These have been very difficult times for the country and while it is paramount to protect jobs and the economy, I appreciate that some constituents are asking questions about the way the country does business in the future and how we can ensure we have a green recovery.
I’ve received a number of emails about this and I agree that as we recover from Covid-19, the Government needs to deliver an economy which is stronger, greener, more sustainable and more resilient. By doing this, we will protect jobs and add many more employment opportunities. I was therefore pleased that on 8th June, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced a Green Recovery working group, one of five new ‘recovery roundtables’ bringing together businesses, business representative groups and leading academics, to unleash Britain’s growth potential and help the economy recover from the pandemic. This group will explore how to capture the economic growth opportunities from the shift to net zero emissions.
The UK has played a world-leading role in tackling climate change and the transition to Clean Growth, with the UK being the first country to legislate to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050, and the fastest in the G20 to cut emissions. I want to note here that since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40% while growing the economy by more than two thirds, and we are a world-leader in offshore wind.
At the same time, the Environment Bill is being introduced to protect and improve the environment for future generations, enshrining in law environmental principles and legally-binding targets, and the first progress report of the Government’s ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan found that 90% of the priority actions have been delivered or are on track for delivery.
Many constituents put forward suggestions for immediate priorities for a green recovery. You’ll be pleased to hear that building on considerable recent investments, ministers have pledged to invest an additional £2 billion in cycling and walking and committed to publish a national cycling plan, as well as an updated Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. The first stage of this £2 billion investment will be a £250 million emergency active travel fund which will deliver new pop-up cycle lanes with protected space for cycling, cycle and bus-only corridors, safer junctions and wider pavements. Furthermore, a £50 'Fix Your Bike Voucher' will be introduced, which is expected to help up to half-a-million people to bring bikes out of retirement. Worcestershire County Council has been awarded £135,500 to support cycling and walking in the county so I'm glad we can expect to see improvements on our own doorsteps.
When tackling fuel poverty, improving energy efficiency has been proven to be the best long-term solution and so I’m pleased the Government is rightly taking steps to ensure low income, vulnerable households, including older people, are protected from living in a cold home. The Energy Company Obligation Scheme (ECO) and its successor will drive £6 billion of additional investment to support energy improvements in low income and vulnerable households. Since ECO launched, more than 2 million households have benefited from energy efficiency measures.
Most recently, the Prime Minister’s announcement of the New Deal for the UK outlines how we will reforest Britain by planting over 75,000 acres of trees every year by 2025. He has pledged £40 million to boost local conservation projects and create 3,000 jobs, including new Conservation Rangers, and safeguard a further 2,000. This will safeguard the UK’s natural carbon stores and wildlife habitats–our meadows, rivers, and local green spaces – something that I know means a lot to my constituents in Mid Worcestershire.
I hope this reassures my constituents that reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change will continue to be priorities for me and my colleagues and thank you to all of those who took the time to contact me about this.