The past few months have highlighted the scale of the challenge we face if we are going to protect our environment.
We have all seen noticeably cleaner air, especially in our big cities. There is less traffic, wildlife is more abundant and wildflowers bloom on verges and in parks. Councils are already reflecting on how we can get back to work whilst maintaining the benefits of a greener world.
Less immediately tangible, but just as important, is the reduction in carbon emissions. For the first time in centuries we have seen simultaneous global carbon reductions. Whilst welcome, this has only highlighted the scale of what we need to do.
As we emerge from this crisis, we cannot make this a choice between the economy and the environment. We need an economic model that can deliver the scale of improvement we have seen whilst also delivering fair and sustained growth.
Taking the steps needed, whilst ensuring the benefits are felt by the whole community is a task for local leadership. For example the steps we need to take to improve carbon free transport in a rural setting will be different to what might be best for an inner city. The policies may be different but the goal is the same.
We need a new dialogue around climate change and green growth. It must be one in which all partners are equally engaged and transparent about what they will bring to the table. Government needs to work with councils and business to establish a national framework for addressing the climate emergency. We need an Environment Act which is fully aligned to achieving net zero carbon, where producers pay the full cost of the recycling and disposal of packaging material and funding is delivered so that councils can deliver much faster improvements that align climate smart outcomes and reduced greenhouse emissions whilst supporting economic recovery and fixing social inequalities.
As we enter recovery, the legacy of COVID-19 must be that we grasp the opportunity to protect and enhance our natural environment.
To build on the public’s new sense of ownership of the environment and local green recovery, with councils doing more of the heavy lifting to get local buy-in for making a transition to a green economy.
To facilitate a locally-led green recovery, with funding flexibilities to stimulate the economy and as part of long-term allocations guaranteed for councils which will allow them to invest in green housing, jobs, infrastructure and other environmental measures locally and for the long term.