Green recovery from pandemic 'best option for Wales'

Tackling climate crisis is great way to rebuild economy, say experts

The Senedd, Cardiff.

As the Welsh Government considers how to recover from the pandemic, experts say a green recovery is the best option to heal the economy and reach Wales’s climate targets.

A green recovery would mean using the money needed for recovering from the pandemic to invest in projects that create jobs while also promoting an environmentally friendly economy.

Dr Jennifer Alan, a lecturer in international relations at Cardiff University, said “we need to stimulate the economy, and this will happen through a huge investment package from the government. This means there is a big opportunity to spend that money in a way that will put us on the path to a green future.”

Dr Alan said there are many investments that could benefit both the economy and the environment while also benefitting society.

“There is a lot of examples that are win, win, win. By that, I mean smart investment that is environmentally friendly, creates jobs and is inclusive,” said Dr Alan.

An example is investment in public transport as this creates jobs to build and maintain infrastructure, while cutting down on emissions from non-public transport and increasing access to work for members of the public.

Lockdown has also proven that society is able to radically change its behaviour in the face of an emergency.

“For years we have been saying we need behavioural change around environmental issues and lockdown has shown that we can make huge changes to our lifestyles quickly and some of those changes are going to stick,” said Dr Alan.

Working from home is a change that could continue after lockdown as businesses realise it is possible to function with some staff at home. This would reduce traffic from commuters and therefore reduce emissions.

The number of people who worked from home stayed at around 5% between 2015 and 2019.
The number of people working from home has risen as high as 37.7% during the pandemic.

Dr Alan also suggests if the government is going to bail out any fossil fuel intensive companies, such as airlines, they should be asked to make climate commitments.

“Maybe they could commit to buy more efficient aircrafts. This would send the message that we are going to have a green recovery, but, in the meantime, we do need to save some jobs,” said Dr Alan.

Green recovery is also important for tourism and agriculture, as both rely on healthy ecosystems, which are huge industries in Wales.

RSPB Cymru are calling on the Welsh Government to commit to a green recovery.

Tabea Wilkes, nature policy officer at RSPB Cymru, said: “Over the last four months we have seen that public health and health of nature is just as important to us as a thriving economy.”

“I would really like to see the Welsh government use this opportunity to say that business as usual is not what we want anymore, and we can do so much better.”

Ms Wilkes explains that work involving nature restoration can provide jobs for all skill levels.

“We don’t just need more jobs, but we need jobs appropriate for the skill levels of those recently made unemployed, especially young people who are now facing a more uncertain future than they did before,” said Ms Wilkes.

Retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient is another way that jobs could be created while also helping the climate once social distancing measures are lifted.

“All of these are good options to make sure we tackle the climate and nature crisis and get people back to work,” said Ms Wilkes.

Other organisations in support of green recovery are Natural Resources Wales and Wales TUC (Trade Union Congress).

A Wales TUC spokesperson said: “Analysis done for the TUC shows that investment in green infrastructure and technology could create over 1.2 million jobs across the UK while helping us meet climate targets.

“Trade unions welcome action from the Welsh Government to tackle the climate emergency. We support calls for Wales to be given further flexibility in its powers to borrow to invest in its climate priorities.”

The Welsh Government have already taken some steps towards a green recovery with £6.5m circular economy funding and with work started to create a National Forest in Wales.

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “In response to the pandemic, Wales has provided the most generous support package for business anywhere in the UK. However, we have made this support conditional on companies signing up to the Welsh Government Economic Contract, including a commitment to decarbonisation.”

“In the coming weeks, we will publish a Welsh Government engagement plan, setting out how we will engage all communities and industries in Wales to strengthen our collective efforts.

“I hope all members of the Senedd will encourage all public bodies, businesses and communities in Wales to be part of creating a truly all-Wales plan to overcome the climate emergency, supporting our economy to cover from the impact of Covid-19, creating new industries and jobs, to deliver a prosperous, healthier and more equal Wales.”

Counsel General, Jeremy Miles, has also invited members of the public to write in to to say how they would like to see Wales recover from the pandemic (closing the end of July).