Government told to face climate challenge with same urgency as Covid-19

Experts have called on the government to catalyse green innovation and roll out climate change solutions with the same focus and urgency as developing Covid-19 vaccines.

On 12 January, business, academic and civil society leaders wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister, noting that innovation to deliver Covid vaccines had unfolded at an “unprecedented pace”, highlighting the role of both public and private actors in boosting innovation. Noting the UK’s strong track record in offshore wind showing some parallels, the leaders called for these successes to be mirrored across the economy with a new programme to revolutionise the government’s approach to green innovation.

The letter drew on the recommendations of the Green Innovation Policy Commission (GIPC) which published a report the same day. While the UK performs strongly in general when it comes to research and innovation, it is lagging behind when it comes to green innovation, something that can be rectified through a green recovery.

To do this, government must create demand, with recommended actions including a strengthened carbon price to foster and reward green innovation and lowering VAT on green products and services. As well as demand, investment must rise, with the report calling for the establishment of a National Green Investment Fund through the new National Infrastructure Bank, providing patient, long-term finance for green innovation.

Elsewhere, it called on government to “change the rules of the game” through progressive, performance-based regulation; to support cross-sectoral innovation collaboration and experimentation; establish a Green Innovation and Sustainability Transformation Council and to produce a Green Innovation Policy Roadmap. It also urged businesses to step up and play a stronger role in the transition by embedding sustainability in their corporate culture and adopting net zero commitments and delivery plans.