Green Recovery working group launched
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up many challenges, but throughout people have stepped up to these challenges - we have stayed at home when necessary, gone to work when needed and endured hardships as they arose.
As we look to the future we need to use our learnings from the last months to embrace previously unrecognised opportunities and deliver an economy which is stronger, greener, more sustainable, more resilient.
I therefore welcomed the announcement from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, of a Green Recovery working group who will explore ways to realise economic growth from our shift to a net zero emission economy. The Green Recovery group, is one of five groups, each will take part in ‘recovery roundtables’ which will take advantage of experts from businesses, business representative organisations, regulators and leading academics. Each group will work.to help unleash Britain’s growth potential to help the economy recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
It is time to embrace the use of technology to create new, cleaner jobs, and to reduce the environmental impact of our existing industries.
Fantastic work is already taking place across the UK, and in our local area and I very much look forward to learning about the working group's proposals as they emerge. The UK has always played a world-leading role in tackling climate change and the transition to Clean Growth, and I'm confident that there is a bright future in green jobs across the communities that make up Penistone and Stocksbridge. The UK is the first country to legislate to achieve net zero by 2050, and the fastest in the G20 to cut our emissions. Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by over 40 per cent, while growing the economy by more than two thirds, and we are a world-leader in offshore wind.
20 years ago, the UK had two offshore wind turbines, powering just two thousand homes - in 2020 the UK has more offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world.
The Environment Bill is also being introduced to protect and improve the environment for future generations, enshrining in law environmental principles and legally-binding targets. The first progress report of the Government’s ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan found that 90 per cent of the priority actions have been delivered, or are on track to be delivered.
In our area we have already seen a number of environmental benefits that can developed as we begin our economic recovery.
Greener travel - The Government has 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. It is imperative that we can take advantage of this fund to help us move towards local-carbon transport.
Improving air quality - Sheffield has been identified as having a significant air quality problem, and we must take this chance to use our commitment to being a world leader in tackling air pollution to benefit our local communities. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has launched a call for evidence so that they can fully understand the impact that our changed behaviours have had on air quality so that they can be used to support future policy development.
Active travel corridors - I will be working with the local community to initiate a renewed effort across our area, particularly in the Upper Don Valley and the villages surrounding Penistone, to identify and develop new active-travel corridors, building on the fantastic work done by Dame Sarah Story and her SCR team. By linking this with improvements to our bus and train network, we can revolutionise how people travel locally and turn the temporary benefits seen during lockdown into our "new normal".
Nationally and locally we have a chance to make a real and long-lasting change to the way that we live our lives. With our proud industrial heritage, we have led the way in driving progress through innovation.
As we move from the industries of the past to a greener, cleaner future, I will work with local communities as we build a more resilient, more environmentally focused economy that benefits us all.