Covid-19: Recovery Strategies - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:30 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Boycott Baroness Boycott Crossbench 1:30 pm, 11th June 2020

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on securing this debate. This is a key turning point: if we are to successfully transition to a sustainable and green world, we need to change how we value success and worth. The way we live now is almost entirely about the value of money. The success of a company depends on creating share value; the success of an individual is intricately bound up with the material goods he or she has. Even the health of our nation is now judged by targets of longevity rather than of quality of life. To change that, we have to understand that we need different kinds of rewards. This is a huge challenge. If a business depends, say, on growing palm oil in Malaysia or deforesting the Amazon for its key products, what will it say to its shareholders? How can we calculate reward in terms not of money but of public good? How can we start to value people’s happiness and sense of satisfaction over the size of their bank accounts? How can we bring fairness back into our reasonably unfair society? I would like to know from the Government whether these are being debated.

The community spirit generated during Covid shows that there are more rewarding values among us. I much look forward to the day when the shareholder’s value—their prize—is in not cutting down the rainforest. We must invest in a green economy and not return to business as usual, as happened after the 2008 crash. We must involve all, and that means starting with education. Just as we need a green recovery for the economy, we need a green recovery for education.

Our young people, from an early age, need and want to understand resilience and sustainability. As members of the Green Recovery for Education say, there is little point learning how to continue our traditional capitalist systems, as these are in many cases the very systems causing our planetary crisis. I therefore ask the Government a second question: what conversations are going on in the Department for Education to consider the proposals that young people themselves have set out through the Teach the Future initiative, to review our education system and teacher training so that we are equipped for the climate crisis and investing in net-zero facilities?