The climate emergency and inequality are inextricably linked. Covid-19 risks making this worse – but is there a solution?
We know that Britain is a very unequal society. Oxfam estimates that five families own as much wealth as the bottom fifth of the population.
The Covid-19 pandemic could make this worse as people lose their jobs and more and more businesses fail, hitting workers on zero hours contracts.
We face a climate emergency too of course, with risks like flooding and deaths in heatwaves. But could a post virus reconstruction plan help to solve both problems?
A lot of groups and think-tanks are pretty sure this is possible. A recent report from Oxford University argues that lots of green schemes are not only “shovel-ready” but would create jobs and give taxpayers quick financial returns. They say there are plenty of possibilities like insulating homes, widening cycle lanes, installing electric vehicle charging points, upgrading rail networks, making homes more energy efficient and investing in renewable energy.
They also argue that investment in green spaces and natural infrastructure and in disaster preparation would create jobs and benefit the economy fast.
The Government’s own Committee on Climate Change outlines six key principles for a resilient recovery which includes: “Embed fairness as a core principle. The benefits of acting on climate change must be shared widely, and the costs must not burden those who are least able to pay, or whose livelihoods are most at risk as the economy changes”
A huge programme of education and training so that people could move rapidly into these areas is obviously needed. But the alternative could be terrifying levels on unemployment, increasing poverty and inequality and a tragic lost opportunity to reduce our emissions and keep global temperature rises down.
We need to persuade the Government to take this plan seriously and to act fast.