The UK’s Sustianable Development Commission has argued for a (different) financial model, which would strive for sustainability rather than economic growth to lead us to a low carbon economy, in a report published last week.

The report, put together by Chair Jonathan Porritt and Economics Commissioner Tim Jackson, calls on the government invest £30bn/year in a sustainable stimulus package, to ensure flow of investment into low carbon recovery measures.

The report argues that this level of investment – around 50% of a total recovery package of 4% of GDP – could be achieved by a combination of deficit spending; climate bonds and other “invest to save” measures; environmental taxation, and equity stakes. It is expected that more than 50% of the package would generate significant financial returns within two to three years, creating at least 800,000 jobs.

The six priority areas for stimulus, recommended by the Commission are:

  1. Upgrading existing housing stock
  2. Scaling up renewable energy supply
  3. Redesigning the national grid
  4. Promoting sustainable mobility
  5. Low-carbon investments in the public sector
  6. Skills for a low-carbon, sustainable economy

The report urges the government to take urgent action to address issues of sustainable development, highlighting the dangers of falling further and further behind in light of legal commitments to decarbonise the UK economy (in the Climate Change Bill).

Economics Commissioner Tim Jackson said: ?

“The Government itself has made it clear that there is no high-carbon future, and that the transition to a low-carbon economy is an environmental and economic imperative. Only a commitment on this scale will ensure that the recovery will take the UK onto a globally-competitive low carbon pathway, rather than reverting to the unsustainable forms of growth which sowed the seeds of the current financial and climate crises in the first place.”

The Commission’s Chair, Jonathon Porritt, said: ?

“Without a commitment on this scale, there is every likelihood that the Government’s current low-carbon measures will be totally overwhelmed by business-as-usual stimulus measures. An investment strategy of the kind proposed would put us on track to achieving the extremely ambitious targets in the Climate Change Act, would create appropriate incentives for both the private and public sector, and would demonstrate the kind of unequivocal leadership that UK citizens are now ready for.”

However, today’s announcement by the Government of the proposed sites for new nuclear power stations will be a significant blow to the Sustainable Development Commission, which only 7 months ago found in a comprehensive review that there was “no justification for bringing forward a new nuclear power programme at present.”

However, energy and climate change secretary, Ed Milliband today confirmed that nuclear power is part of the UK’s path to a low carbon economy. The proposals form part of the government’s plan to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, to close what has been described as a “generation gap”, which is expected as existing nuclear and coal-fired stations shut down.

The list of potential locations is: Dungeness in Kent; Sizewell in Suffolk; Hartlepool in Cleveland; Heysham in Lancashire; Sellafield in Cumbria; Braystones in Cumbria; Kirksanton in Cumbria; Wylfa Peninsula in Anglesey; Oldbury in Gloucestershire; Hinkley Point in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex.

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