By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause economic disruption, the UK government (government) has established five working groups tasked with discussing and evaluating economic recovery measures. The groups will focus on five key themes, including “Green recovery: how to capture economic growth opportunities from the shift to net zero carbon emissions”.

Each working group will contain approximately 20-25 participants, consisting of businesses, business representative groups, and prominent academics. Business Secretary, Alok Sharma chairs the “recovery roundtable” meetings, which began on 8 June 2020. Sharma has said, “These roundtables […] will undoubtedly lead to a cleaner, greener, more resilient economy which will create new jobs.”

The UK is not alone in considering how to ‘build back better’ after COVID-19. The EU, Canada, and France have already taken action in attaching green conditions to COVID-19 recovery packages, as reported in a previous Latham & Watkins blog post.

Net Zero

The roundtable initiative began shortly after the announcement of the government’s Race to Zero campaign on 5 June 2020 (coinciding with World Environment Day). The campaign, led by the UK and Chile, aims to galvanise the leaders of businesses, nations, cities, and regions to accelerate zero-carbon recovery efforts. Dubbed the Climate Ambition Alliance, the campaign aspires to unite the largest global coalition of climate leaders in UN history. The campaign aims to transfer net-zero targets into nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement, to be submitted at the COP26 summit in November 2021.

Speaking after the launch (as reported by Edie), Sharma confirmed that the Climate Ambition Alliance now includes 120 countries, more than 1,000 businesses, 500 universities, and 500 cities and regions. While this group would be normally be responsible for producing approximately one quarter of global annual greenhouse gas emissions, Sharma stated, “we must go further” and “unite behind a green global recovery” from the impacts of COVID-19.

The UK has already committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, having passed legislation to that effect in June 2019. As part of this target, the government aims to create 2 million “green collar” jobs in the UK by 2030. Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first Budget (announced on 11 March 2020) allocates significant funds towards carbon capture, use, and storage, electric vehicle infrastructure, and food resilience; while Sunak is reportedly planning additional measures to create a “green industrial revolution”. This policy reportedly includes a government fund dedicated to reskilling citizens for work in the renewable energy, clean tech, and built environment sectors, in addition to further government investment in these areas. The government has reportedly asked local authorities to submit, as a matter of urgency, “shovel-ready” infrastructure ideas, which will both “[support] green recovery” and “[drive] up economic growth and jobs”. The roundtable on green recovery is likely to discuss these issues.

It remains to be seen what green measures will form part of the economic recovery plan when the government announces its package next month.

Latham & Watkins will continue to monitor developments in relation to this matter.

This post was prepared with the assistance of Emilie Cornelis in the London office of Latham & Watkins.