SDC - Executive Should Embrace A Sustainable New Deal
The Sustainable Development Commission today launched ‘A Sustainable New Deal’ – the Commission’s recommendations on how government should tackle the current economic downturn, creating jobs and tackling inequalities, whilst at the same time moving toward the low carbon economy of the future. Commenting on the report, Head of the Sustainable Development Commission in Northern Ireland, Jim Kitchen stated:
“Governments around the world are struggling to kick-start economies that have been exposed and battered by the current financial crisis. Many believe that ‘New Deal’ politics will be the catalyst for recovery, but massively increased public spending needs to be defined not only in its effects for this year or next, but over the next 20 to 30 years. The Sustainable Development Commission believes that a real opportunity exists for the Government to promote a ‘Sustainable New Deal’, focussing on key areas that will not only help the transition to a low carbon economy in the coming years, but that will also create employment now, reduce fuel poverty now, tackle social inequalities now, and lay the foundation for a new generation of innovative, exciting and world leading businesses in Northern Ireland”.
The Sustainable Development Commission in Northern Ireland believes that there are three priority areas where the Executive should take action: retrofitting the domestic housing stock, promoting sustainable mobility, and encouraging low carbon investments in the public sector.
Currently over one third of households in Northern Ireland live in fuel poverty. This is the highest level of any region in the UK. Jim Kitchen continued:
“Whilst fuel payments to those in most need are welcome, they do not address the underlying problem and will cost more year on year, with no return. The SDC believes that it is much better and more cost effective to achieve the twin aims of eliminating fuel poverty and meeting carbon reduction targets by upgrading the energy efficiency standard of existing housing. The radical acceleration of action on existing homes would achieve rapid carbon savings, create jobs, drive down the costs of technologies, further improve living conditions for our most deprived communities, save households money, and reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels.
“A critical element of any green recovery should involve the Executive rolling put plans to help people both to avoid the need to travel and to use lower carbon ways of making essential journeys in the face of the credit and climate crunches.
Government needs to provide communities with the information they need to make sustainable travel choices. We must take action to decrease the number of journeys made by car and increase both the accessibility and reliability of public transport here in Northern Ireland. Public transport must access those who need it most – that means our rural and most socially deprived areas”.
“One of the biggest challenges and opportunities for the Executive is increasing both the energy efficiency of existing government buildings, using new build projects as a way of creating employment opportunities and ensuring that sustainable building practices are literally the foundation of all public works projects”.
Currently not enough public sector buildings are meeting the government’s own targets on building standards. This sends out all the wrong signals both to the private sector and to individuals. From next year government departments here may be required to participate in the Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme therefore dramatically improved energy efficiency initiatives must be the top priority for government.
However, a programme of support for self generated renewable energy is also needed. This should include collaborative schemes to allow departments to work together and share costs as well as opportunities. The Sustainable Development Commission is undertaking research to identify which self generation technologies would work best on the government estate. Early findings highlight wind energy, photovoltaic and biomass as the most appropriate technologies.
Jim Kitchen concluded:
“The benefits of investing now in these options are clear. Not only will they make a fundamental contribution to the development of a low carbon economy, they will also create new jobs quickly and in places that matter. They will also reduce inequality, particularly by tackling the root causes of fuel poverty and poor access to transport”.
The full report of ‘A Sustainable New Deal’ is available for download from www.sd-commission.org.uk