The UK’s net-zero transition can be the perfect remedy to the economic and health crises caused by the coronavirus, according to a new WWF-commissioned report that suggests that net-zero could deliver more than £90bn in annual benefits to the UK while growing the job market.
The new report commissioned by WWF and produced by Vivid Economics, suggests that the UK can unlock up to £90bn in annual benefits by spurring a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic by focusing on the net-zero transition.
During the first three months of 2020, the UK has experienced its sharpest economic collapse since the peak of the financial crisis. Calls for a green recovery remain persistent, with health officials and business leaders repeatedly calling for a focus on low-carbon solutions and stimulants.
The new report published today (3 June) suggests that a green recovery could push the UK towards its net-zero target while boosting job prospects, contributing to the economy and improving public health.
Notably, the report shows that transitioning to net-zero could create at least 210,000 jobs by 2030 and 351,000 by 2050 in sectors such as the built environment, electric vehicles (EVs) and power generation. Green buildings could support around 85,000 jobs by 2030 and heating and cooling systems set to add 7,000 jobs. Elsewhere, EVs would support around 11,000 jobs by 2030 while the expected rapid growth in battery and charging technologies could support an additional 5,500 jobs.
The report builds on Government pledges to “build back batter” and deliver a green recovery from the coronavirus, with COP26 President Alok Sharma and Prime Minister Boris Johnson both publicly reiterating the need for a green recovery.
The Government has also committed to increasing offshore wind capacity to 40GW by 2030, and the report suggests that this would create 28,000 jobs.
More than £80bn of annual co-benefits can be captured, the report notes. Benefits include improved health from more active forms of travel and better-quality green spaces. Improved air quality is listed as the most valuable co-benefit. However, the report notes the need for carefully crafted policy to help maximise economic and societal benefits to reaching net-zero.
In response, WWF is calling on the Government to introduce a net-zero economic test that ensures that government spending and taxation is aligned towards the 2050 target.
Businesses can also reap opportunities from the transition. According to the report, £50bn in benefits can be unlocked by the private sector annually. Exporting low-carbon goods and services is seen as the best opportunity for UK businesses, many of which have echoed calls for a green recovery.
WWF’s climate change specialist Isabella O’Dowd said: “Our future shouldn’t cost the earth, and it doesn’t have to. This report proves that investing in a green recovery is the only way forward –the economic benefits will far outweigh the costs. By investing in a future where we halt our contributions to the climate crisis, the UK could support at least 210,000 green jobs across the country by 2030, and bring benefits of £90bn a year to the economy.
“The pandemic has shown we need to build resilience to future crises, and we need to prepare ourselves and our economy for the big climate challenges ahead. The government must adopt a test to ensure any recovery package helps meet our commitments to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050. We have the chance to lead a global charge to protect both the planet and our economy, and we must take it.”
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