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Sustainable Business 2020

Combining COVID-19 recovery with a greener economy

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James Diggle

Head of Energy & Climate Change Policy, Confederation of British Industry

Recovery plans from the coronavirus pandemic offer a chance to move more quickly towards a green and sustainable economy. We now need to look at how to achieve it.

The UK needs to transform to a green, sustainable economy fast. “The post-COVID-19 recovery plans are an opportunity to accelerate that,” says James Diggle, Head of Energy & Climate Change at the CBI.

“Enabling green investment to make rapid progress towards net-zero emissions – but at the same time delivering sustainable jobs – must be central to the Government’s recovery plans,” he says.

Prioritising public spending and policy on low-carbon programmes that deliver short-term economic and social benefits will lay the foundations for a resilient, net-zero economy.

The CBI has put together a number of proposals to achieve this:

Creating a low-carbon power system

Low-carbon electricity is achievable by 2030. It should come from a mix of low-carbon nuclear and renewables such as solar and on- and offshore windfarms. The Prime Minister’s new ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ is an important step, but more progress is needed, particularly in nuclear.

With the help of the private sector, the Government must deliver on existing fiscal policy to leverage investment and cut emissions. For instance, by building on the success of the Contract for Difference auctioning programme in delivering low-cost renewable power generation. “These auctions will drive down the cost of renewables, and we must remove limits on the amount of low-cost power that these can deliver.” says Diggle.

Enabling green investment to make rapid progress towards net-zero emissions – but at the same time delivering sustainable jobs – must be central to the Government’s recovery plans.


The Government has just set a 2030 as the date when no new petrol and diesel cars can be sold. Electric cars now account for 5% of new car sales, up from 1% a year ago, but stronger incentives are needed to accelerate this progress. Government and local authorities must work together to boost the charging infrastructure, including on-street charging, as 40% of people do not have access to easy charging at home.

Energy efficient homes

The Government’s Green Homes Grant helps, but more incentives are required to boost retrofitting with energy efficiency measures, and technology such as heat pumps and in the future, hydrogen boilers in some areas.

Decarbonising aviation

The aviation industry needs government help to develop new low-carbon fuels, which the UK could help pioneer.

Investment in new technologies

The Government must continue its commitment to technologies such as carbon capture and hydrogen.

“Delivering the £1 billion now promised for carbon capture will significantly boost regional growth in areas of the country where these sectors are based,” says Diggle. “This will bring employment opportunities and ensure long-term certainty to sectors which as a result of COVID-19 are facing severe economic challenges.”

Smarter regulation, clear policies

Diggle says: “All of these policies will deliver more jobs as well as a more sustainable and greener economy, but clearer regulation and policies are needed to ensure this.” The CBI backs the overall UK Government net-zero ambition by 2050.

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