue packages should only be granted to companies which align to the 1.5-degree commitment in the Paris Climate Agreement which the UK government has also aligned to be targeting net-zero by 2050.  Rescue packages must be a phased package over 5 years with an annual amount being released if demonstrated emission reductions can aligned with the Paris goal.  The workforce should be as local as possible and incentivised to use public transport, walking or cycling instead of commuting by car.   Whilst the cycle-to-work scheme is good it is still out of reach of some of the lowest earners.

Tom Tunney, Newbury CLP Secretary
Tom Tunney, Newbury CLP Secretary

How can national, devolved and local government most effectively redeploy workers to “shovel-ready” green infrastructure projects such as renewables construction, nature conservation and home insulation?

Manual workers from existing industries could be redeployed via an incentivised mid-career fast-tracked apprenticeship scheme with a government financial award at the completion of the apprenticeship. This also is dependent on the local government funding to be able to manage this recruitment.  Local government and LEA should have to meet recycling and net zero requirements, education of our children is an essential part of this.  Local and national governments should be held to account on their manifesto pledges and targets should be enshrined in law so that they cannot u-turn.  Local business should be subject to insulation targets as large commercial properties are often very energy inefficient.

Solar power
Solar power

What economic reforms and fiscal incentives should the government introduce to ensure that the post-crisis economy is a sustainable one?

It is clear that having GDP as the only measure of quality of life in a developed country is not helpful for wealth equality or for preventing the over-reach of unnecessary human consumption.

We should end all UK public subsidies for fossil fuels, we should require all companies by law to ensure supply chains meet the Paris emission reduction targets, we should ensure all our homes are energy efficient by 2030 by launching a nationwide insulation programme thus providing jobs, reducing our energy use and protecting the vulnerable from ill health over winter when there is a high likelihood of a second Covid-19 peak.

There should be penalties for companies that use non-processable single use plastics and rewards for the promotion of re-useable containers particularly in supermarkets.  This should include removing the premium prices that you have to pay for loose fruit and vegetables over pre-packaged produce.  Encouraging town markets and free town centre parking would encourage consumers away from big supermarkets and promote local economies.

What new environmental protections should we be pushing for post-Brexit?

We should ensure that air quality limits and emission reductions in line with the Paris targets are set in law. And we should guarantee in law that food imports through future trade deals don’t undermine environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards.  This could also be addressed by bringing manufacturing and production back into the country, this would have a secondary affect of not only reducing food miles but also providing jobs. The approach, given the decline of air travel throughout COVID, should be to focus on making methods of public transport such as rail and bus more affordable considering you can fly to New York for the price of some train tickets this need serious attention.

Local farmland in Newbury
Local farmland in Newbury

How can we promote greater sustainability in land use and farming practices?

Efforts should be made for farmers to diversify their crops and move away from intensive meat production.  Post Covid and Brexit farmers are going to struggle to staff their farms as it is not seen as a glamourous job.  If a work force can’t be encouraged perhaps we need to fund research into more  affordable automated picking processes that are not so labour intensive.  More allotment sites should be available to encourage community growing, open spaces and growing room should be a requirement of planning new developments.  Local green spaces and outdoor life are massively important to both physical and mental health.

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