Carbon-intensive industries receiving financial support for the post-COVID recovery should have to commit to tough targets to reduce emissions, top engineers have said.
The National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC) report, which has been supported by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, argues there is 'a large gap between government funding commitments and the true scale of changes required for a net-zero economic recovery from COVID-19'.
To tackle the problems ahead, Government must increase infrastructure funding and target a zero-carbon future to support the post-COVID recovery, it argues.
The report recommends that carbon-intensive industries receiving recovery funds should 'commit to ambitious but achievable targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions'. These industries include aviation, rail and energy-intensive manufacturing such as steel production and chemical processing.
Funding packages must stimulate immediate actions 'that help set the UK on a confident path to achieve the 2050 net zero target'.
The NEPC is the unified voice for 43 professional engineering organisations, representing 450,000 engineers, a partnership led by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Its report adds: 'Cumulative, connected change is required across different policy areas and economic sectors to deliver net-zero, and government should consider the technologies that will be needed and how people’s jobs and lives will be impacted as a result.'
Dervilla Mitchell CBE FREng, UKIMEA chair at Arup and a chair of the NEPC Net Zero Working Group, said: 'We must guard against the possibility that, as economies around the world recover from the impacts of the pandemic, plans for a low-carbon recovery unravel, and we lock the country into high-emissions infrastructure and systems that simply return us to past norms.
'Investing in low-carbon technology and practices now will create jobs and pay dividends for the economy and the UK’s net-zero emissions target. Real progress on reducing carbon emissions will need to be built in the short-term, maintained over the long term, be sustainable over successive governments, and able to withstand disruptive events in future.'
The five foundations in the paper are:
- Government must ensure that recovery packages work together as a whole to pivot the UK towards a net-zero economy.
- Government spending on new infrastructure and public buildings must avoid the trap of high carbon construction methods and lay the foundations for a future net-zero infrastructure system by basing spending choices on outcomes and including whole-life carbon evaluation.
- Government should drive digital transformation as an essential enabler of net-zero and resilience.
- Government must increase the UK’s technical capability to deliver net-zero by creating a national workforce planning strategy and implementing proactive policies on diversity and inclusion in employment and training that will help reverse the impact of COVID-19 on employment opportunities for women and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
- Government should deploy a cross-sectoral systems approach to policymaking that accounts for the impact that transforming one part of the economy or national infrastructure will have on the others.
A summary of the report's key points can be read here.