Welcome: Nanning Deferry Environment Protection and Energy Conservation Co., Ltd.
The world needs to rebuild greener after Covid-19
Until now, environmentalism has tended to wane when economies turn down. But as the world endures its second hottest spring on record it seems the pandemic may be wreaking lasting changes in public attitudes.
The pandemic has upended assumptions and accelerated timescales. Environmentalists had expected the next round of UN climate talks, which were scheduled for November, to mark the next stage of progress; but the moment has already arrived. The recovery from Covid-19 offers a unique opportunity, precisely because the economic havoc wreaked by the virus has turned western states into all-powerful Leviathans.
Governments should wake up to this phenomenal shift: though they must resist the temptation to over-reach. In trying to create its own taxonomy, rather than aligning with the TCFD, the EU is in danger of producing overly bureaucratic climate disclosure standards which may not help companies get the right data to make useful decisions.
The world is witnessing the unusual situation of companies urging faster action from governments in shaping the market. And indeed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts suggest that even limiting warming to 1.5C by 2050 could still play havoc with the climate. In the background is the growing realisation that the dramatic falls in emissions we have seen during lockdown are tiny compared to the scale of the problem. Global emissions will fall this year, possibly by 6 per cent, according to the International Energy Agency, but carbon dioxide is still being added to the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, extreme weather is increasingly impinging on our consciousness. The sunshine has helped many of us get through lockdown, and I have blessed it every day, but it is daunting to realise that this has been a global phenomenon. May 2020 tied with 2016 as the world’s hottest on record, and South America, Europe, Asia and the Gulf of Mexico have had their warmest ever year to date, while February 2020 was the wettest on record in the UK. Levels of Arctic sea ice have also seen substantial falls. Not all of this is directly attributable to climate change, but the trend is becoming impossible to ignore.
Like coronavirus, climate change is an invisible threat that demands collective action. Mustering the public and business support to tackle it has sometimes seemed an impossible goal. But lockdowns have brought a new awareness of what life might be like with less pollution. They have also — and this has been less commented on — demonstrated a surprising willingness of citizens across the world to respond positively and responsibly to restrictions set by governments which were initially unsure whether voters would comply.
The world walks into summer with hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but the knowledge that the environmental crisis is already unfolding. Just as they did with the coronavirus, governments must seize this chance to be much braver than they had expected to be.