Watchdog warns UK climate plans “will not deliver net-zero”. The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK government’s statutory advisory body set up by the Climate Change Act 2008, released its 2022 Progress Report to Parliament last week. The report comes with a new monitoring framework which outlines the indicators used to track the UK’s progress in transitioning to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.
Decarbonisation of heat and buildings remain a huge gap. The CCC identified the decarbonisation of heat and buildings as one of the most important policy gaps, as buildings are the UK’s second largest source of emissions (20% in 2021), where energy efficiency in non-fuel poor homes was “the most significant policy gap in the buildings sector”. The report states that “current policy is insufficient” to upgrade as many homes as possible to EPC rating C by 2035 and the “Government’s responses to rapidly rising energy bills have so far missed the opportunity” to address this.
Action prevented by Chancellor’s fiscal rules. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggested in a Select Committee meeting that any new funding for energy efficiency has to be taken from other existing pots of money as no new money has been committed since the Chancellor’s Spending Review (11:52:20).
Policies for improving energy efficiency. Given that the CCC’s Director of Analysis, Mike Thompson argued “This is the time for a government to be bold and to help people do what a lot of people want to do anyway. There’s no shortage at all of good ideas out there”, we have collated some proposals for decarbonising heat and buildings below:
The ethics of pensions. A new explainer by Common Wealth tracks the investment chain of pensions, outlining their social and environmental implications. The report argues that the current pensions system is “failing” on “democratic participation and accountability to sustainability”. Common Wealth identify three priorities: to democratise pensions, to set up a Public Asset Manager, owned by the people, and a reshaping of companies to work for the public good.
Climate crisis and ECB policy. The European Central Bank has announced that it will be “taking further steps to incorporate climate change” into its monetary policy operations. The bank has said that it will “better account for climate change” in its corporate bond purchases, collateral framework, disclosure requirements and risk management. New Economics Foundation’s Lukasz Krebel breaks down what these operational changes look like in practice.
Cost of living crisis. Around 7 million families are living through a “frightening year of financial fear”, according to a new survey by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The cost of living crisis is also exacerbating debt problems, with arrears on all personal debt having more than doubled from £1.8bn to £3.8bn since October last year.
Rising poverty for lone parent families. The relative poverty rate for children of lone parents is almost double that for children living with two parents, according to new research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). The relative poverty for children of lone parents has risen by 9 percentage points between 2013–14 and 2019–20, from 40% to 49%.
Bailey's inflation predictions. The UK will suffer higher inflation for longer, according to Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey. At a European Central Bank conference, Bailey talked up the option ofhalf-point interest rate rises to curb inflation but also suggested that a rise in the energy price cap could exacerbate UK inflation rates in comparison to other countries.
Income perceptions. Sixty percent of those earning £80,000-£100,000 in the UK believe they are “about average” on the income scale, according to new research by the New Statesman. Half of all those earning £40,001 and above (the average household income is £31,400) say they feel their income is “normal” while 61 per cent of those with a net income below £20,001 also said they feel “normal”.
McDonnell calls for price controls. Former shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, along with 12 economists, academics and activists (including Naomi Klein, Danny Dorling and Ann Pettifor) have said that the Government must introduce price controls to combat the cost of living crisis. Price controls have previously been introduced by both Conservative and Labour governments.
Arguments for a property tax. Unherd writer, Peter Franklin, calls for property taxes to combat growing regional divides. He argues that the “investment income surge”, seen mainly in the richest parts of the country, is not due to market forces but due to years of “government intervention — for example ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing”.
Windfall tax extension. Firms with ‘excess profits’ should show restraint to tackle inflation, not workers asking for wage increases, argues the IPPR’s Carys Roberts. The windfall tax on oil and gas companies already introduced by the government could be raised and extended to commodities companies to support households and boost supply chains, she says. Analysis by the IPPR and Common Wealth finds that the profits of the largest non-financial companies were up 34 percent at the end of 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels. However, these profits are highly concentrated, with only 25 firms making up 90 percent of increases in profits.
Shareholders call for tax transparency. Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), Ethos Foundation, Etica Funds and the Missionary Oblates have filed a shareholder proposal at Cisco Systems calling for greater tax transparency. It follows similar proposals that have been put to Microsoft and Amazon in recent weeks.
Rise and grind. The rise of ‘microwork’ and ‘hustle culture’ is leading to exacerbated labour market inequalities, according to a new report by Autonomy. 95% of microworkers, who work on digital platforms and are assigned short tasks, are paid below the minimum wage and more than half receive no pension from any of their work.
Platform work: good news and bad news. While most platform workers continue to face unfair working conditions and lack social protections, a growing number of them are receiving better benefits, according to the Fairwork UK Ratings 2022. However, the report also found that only three of the 15 platforms rated could ensure that workers’ pay was at or above the minimum wage and only seven were able to evidence that they take meaningful action to mitigate task-specific risks.
Childcare ratios. The Government has announced a consultation on measures to cut the cost of childcare provision, most notably to relax the child-staff ratio currently in place at nurseries, preschools and childminders. Organisations such as Pregnant then Screwed, the Women’s Budget Group and the Early Years Alliance argue that not only do parents oppose such a move, but that the measure would not actually bring down childcare costs. For more on the latest childcare ratios debate, see our thread.
National care service. Labour has announced that in government, it would launch a national care service to be “delivered exactly on the same terms as the NHS” according to Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting. The service would be brought in across several parliaments and the Fabian Society are currently drawing up proposals for how it would be funded and structured.
A bold economic plan? Labour MP and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee chair, Darren Jones, calls for a “bold economic plan” including investment in public services technology, a national workforce strategy and an investment in “digital and transport infrastructure that spreads opportunities outwards from cities to towns”. He argues that “the failure of the past decade to create a strong, successful and sustainable Britain” has left the country more vulnerable to recent external shocks than it needs to be.
Tony Blair’s new agenda. Last week, Tony Blair hosted the ‘Future of Britain’ conference while the Executive Director of The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Ian Mulheirn, has said that the organisation “has begun to develop a policy agenda” including NHS reform and “more pro-growth” fiscal policy. Critics have described the conference as a “centrist love-in” and “a celebration of science, an affirmation that technology and the private sector would solve all our problems”.
Purpose-driven business. Businesses in Scotland can best weather current economic storms and seize future market opportunities by becoming purpose-driven, according to a new report by the Business Purpose Commission for Scotland. WEALL Scotland said that “Scotland's businesses need to show real leadership in moving away from outdated business models and actively enhance the wellbeing of people and planet”. See here for more analysis of the report from WEAll.