In early 2020, the Environmental Audit Committee held a session on the environmental implications of the Covid-19 crisis.
Witnesses at the first session stressed the importance of aligning the post-crisis recovery stimulus with the UK’s goals on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development.
The Committee since agreed to launch an inquiry looking into this.
Economic impact and policy response
The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a global macroeconomic shock unprecedented in peacetime.
According to Jonathan Athow, Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics, "April’s fall in GDP is the biggest the UK has ever seen, more than three times larger than last month and almost ten times larger than the steepest pre-covid-19 fall. In April the economy was around 25% smaller than in February."
UK Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 10.4% in the three months from February to A
In October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel of the world's leading climate scientists, warned that time is running out for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C. Beyond 1.5C, even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
In her evidence, Christiana Figueres( Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010-2016) explained that economic stimulus and rescue packages:
"will determine the characteristics of national economies and of the global economy for several decades. It is exactly this decade, between 2020 and 2030, where climate science has been lucidly clear that we need to halve our emissions, reduce to 50% the emissions that we have right now."
The Environmental Audit Committee then called for evidence regarding how the post-pandemic recovery can be aligned with the UK’s climate and environment goals and the role that the UK can play in driving a green recovery internationally.
So we decided to respond.
At Clear Public Space, a guiding light of our Environmental Impact Review (EIR) is our dedication to environmental transformation through transparency.
This is where we found a lacuna in the Government's response to greening the post-Covid recovery.
The crux of our submission was this:
The Government should make its green recovery commitments quantifiable,
rather than aphoristic proclamations.
Sustainability targets for the public, private and third sector must involve:
2) key performance indicators (KPIs)
to promote sustainable and positive green growth, whilst mitigating greenwashing.
How Environmental Reporting will help to 'Green' the Post-Covid Recovery
According to the recent SDG Report 2020, although the amount of companies publishing environmental reporting has increased, many omit aspects critical to sufficient environmental reporting such as waste generation and water use.
Similarly, the International Institute for Sustainable Development stated that ‘private sector reports often vary widely on the types of goals and indicators disclosed, even in the same industry. Public sector reporting is so mixed that it is often difficult to predict what the report will contain prior to opening it’.
The disjointed and wildly varying nature of environmental reporting has led to a lack of integrated thinking in corporate environmental strategy. Such an approach simply cannot provide the Government with the data or knowledge from which we can move forward with a green economy.
The only way to ensure we ‘build back better’ as a green economy and mitigate greenwashing is to standardise environmental reporting and use these environmental metrics in tracking economic growth.
As Michael R. Bloomberg, chair of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, said, “Increasing transparency makes markets more efficient and economies more stable and resilient.”
Our evidence is currently still being processed, however, we are committed to ensuring the Government is held accountable for ensuring a green post-Covid recovery. Without such steps, our road to Net-zero will be impossible to traverse.