Coronavirus: Climate change 'could have greater impact'

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wind farmImage source, SSE

The boss of energy giant SSE has warned that a failure to deal with climate change could eventually have a greater economic impact than coronavirus.

Alistair Phillips-Davies wants the UK government to encourage private investment in renewables by giving the green light to big new projects.

They include hydrogen and carbon capture plants and boosting electric vehicles.

SSE has outlined its "greenprint" in a letter to the prime minister.

Mr Phillips-Davies said: "While it is still too early to predict with confidence the full human, social and economic impact of coronavirus, we can say with certainty that significant investment will be needed to rebuild the UK economy in its wake.

"Although not as immediately felt as those from coronavirus, the impacts from a failure to deal with climate change could be even greater.

"That's why delivering on the UK's net zero emissions target by 2050, and 2045 in Scotland, is as important as ever."

Image source, SSE
Image caption,
Mr Phillips-Davies says significant investment will be needed to rebuild the UK economy in the wake of the pandemic

The "greenprint" sets out five areas and 15 "practical, deliverable steps government could take now to rebuild a cleaner and more resilient economy for the future".

The steps include deploying the world's most "extensive and efficient" electric vehicle charging infrastructure by 2025, committing to a net zero power sector by 2040, delivering 40GW offshore wind by 2030 and targeting at least 75GW by 2050.

'Wall of money'

Mr Phillips-Davies told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme there was a global "wall of money" to be invested in new projects, adding: "Green has been and will continue to be very popular."

"As we emerge from lockdown, I think it's really important that we see policy from government that points us in the long term.

"I think many of these things that we've already signalled around reaching net zero, around banning diesel and petrol cars and I think what we can do now is accelerate that."

He added: "I think there's a real win-win to be had from increasing the amount of investments and that's around providing certainty to companies like us who can deploy this technology."

Green infrastructure

ScottishPower made a similar case earlier this month as it announced it had signed two separate agreements to develop wind farms in central Scotland that could see investment of more than £150m.

Chairman Ignacio Galán said at the time: "As we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis, investment in green infrastructure can quickly be delivered, creating jobs and offering immediate economic and environmental benefits.

"This will help to support the UK's overall recovery at this critical time."