Edinburgh Climate Commissioner contributes to COP26 Network Brief

Wed, 05/06/2020 - 11:23


Edinburgh Climate Commissioner, Professor Dave Reay, has contributed to the COP 26 Universities Network Briefing on a Net Zero Emissions Economic Recovery from COVID-19 for the UK Government. The brief emphasises the importance of ensuring countries’ focus on economic growth post-COVID is based on sustainability and international cooperation in the run up to COP 26 (currently postponed until 2021).


Crucially, the transition to net zero emissions can contribute to economic recovery. It is pointed out that after the 2008 financial crash, green stimulus policies performed particularly well, with modelling showing greater returns than traditional fiscal measures. In comparison to traditional fiscal stimulus (which maintain ‘business-as-usual’ carbon emissions), green projects create more jobs and lead to higher long-run cost savings.


A recession is also an opportunity for renewable energy projects, which are labour intensive to set up, providing more jobs, and in the long run deliver energy cost savings. Currently, Britain is in its longest stretch without coal fired energy generation since the Industrial Revolution. As of 6th May, the coal free run has lasted 26 days – can Britain build on this post-lockdown to ensure green energy infrastructure? The report recommends investing in low carbon energy production and storage, as well the electrification of heat and transport. 


Other recommendations include improving broadband connectivity, building climate smart and resilient infrastructure and investing in nature-based solutions. Beyond policy recommendations, the report also proposes institutional changes, such as placing the Committee on Climate Change (link) on emergency footing, enabling the visibility and authority to take decisions and mobilise government resources at the necessary speed. 


Since the outbreak of COVID-19, calls for increased international cooperation have been heard around the globe. The briefing recommends creating a Sustainable Recovery Alliance at COP26, that would promote cooperation and a shared vision of sustainable recovery. You can read the briefing here, along with a background working paper. Dave Reay is a Professor at the University of Edinburgh and Director of ECCI.