The creation of a comprehensive route-map to a green recovery from Covid-19, with policy and budgetary coherence at its heart, must be a key priority for the Scottish Government, according to Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.
In its Green Recovery report published today, alongside its pre-Budget Scrutiny 2021/22 report, the Committee states that we need an integrated, bold approach to recovery that is based on community cohesion, wellbeing and equality and transcends sectoral boundaries.
The Committee recommends a green recovery route-map is needed to signpost the way: with clear timelines, clear responsibilities for delivery across all parts of the public sector and clear delivery plans for each sector. Budgetary alignment with the responsibilities is vital, as is regular reporting (to the Parliament, and to the people) and the route-map should enable a shared understanding of where we want to be – the vision.
Importantly, the reports also call for an increased commitment and front-loaded financial resourcing of efforts aimed at the recovery from Covid-19. The Committee goes further to recommend that new policies, proposals and public spend must meet certain tests to ensure that they are aligned to the delivery of strategic goals. It says that to date there has been a lack of policy coherence, which has undermined objectives and the delivery of outcomes.
To this end, the reports lay out substantive recommendations for action which are “often interlinked and overlapping – and to maximise their benefits, need to be delivered together, and with urgency”.
Speaking as the reports were launched, Committee Convener, Gillian Martin MSP, said:
“The cross-cutting nature of the challenges presented by Covid-19 and the climate and ecological crisis represents a whole system challenge never witnessed before. Yet through Covid, Scotland has seen first-hand how a coherent route-map approach, combined with strong leadership, can affect the necessary change in our policies and behaviour and with the urgency needed.
“Scotland must use this impetus, and the opportunities presented in both the Budget 2021-22 and the Climate Change Plan update, to create a net-zero emissions economy.
“So much needs to be done and done now. We need to capture and lock in positive behaviours, front-load investment in low-carbon solutions and build resilience through valuing nature more. We need to tackle the implementation gap, where solutions have already been identified but not applied, and deal with policy incoherence, where parts of Government, and the wider public sector, are not working collaboratively.
“Underpinning this, we must focus on people, innovation, skills and jobs. Financial support for a green recovery must also be significantly increased, front loaded and be conditional on delivering national outcomes around the climate and biodiversity emergencies.
“Our Committee took onboard extensive evidence during the inquiry and our recommendations should provide a solid springboard for the swift action needed to deliver a truly green recovery for Scotland - a recovery where no-one is left behind.”
Amongst its key recommendations, the Committee has called on the Scottish Government to;
• Repurpose the Inter-Ministerial Group on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development and the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Climate Change, as a green recovery group to drive the Green Recovery across the public and private sector - to be chaired by the First Minister.
• Implement a communication and reporting plan to include regular addresses on roles, expectations, progress and next steps (to Parliament and the Nation) by the First Minister, Cabinet colleagues and those providing the evidence and advice.
• Review the founding legislation for all public bodies to ensure that responding to the climate and ecological crises is at the centre of statutory requirements placed on all those receiving public sector funding.
• Carry out a skills audit and produce a skills action plan which offers upskilling and reskilling to those who need it, so people transition into low carbon, green jobs with no gap in employment.
• Work with the UK Government to co-ordinate and finance a sufficiently large investment stimulus.
• Ensure low carbon capital investments are delivered through green jobs to support recovery – by front-loading spend in the Budget 2021-22 and through multi-year spending plans such as the Infrastructure Investment Plan and Capital Spending Review.
• Bring forward a Natural Capital Plan for Scotland, establish a natural capital baseline with monitoring reports to check progress and align plans for job creation with the need for nature-based solutions/natural capital enhancement.
• Set out a green investment strategy and increase the level of assets available to the Scottish National Investment Bank for lending.
• Establish an enterprise fund to provide financial support including grants and low-cost loans, to support business models that have emerged as a result of innovation during lock-down.
• Support capacity building in communities and prioritise and fund the creation of community work hubs attached to childcare facilities and community spaces.
In June 2020 the Committee launched a short inquiry into ‘green recovery’ to establish the principles that could underpin a green recovery, to identify key actions of change, immediate priorities, potential barriers to implementation and the governance arrangements needed to deliver this. Over 100 responses were received.
Call for views
The Committee held oral evidence sessions with experts and stakeholders in September (8, 15 and 22 September 2020) and heard from the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance on 6 October 2020.
This report does not sit in isolation. It is part of a larger suite of recent reports from bodies such as the Just Transition Commission, UK Committee on Climate Change, Infrastructure Commission for Scotland and Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.
Several parliamentary committees are also considering Covid-19 impacts and recovery processes for Scotland and, given the cross-cutting nature of this report, the Committee is engaging collaboratively with committees across the Parliament on its findings.
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