LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should use its economic stimulus measures to speed a shift away from fossil fuels, including by helping people work remotely and make their homes greener in a post-pandemic world, state-appointed climate advisers said on Wednesday.
The country should also take advantage of low oil prices to raise revenues from carbon taxes without hurting consumers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Its proposals reinforce global pressure on governments to consider the environment as they pour money into their economies at levels unseen since World War Two to counter the impact of coronavirus lockdowns which threaten millions of jobs.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change should be integral to any recovery package,” the CCC said in its letter.
The letter was also sent to first ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by the CCC, a state body set up to advise Britain how to tackle and prepare for climate change.
“We recognise that working to eliminate our contribution to climate change will also be a key part of ensuring a green and resilient economic recovery from COVID-19,” a government spokeswoman said via email in response to the letter.
She said Britain is championing innovative measures in energy storage, smart electricity grids, zero-emission vehicles and eco-friendly buildings, on top of the support for businesses to help them deal with the impacts of COVID-19.
To support employment, the CCC suggested backing retraining schemes to ready the workforce for roles needed to help Britain meet its climate target of net zero emissions by 2050, which parliament passed into law last year.
Working remotely and cycling and walking to work should be made easier, while the government should help people upgrade their homes which could include heat pumps and more energy efficient appliances.
The CCC said the country could raise cash by widening the number of sectors paying for carbon emissions and raising the prices of carbon for sectors which do not bear the full costs of emitting greenhouse gases.
“Low global oil prices provide an opportunity to increase carbon taxes without hurting consumers,” it said.
Benchmark oil prices hit their lowest level in two decades last month, while U.S. crude oil futures last month traded below $0 for the first time in history.
British industry, power generators and airlines pay for their carbon dioxide emissions under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme although Britain has indicated it plans to set up its own scheme following its exit from the bloc.
Power generators in Britain also pay a separate carbon tax, but there is no direct carbon levy for sectors such as agriculture.
The CCC, which is independent of the government, is chaired by former Environment Secretary John Gummer and includes business and academic experts.
The British economy is on course for an unprecedented 7% quarterly contraction after many businesses closed last month to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a survey showed on Tuesday. Stimulus measures have so far mainly focused on supporting companies and their employees.
Reporting by Susanna Twidale; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Pravin Char
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