Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic my number one priority has been to get employers and employees in our Central Devon constituency the support they need. As Chair of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, I have pressed the Prime Minister and the Chancellor very hard on areas where I have felt more can be done. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic the committee helped to push for support for self-employed workers and then we took up the cause of parents who were returning from maternity or paternity leave who found that they had missed eligibility cut offs. More recently we helped to ensure more than 600,000 newly self-employed workers (who had been ineligible for previous support packages) are able to apply to the fourth Self Employment Income Support Scheme which opened to applications last week. The support is worth up to £7,500 for a three-month period.
At the same time as keeping a critical eye on support for businesses, the committee has also been identifying ways the Government can meet its goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In politics too often the urgent crowds out the important, and there is no issue of greater importance than the future of our planet. Last week I released a report into the decarbonisation of our economy alongside a series of recommendations. The full report is available at www.melstridemp.com/netzero but below is a short summary.
- Financial products should be clearly labelled to allow consumers to assess their relative climate impacts and to make choices accordingly.
- The Financial Conduct Authority must have the power to prevent the greenwashing of financial products (where products or funds are labelled as ‘green’ or sustainable but may not be so).
- The Government needs to be clearer on the cost of achieving net-zero by 2050.
- Regions of the UK are likely to be impacted differently by the decarbonisation of our economy and we need a framework for supporting communities which will be impacted the most.
- Many pension savers in defined contribution pension schemes are invested in their pension’s default fund. More should be done to promote alternative, greener schemes (i.e. those which invest in environmentally sustainable businesses and projects).
As I released my report, President Biden made a commitment to halve US greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is a huge moment for the global fight against climate change as the United States is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Since 1990 it has reduced emissions by less than 1% - in comparison the UK has reduced ours by 38%. I have no doubt that the leadership the UK has shown in recent years in the fight against climate change has helped to influence the US, demonstrating that a shift to a greener economy is both desirable and possible. We are also hosting the COP26 climate summit later this year which I am hoping to attend and contribute to in person.