The Environment comes
Alina McGregor examines the consequences of Covid-19 on climate change.
There has been an apparent return to nature as modern life slows down, and we have seen emboldened wildlife return to some of the most touristic cities. Such as the increased numbers of fish-eating birds in Venice and wild boars roaming the streets of Bergamo.
Moreover, Nitrogen dioxide emitted from vehicles dropped by 40 to 60 percent over cities in China, compared with a similar period last year. Carbon monoxide concentrations above New York City have fallen to half of their 2019 levels and other cities follow the same pattern.
Arguably, now is the best time to make our economy and lifestyles more sustainable. Ian Dunlop, a former fossil fuel industry executive turned climate activist, has said: “The only way we can really address climate change now is by some form of emergency action. “He continued to state: “We’ve left it too late to move through what people have been calling a graduating transition.”
However, the reality is that lockdown will not work in favour of sustainability in the long run. Global climate talks have been postponed till 2021, delaying major green action for now. It is already understood that all nations, not just a few, need to move to renewable electricity, need to shift away from fossil fuels, need to offset and reduce emissions in areas like agriculture, and more.
Are Governments really going to be able to switch to a green economy given the short amount of time we have?
But there is a major problem that will likely hamper this from happening as fast as it could. The dilemma is the economic shock. In a piece in the Conversation, Charlie Gardner outlines the different threats to biodiversity in the global south, where the difference is that people’s livelihood is often less protected than in the global north. Social safety nets are widespread in many industrialised economies, keeping the poor and vulnerable from impoverishment.
The importance of the welfare state in the UK, for example, has never been more obvious than during this pandemic, as the NHS has been pushed to its limit to help those who contracted COVID-19. Furthermore the government’s furlough scheme guarantees that people unable to work will receive 80% of their income so less people are left vulnerable. But for the many people who do not have these kinds of welfare states, forests and oceans will provide their safety net as exploiting natural resources becomes one of their only options. Wild areas are difficult to police and there are few technical barriers to exploiting them as there is less need for a formal education or advanced machinery.
And in the short term, at least, COVID-19 is a greater threat to people’s livelihoods than climate change. Back in 2008 when the world experienced a global financial crisis on a scale never seen before in the modern world, workers in Cameroon turned to poaching and deforestation to maintain some income. The same thing might happen again. But are Governments really going to be able to switch to a green economy given the short amount of time we have?
In Europe, the goal of an environmentally sound economic recovery has been moved to the top of spending plans. The European Commission’s economic recovery plan, released earlier this week, includes 150 billion euro (£133 billion) toward greener transport, more energy efficient homes, and cleaner industry. This plan also includes a forty billion euro “just transition fund” aimed at weaning countries off dirty fuels like coal through a grant program. The question is how fast all nation states can get on board with sustainable values. Similar to this pandemic, the faster they act, the more deaths and injustices we can all avoid.