COVID-19 made 2020 an incredibly difficult year, with tragic loss of life and the upheaval of livelihoods. It made even clearer we are inherently dependent on a thriving natural world.
This connection undoubtedly means our COVID-19 recovery should be underpinned by dual environmental and economic objectives. This has been exemplified by efforts such as the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. This plan increased ambition in a range of sectors – for example, through aims to ‘green’ our buildings and transport, bolster offshore wind capacity, and invest in carbon capture.
In December, the UK ratcheted up its climate mitigation ambition – to at least a 68% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2030, from 1990 levels. We also saw encouraging signs internationally with major economies, such as China and Japan, following the UK with their own ‘Net Zero’ pledges.
In 2021, we look forward to the UN climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow. This will be a vital moment for the UK to demonstrate leadership – to facilitate collaboration, enhance global ambition, finalise the Paris Agreement ‘rulebook’, and accelerate the implementation of pledges across climate mitigation, adaption, and finance.
On biodiversity and nature, we await the final review of the economics of biodiversity, which will inform how we better manage and sustain our crucial natural assets. This will come ahead of the UN biodiversity conference, COP15, which will agree on a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, in Kunming, China.
Net Zero Review
Domestically we await publications such as HM Treasury’s Net Zero Review, which will consider how to equitably fund the transition, and will sit alongside BEIS’s commitment to publish a comprehensive Net Zero Strategy. In HM Treasury’s interim review, it was pleasing to see the narrative underline Net Zero as something “essential for long term prosperity.” These reports sit within the context of the recent Climate Change Committee’s Carbon Budget assessment. They found that the cost of Net Zero is lower than previously estimated, now at <1% of GDP annually for the next 30 years.
We also look forward to the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which builds on other notable sectoral publications in 2020, such as the Energy White Paper. 2021 also sees the creation of the Office for Environmental Protection, the new independent environment watchdog.