For many countries in Europe and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to ease, meaning that some governments are in discussions on how best to restart their economies. Many have indicated that this will be done slowly to prevent a second peak of the virus. A crucial focus amidst these talks is the topic of climate change and many are calling for governments to fuel a ‘clean recovery’ and tackle both the climate change problems and economic recovery together. A glimmer of hope, amidst the horrors that the coronavirus pandemic has delivered, has certainly been the impact lockdown measures has had on the environment. Numerous sources have noted that this has caused the biggest carbon crash ever recorded, and global findings from the International Energy Agency forecast that ‘Global CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 8%, or almost 2.6 gigatonnes (Gt), to levels of 10 years ago.’ Many believe that this is an opportune time to harness these positive environmental changes and weave further improvements into economic restorations.
Some may go further to argue that there has been a conscious global awakening when it comes to climate change. Humanity’s mistreatment and destruction of nature has been pointed to as a cause of dangerous viral outbreaks serving as a terrifying warning, the unprecedented drop in pollution is noticeable and perhaps demonstrates the attainability of a green future, and many have quite literally returned to nature as they swap daily commutes for relished daily walks, bike rides and exercise out in the beautiful outdoors.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) also reported that ‘analysis of daily data through mid-April shows that countries in full lockdown are experiencing an average 25% decline in energy demand per week and countries in partial lockdown an average 18% decline.’ The global energy demand declined by 3.8% in which Coal has reduced by 8%, Oil 5%, Gas 2% and Electricity by 20%. Oil was significantly reduced by the depletion of aviation and mobility which makes up approximately 60% of global oil demand. ‘By the end of March, global road transport activity was almost 50% below the 2019 average and aviation 60% below.’ According to the IEA the only area of energy supply that saw a growth in demand was renewable energy, ‘driven by larger installed capacity and priority dispatch.’
According to The Guardian, the IEA also went onto report that globally, investment in renewable energy could deliver global GDP gains of £98tn by 2050 and generate massive economic benefits, stating that it would pay for itself, return $3 and $8 on every dollar invested and increase the number of jobs to 42m over the next 30 years, (not to mention the positive impact on global health). In The Guardian the IEA director general, Francesco La Camera, said that the global crisis derived from the COVID-19 outbreak exposed ‘“the deep vulnerabilities of the current system” and urged governments to invest in renewable energy to kickstart economic growth and help meet climate targets.’ Further advising that:
“Governments are facing a difficult task of bringing the health emergency under control while introducing major stimulus and recovery measures… By accelerating renewables and making the energy transition an integral part of the wider recovery, governments can achieve multiple economic and social objectives in the pursuit of a resilient future that leaves nobody behind.”
This seems to be the consensus with many experts in the field who are campaigning their respective governments and industry giants to opt for a green recovery. In Australia, one example is the Australian Industry Group (representing over 60,000 businesses), who called for COVID-19 recovery and Climate change to go hand in hand. The Chief Executive, Innes Willox, stated: “There’s a lot that we can do to rebuild stronger and cleaner, the need is urgent. Covid-19 and climate are bigger than any economic challenge we’ve faced in the last century.”
According to the BBC, government advisers in the UK have recommended that funds for Post-COVID recovery go to industries that will reduce carbon emissions, advising that the public should work from home where possible, opt for cycling, consult GP’s online and other initiatives. It seems that this school of thought may lead making many of the digital and ‘green’ procedures that we have had to quickly turn to during the crisis, permanent. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised that broadband should be prioritized over road building, outlining many small changes that could be made to harness this green recovery.
Andrew Steer, chief executive of the World Resources Institute, said: “As the world looks to recover from the current health and economic crises, we face a choice: we can pursue a modern, clean, healthy energy system, or we can go back to the old, polluting ways of doing business. We must choose the former.”