Whilst this period of enforced lockdown has thrown many aspects of life into question, and many of those questions remain unanswered, we are beginning conversations of “how do we return from this?” And by return, we are clear that we don’t want to come full-circle back to how things were pre-Covid. This much is apparent: our planet was not happy, and our populations weren’t healthy. So how do we move forward, into a future which sees activities returning, but without the climate disaster that they brought before? Is this even possible? And, what needs to happen for this to occur?

We have seen how the planet, air quality, and natural environments can recover, when given the best opportunity to do so – with minimal human activity and disruption. Obviously, remaining on lockdown is not a viable continual solution, and nor should it be. We are able to return to regular activities, without the negative impact on the planet as previously. The technology exists, renewable energy is available; what we need now is long-term and meaningful regulatory policy to ensure that these become the “new normal”.

Hilltop turbines

Painting the future green

A “Green Recovery” is being called for from environmental organisations and activists across the globe. Whilst individuals might very well have realised that actually, their job could be achieved with flexible or home working, or really a daily walk is much more enjoyable than driving to the gym, the onus should not be placed on citizens to pick up the reins and drive forward meaningful climate action. Of course, we can all do our bit to be climate conscious, and make adjustments to our daily lives in favour of more sustainable options, but as a global society, we need to see a major shift in the way big industry occurs, how products and services are produced and delivered, and how natural resources are managed and protected. Who can make that happen? How can we achieve a balance between providing for the global population, whilst working to ensure the continual survival of our planet?

Researchers have been exploring the connection between air pollution and vulnerability to Covid-19, and whilst it is still too early to draw concrete conclusions, it is not difficult to understand the possibility of a link. We already know that air pollution, especially long-term exposure, directly contributes to global deaths from respiratory and other diseases, so it is only too clear to imagine the correlation with air pollution exposure and increased vulnerability to a new respiratory virus. So, do we suggest that those living in higher risk areas remain locked inside forever? Or, instead, do we begin to take a more aggressive stance on tackling air pollution at its root, adopting clean air strategies with priority for highly populated, and highly polluted zones?

Going forward, not looking back

A webinar by The Policy Exchange, asked “What next for climate change and environmental policy?” Whilst it is apparent that a reset of the economy is needed, after an unprecedented season of severely diminished economic activity, can we hope to see a newly-inspired boost of capital and investment into more sustainable markets, instead of a dash back to traditional, climate-harming ventures? Whilst we have wasted time in non-action against greenhouse gases, we’ve afforded ourselves a better position in terms of available technologies, particularly within the field of renewable energy storage solutions.

Panellists determined that we need to focus on where we’re going, not where we were. For instance, the government’s commitment to end new sales of internal-combustion engine vehicles by 2035 demonstrates to the auto industry, plus component suppliers and the wider transport sector, the direction in which we are heading. For industries and businesses alike to truly get on board, further regulatory frameworks must be put in place to provide certainty along an uncertain path.

**And yet, and yet. What we’re learning in this crisis is that we’re able to make swift and radical policy changes. And that we’re driven by more and other values than simply financial ones. So why wouldn’t we seek to permanently incorporate this in our policies? With the inviting prospect of a more resilient, more sustainable economy that’s better able to weather a fresh crisis.**

Hans Stegeman, DuurzaamNieuws columnist

Read the full article here (as published by Triodos Investment Management).

Back-and-forthing between policy decisions, commitments and actionable change may indeed have discolored our faith in real developments, and diminished the population’s belief in a true possibility of a greener future. But, what this unprecedented lockdown has demonstrated is that the public can adapt to sudden, unforeseen changes, and that national and global policy needs to now play catch up.

Date: 04/06/2020