~~Fairness is multi-faceted. Similar to the findings of the UK Climate Assembly, the Commission highlighted the importance of getting the balance right between the distribution of costs for individuals, businesses and the public purse, fairness between different regions of the UK, between different genders, races, abilities and generations and between different countries.
~~A just transition for high carbon sectors. One of the citizens’ juries was in Aberdeenshire, the centre of the UK’s oil and gas sector, which will be hard hit by net zero. Following extensive local consultation with businesses, unions and the community, an IPPR report for the Commission showed how a ‘managed transition’ for the oil and gas sector could be designed.
A new social contract. Laura Sandys, former Tory MP and one of the co-chairs of the commission, outlined its six principles to embed fairness in the net zero transition in a piece for Conservative Home: a ‘people’s dividend’, a ‘fairness lock’, a ‘people-first approach’, national leadership with local delivery, a ‘whole-economy, all-society’ approach, and ‘valuing what matters’.
~~Policy recommendations. These principles inform a varied policy agenda, including free public transport, a universal dividend payment paid for through carbon pricing, giving people a stake in decarbonisation through community owned energy and natural assets, ‘a right to retrain’ for workers from high-carbon industries, local participatory budgeting and the devolution of powers and resources to local and regional government, reworking tax incentives and small business loans to harness the power of small and medium-sized businesses, and a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
~~Reception. Ian Byrne, Labour MP and co-founder of the Right to Food campaign, welcomed some of the National Food Strategy’ proposals - including the plan to increase the number of children eligible for free school meals - but argued that it lacked the ambition of ending widespread hunger in the UK.
Struggling to define ‘levelling up’. Boris Johnson’s speech on ‘levelling up’ was widely criticised for its lack of substance, offering no real policy content or strategy for tackling regional inequalities across the country. The government is due to publish a White Paper in the Autumn informed by a ‘summer of engagement’.
~~The future of devolution. The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee questioned Conservative and Labour Metro Mayors Ben Houchen and Tracy Brabin on their views on the future of English governance last week, following a previous session with Andy Burnham and Jamie Driscoll. Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, outlined the powers and funding needed for devolved administrations in a video interview with the Institute for Government.
Green finance for local authorities. The Green Finance Institute, Abundance Investment, UK100, Local Partnerships and Innovate UK have launched a national campaign to help local authorities issue Local Climate Bonds; “a cost-effective way for them to fund hundreds of green local projects” This would be cheaper than the loans they can currently get from the Public Works Loan Board “and a valuable way to engage constituents in plans for decarbonisation”.
~~Case study. Community Municipal Bonds can raise funds for public infrastructure, for instance by financing the decarbonisation of housing in Wales, argued a report by the NEF and the Wales Future Generations Commissioner, Homes fit for the Future: The Retrofit Challenge.
Fiscal mythology unmasked.Finance Watch published a report debunking eight tales about European public debt and fiscal rules. The report clarifies misconceptions often seen in UK debates about public finances, such as the use of debt-to-GDP ratios as indicators of debt sustainability, the fear of inflation driving up the cost of debt servicing, and intergenerational equity arguments for reducing the debt burden. (Twitter thread summary here)
~~The progressive option.The Resolution Foundation proposed in November to raise £7bn by freezing various tax thresholds such as Inheritance tax and VAT. Their version of a Health and Social Care Levy leaves the lowest paid employees and self-employed better off through a variety of offsets and reforms to wealth taxation, as “the public will expect those that have financially suffered least during the crisis to contribute.”