by Rachana Ingle
Cover image designed by Ting Yan Khor
Why return to the obsolete & dangerous?
Despite concerns that climate action is a luxury many cannot afford while economies are suffering, many fail to observe the overlap that exists. Either actions should not be independent but go hand in hand. European leaders have announced that out of the €750 billion covid 19 bailout, 25% are designated for green investments. “Not a single Euro should be spent propping up old, dirty industries”, said the vice president of the European Commission. Efforts must adopt a “do no harm” to the climate principle to ensure excessive greenhouse emissions are not created. Although some countries still provide bailouts for polluting industries so as to stimulate the economy, it is imperative that countries also include climate goals in their covid recovery plans.
Green groups have called for all bailout cash to be given to firms that agree on green objectives (although sadly, this would probably not come to fruition). Several European cities have shifted to making cycling and walking a priority over driving, such as Paris and Milan“. More companies have also found success by letting their employees work from home, creating societal shifts caused by the lockdowns. This may have a sustained impact of using telecommuting and virtual conferencing as an alternative to commuting to work.
A new beginning
Investments in renewable energy creates more jobs than fossil fuel projects. Research has shown that a “stimulus programme that focuses on renewable energy and climate-friendly projects could create more than 100,000 direct jobs across Australia”. Furthermore, when making policies, countries look for a high “economic multiplier” so that there are greater and long term gains on the economy. Such policies include:
- Investment in clean physical infrastructure in the form of “renewable energy assets, storage, grid modernisation and carbon capture and storage technology”
- R&D spending in clean energy
- Natural capital investment to build a more stable and resilient ecosystem which includes restoring carbon rich habitats and climate-friendly agriculture
- Investment in education and training for the unemployed – both in the immediate covid 19 period as well as in the later structural challenges of shifting to greener technologies
Yet, agencies must keep in mind that effective green initiatives require planning and learning from past policies. For instance, this was why Australia’s 2009 Home Insulation Program did not work out well.
“More generally, most emerging infectious diseases, and almost all recent pandemics, originate in wildlife. There is evidence that increasing human pressure on the natural environment may drive disease emergence,” said the WHO. Although there are no direct causal links between covid 19 and climate change, the ongoing pandemic is only a glimpse of the possible damage that can occur in society and our biodiversity as the ever growing threat of climate change is real.
Green action is imperative for creating a more stable and resilient society for the future generations. Therefore, as countries focus on recovering from the pandemic, the threat of climate change cannot be parked aside; urgent, decisive and large scale action is needed to curb the climate crisis which may be just around the corner.
Rachana is an undergraduate student studying social sciences at Sciences Po-HKU. Passionate about the environment and social issues, she seeks to create positive change and encourage sustainability in society.