UK must use coronavirus recovery funds to push urgent climate measures: advisers

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators from Extinction Rebellion and Parents 4 Future march in a joint protest over climate change, in London, Britain, February 22, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain must use its coronavirus recovery plan to fund climate measures such as accelerating a phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars by 2032 and making homes more energy efficient, a report by the government’s climate advisers said on Thursday.

The recommendation came as the committee published its annual report on Britain’s progress in meeting climate goals, showing government policies still fall well short.

Britain last year became the first G7 country to announce plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which will require wholesale changes in the way Britons travel, generate electricity and manage their housing stock.

Since the target was set global economies have been rocked by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and are setting out recovery packages. Britain is expected announce a stimulus package later this year.

“If we are to emerge successfully from COVID 19 there is only one route, and that route is one which enables us also to fight climate change,” the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, John Gummer, said in a press briefing.

Britain has significantly reduced emissions from the electricity sector by increasing renewable power generation and closing coal plants, but lags in other areas like homes, transport and agriculture.

A target to phase out new petrol and diesel cars should be brought forward to 2032 from 2040 currently, with money ploughed into electric vehicle charging and incentives to encourage people buy low-carbon cars, the CCC said.

Money could also be raised by increasing taxes on fossil fuel used for transport, it said.

Among several measures suggested, the CCC also said Britain should introduce schemes to make homes more energy efficient and fit low carbon technology like heat pumps, which will also create jobs and help spur economic recovery.

Reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Jan Harvey