I have now been repeatedly asked on the connection between Covid-19 and climate change. My perspectives have been random depending on who is asking, my judgement of their motivation and my deep-seated bias for the global south.
One aspect has been the laud about the global emission reduction due to reduced global economic performances after businesses either shut or scaled down. In February, China recorded global emission reduction of 25 percent which eased to 18 percent in mid to early March. The European Union is projecting nine to 10 percent global emissions reduction by December 2020.
Another reduction in the range of 10 to 20 percent is expected from the United States by the end of the year. Unfortunately, this news is not exactly comforting to the fight against climate emergency because these changes are unsystematic, unstructural and temporal.
To save the planet, the world needs fundamental structural changes to our economies by decarbonising the power sector that drives it. The second most important action is to provide remedies for the vulnerable and poor communities to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate
problem and the political will against it is just admirable. The real danger, however, is that the attention on Covid-19 could take away the attention on international commitment on climate change. In November, governments are supposed to submit to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change their climate plans to accompany the Paris agreement. It is these plans we hope to set us on ambitious trajectory to get to net zero by 2050 and we need political will which is also on high demand for Covid-19 response. It is important to recognise that climate change will continue to affect economies for a long time into the future. The global community should, therefore, not lose sight of the climate ball as we address covid-19.
Developed governments have started to propose financial packages to resuscitate economies out of the recession. Two thoughts here. First is a wish. What is preventing governments from acting so quickly and with similar gusto on the economic impacts on climate change on the economy? Despite the challenge of climate change, it has never been easy to garner political will necessary to trigger proportionate climate ambition. I hope the success and lessons from Covid-19 on international cooperation can permeate climate action at national to international climate plans and support to incentivise radical emission reduction to those already suffering the impacts of climate change.
Secondly, there is need to integrate climate change in the economic stimulus plans to economies that have been affected by Covid-19. For example, there is a strong feeling that the prices for renewable energy such as solar and wind may actually go up due to the impact of Covid-19. A green stimulus plan should target support companies that are producing solar and wind technologies for energy generation.
Lastly, Covid-19 has significantly checked on our individual and collective consumption behaviours. At individual level, people have reduced travel and food waste has gone down at household level either because of the lockdowns or in anticipation of one. Every climate expert will wish these lessons from Covid-19 are sustained and become our new normal. Someone said, Covid-19 may be a perfect’ ‘fire drill’ drill for climate action. Oh may be!.