Covid-19: Recovery Strategies - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:25 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour 1:25 pm, 11th June 2020

My Lords, I declare my environmental interests as listed in the register. A rapid and resilient recovery from Covid-19 cannot be just a reversion to more of the same old ways. I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for setting out the many ways in which we need to change. We have a real opportunity to grow back better, and that means a green recovery.

The noble Lord, Lord Stern, has elsewhere urged that the Government immediately promote measures that are fast, labour intensive and embed an economic multiplier effect. There are many shovel-ready programmes from the sustainability agenda that can deliver against those criteria, without necessarily using shovels. They can also promote intergenerational fairness by tackling the twin challenges of looming climate change and catastrophic biodiversity loss, which our children will inherit.

Examples of projects which could quickly start across the length and breadth of the country include scaling up energy efficiency retrofits in housing and other buildings, and building new homes that are energy efficient and zero carbon; investment in green infrastructure to enable people to walk or cycle to work, and to work remotely through accessible internet; and expanding tree planting exponentially—I declare my interest as chair of the Woodland Trust—both in urban and rural settings, to sequester carbon and benefit human health and biodiversity. There are many such examples.

Any public subsidy for recovery should pass a net zero test, and major infrastructure proposals should pass a net biodiversity gain test, to make sure that our recovery projects genuinely meet our longer-term objectives.

How about we introduce a national nature service, which could work on a new nature recovery network of projects and provide training, skills, jobs and healthy contact with nature for young people whose futures risk being blighted by the Covid crisis?