The Blue Recovery: Our response to the Summer Economic Update


Last week we got a first look at what the government’s plans for our recovery from the global health crisis are. The Prime Minister’s plans to ‘Build, Build, Build’ our way out of the crisis seemed to willfully ignore shouts not to return to business as usual and instead look to new models and approaches that restore nature. We heard that planning laws would be weakened, removing the so-called ‘red tape’ that is there to protect the ocean and wider environment. Instead there was a reconfirmation of manifesto commitments for tree planning that is only one part of the urgent action needed to solve the nature and climate crisis.

Today, the Chancellor has set the ‘Plan for Jobs’, laying out the government’s economic plans to inject investment to restart business and revitalise employment. At Surfers Against Sewage, we believe in the need to focus on delivering a green recovery, that restores nature, communities and wellbeing. Our #GenerationSea Survey showed over 90% of the British public said the pandemic provides an opportunity to rebuild the economy around restoring the ocean and tackling climate change. So did the government listen and put money forward to #BuildBackBetter?

The government announced £3 billion in green investment to create low carbon jobs, which we of course welcome. These funds are largely focused on insulating our housing stock and public buildings, which is a vital step forward and will create green jobs. However, there is little additional focus on the further renewable energy investments or green infrastructure. The commitments fall well short of what is needed to meet the UK’s targets to be net-zero by 2050 or create the wave of green jobs needed for a truly sustainable recovery. We need a truly green and just recovery to the economic crisis.

We urge the government’s ‘plan for jobs’ and allocation of the £900 million for ‘shovel ready projects’ to prioritise initiatives focused on nature and environment. We should prioritise the restoration of the most sensitive and important habitats, rich in biodiversity, that filter our air and water, lock away carbon and provide resilience against the changing climate. And we need investment in freshwater and marine environments that provide critical carbon stores not to be ignored.

The investments announced today, whilst a step in the right direction, are a fraction of the £300 billion found to tackle the symptoms of the health crisis. The biodiversity and climate crisis is by far the biggest threat humanity will face, and we should be matching this scale of investment to drive real change for a sustainable future. Ambitious investments and radical action can solve the root causes of the decline of our natural world and address the climate crisis, and we urgently call for the political will to match the scale of the threat. We need a truly green and just recovery to the economic crisis.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, says:

“Whilst the £2bn green homes grant is a step in the right direction it is far short of commitments other countries have made to tackle the climate and environmental emergency. We need more radical ambition to truly transform the failing, antiquated economy, to a model that is regenerative, inclusive and sustainable.

The global pandemic has shown that where the political will exists, we can innovate and transform at record pace, and change the way we do business on Planet Ocean. The government has so far spent hundreds of billions on treating the symptoms of one global crisis. Isn’t it about time that we matched and exceeded this to treat the causes of the environmental breakdown taking place?

If government and business don’t take radical action now we may well face ‘climate change lockdown’, rationing and even more drastic limitations imposed on our lives by governments and ultimately by the self-regulation of nature’s global system.”