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Government investing only 12 per cent of what is needed to tackle the climate and nature emergency, warns IPPR

On the eve of what would have been the start of COP26 in Glasgow, IPPR calls on the government to lead by example with ambitious action 

The IPPR think tank is warning the UK is off course to meet its own net zero carbon ambitions by 2050 and restore nature. On the eve of what would have been the start of the global COP26 climate gathering in Glasgow, the government is not yet delivering the scale of investment needed to lead the world towards a low carbon future, according to IPPR.

However, the think tank argues the government has an opportunity to turn this around and show global leadership by setting out truly ambitious policy and investment commitments in their upcoming 10-point plan.

The new analysis reveals that over the course of this Parliament the government has committed to investing just 12 per cent of what is needed to meet their net zero emissions target. The think tank estimates that £33 billion a year in additional annual investment is needed to meet the net zero target, but only around £4 billion annually has so far been committed.

The green homes grant, investment in cycling, walking infrastructure and in offshore wind announced earlier this year show the government is moving in the right policy direction, but action at a greater scale and pace is needed, according to IPPR.

Researchers argue that as the hosts of the COP26 global climate talks, the UK has the opportunity to lead the world in efforts to cut carbon emissions, restore nature and champion green alternatives for industry, travel and energy. IPPR highlights key areas for investment, where the government needs to go further, such as:

  • Decarbonising homes and buildings - Four times the annual spending announced by the Chancellor in the summer would be needed to achieve this.
  • Low carbon transport – An additional £10.3 billion is needed a year to improve public transport services and efficiency, as well as boosting cycling and walking.

As England experiences its second lockdown and the country continues its uncertain fight against Covid-19, now is not the time to ignore the climate and nature emergencies or scale back green investment plans, warns IPPR.

Researchers also point to the job creation potential from green investment. Job creation takes time, so it is best to start investing as soon as possible, according to IPPR.

The think tank calls on the government to use its 10-point plan to set out an ambitious investment package that accelerates us towards net-zero and a thriving natural world. IPPR has previously calculated that 1.6 million jobs could be created up to 2030 through green investment, including in: 

  • Homes and buildings - Improving the energy efficiency of homes, preparing them for the switch to low-carbon heating systems, such as heat pumps and district heating, and building new zero-carbon social housing could generate 560,000 jobs. IPPR estimates suggest an additional £8 billion annually is needed to achieve the decarbonisation of existing homes and buildings.
  • Nature restoration – An investment of £4.7 billion annually could help nature thrive through schemes such as tree planting and peatland restoration across the country. This could also create 46,000 new jobs.
  • Transport - Delivering better and more sustainable public transport, including rail and electric bus services could generate more than 230,000 jobs. While installing electric vehicles charging points nationwide could create 47,000 jobs. IPPR estimates £10.3 billion a year will be needed for this.
  • Industry – Providing financial support for Carbon Capture and Storage and hydrogen clusters (a network of green hydrogen refuelling stations) will be critical to reaching net zero. An upfront investment of £1.5 billion a year is needed to develop and apply this technology.

The IPPR report also emphasises the importance of ensuring the transition to a net zero economy is done fairly. The think tank has previously proposed a Just Transition Fund amongst other measures to support communities negatively disrupted by the changes.

The think tank highlights how fair climate investment can support the government’s goal of “levelling up” and addressing inequalities between nations and regions. The greatest growth in green jobs is expected to be in the North West, the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber. IPPR also notes that investment in low emission housing would have a high impact on job creation in the North West and the South East (outside London).

Luke Murphy, IPPR Associate Director, said:

“In announcing the government’s ten-point plan, the Prime Minister must significantly raise both the UK’s ambitions and targets on climate and nature, and radically scale-up the policies and investments needed to achieve them.

“Such ambition is not only good for the climate and nature but can be a huge driver of job creation, new industries and businesses right across the country.

“As the host of COP26 in 2021, the UK can use its domestic policy ambition to help inspire the rest of world and leverage greater ambition and action from other developed countries. As the fifth-largest contributor to cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions and given its unsustainable global environmental footprint, the UK also has a responsibility to take bolder action.”

Carsten Jung, IPPR Senior Economist, said:

“The pandemic will leave the UK economy weaker and unemployment starkly higher. But, with forward-looking policies, the country can bounce back in the new year. Making future-proof investments that tackle the climate crisis can boost business, generate jobs and provide people with income security. The UK can prove that an enduring, strong economic recovery is feasible, if only we grasp the plethora of business opportunities in low-carbon products and services. The UK economy may be weak now, but a public investment revolution can herald a new era of clean growth.

“The Prime Minister must back his ambitious words with real investment commitments. So far only about a tenth of funds needed for the clean investment revolution has been made available. Scaling up investment and following the ten-point action plan can create up to 1.6 million jobs and bring economic opportunity to every corner of the country, while lowering emissions and restoring nature and tackling inequality.”


  • Robin Harvey, Digital and Media Officer: 07779 204798
  • Luke Murphy and Carsten Jung are available for interview


The IPPR paper, The Road to COP26: A clean and fair recovery at home and a leader on climate and nature abroad by Luke Murphy and Carsten Jung, is available for download at:

IPPR previously detailed the job creation potential of green investment in the report Transforming the Economy after Covid-19 available here:

The jobs figures are collated from a variety of third-party sources, including government statistics. Because they are based on varying assumptions they should be treated as broad estimates. The total number represents jobs that could be created up to 2030. More details are contained within the Transforming the Economy report.

Methodology note - For the previous target (80 per cent reduction by 2050) researchers used Committee on Climate Change (CCC) figures. These had to be complemented with assumptions on the burden sharing between the treasury, business and the public. We followed CCC indications on this wherever possible.

It should also be noted that the estimates by CCC are average yearly costs between 2019 and 2050. As costs are assumed to decline over time, the CCC estimates likely constitute a lower bound in terms of what is needed as upfront spending in 2020.  For the new target we also use figures from the CCC. But we slightly adjust these in four cases.

  • First, in the transport sector we use Green Alliance et al (2019) figures as these better reflect the need to significantly improve public transport as well as cycling and walking infrastructure. The CCC estimates do not cover this as they only focus on cars, buses and heavy goods vehicles.
  • Second, for agriculture and nature we too use Green Alliance et al (2019) figures as the CCC figures do not fully reflect the need to significantly investment in restoration of nature in order to counter biodiversity losses as outlined in IPPR’s work on environmental breakdown.
  • Third, we include estimates for a Just Transition Fund. This is absolutely key to enable the transition and make it socially just. A faster transition will require a larger Just Transition Fund.
  • Fourth, we adjusted the amount spend in the early 2020s on industry decarbonisation and Bio Energy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECSS). This is because, as highlighted by the CCC, a framework for public support in these sectors needs to first be established before large-scale pubic investment can take place.

Examples of spending projects for each area of spending outlined:

  • Transport – electric vehicle charging infrastructure, walking and cycling infrastructure and the enhancement of railways.
  • Agriculture and Nature – environmental land management and nature restoration, flood resilience and enhancing existing habitats.
  • Buildings – housing energy efficiency and low carbon heating.
  • Power – subsidy for renewable power plants and continuing support of renewable power.
  • Industry carbon capture – to support the development of the technology for heavy industry for example.
  • Just Transition Fund – to support clustering of new industries, local training and skills, and repurposing carbon-based assets for new industries.

This analysis is not the work of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission but will be submitted to the Commission as evidence. More on the Commission and its interim report can be found here:

IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.

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