Environment advocates will have to carefully consider political turbulence we are facing all around the world. Climate change advocates face a political, financial and economic storm thanks to coronavirus.
A month ago, CEOs couldn’t stop talking about their sustainability plans and green investments about a global movement for Green Deals. But at this time, they are postponing climate law debates, protests for Climate Change which now just is online. Instead of that, they are looking for bailouts, from carbon-intensive industries to aviation to oil.
Coronavirus factors impacting the initial economic downturn are global, hitting severely supply-and-demand at the same time. While that might cut emissions in the short-term, that does not mean good. Emissions in China are down because the economy has stopped but many people are dying and poor people are not able to get medicine and food. This is not a good way for how we want to decrease emissions from climate change.
Those post-recession economies can see a surge in emissions. For instance, after the global financial crisis of 2008, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production grew 5.9 percent in 2010. That should have a priority in any stimulus package to avoid an uptick in emissions when economies recover.
The followings are factors that could help and harm the climate in both the short and longer terms.
Things Coronavirus Helps The Environment
Improve air quality: Many industries were crippled by the coronavirus especially transportation. Coronavirus is threatening to end the world air-travel boom, testing airlines and other travel companies. Traffic is down in some of Europe’s dirtiest cities, which have chronically failed to respect EU air quality standards. Better air is saving more people than coronavirus is killing, in other words.
Reduce emissions: Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by around 25 percent, and declining oil demand should push emissions down globally due to industry shutdowns. Airlines are also cutting flights that might have fewer emissions.
Minds may open for structural change: The focus is on health and supply chains right now. Climate action advocates motivate and inspire people to alter behavior on environmental views— illustrated by remote work.
Things Coronavirus Will Harm The Environment
Capital will be diverted: Governments will be forced to prioritize public health. Struggling banks may change lending criteria, and use the crisis to modify their green targets.
Many countries’ budgets are being diverted for public health and financial aid. In Brussels, the European Parliament chose to delay a climate law debate. That means climate change not to remain a central focus at this time. But we expect that climate is still a huge priority and that will be reflected when we overcome this crisis.
Overload of waste: Overload waste is a great nuisance and a risk for our health and environment. Coffee chain Starbucks decided to stop accepting reusable cups due to concerns about the spread of disease from the bottles provided by customers. It’s now only serving drinks in disposable single-use cups that are not yet recyclable.
China is overflowing under medical waste (often single-use items by necessity) produced by hospitals and medical masks used by people to prevent spread. In the city of Wuhan, it’s quadrupled to more than 200 tons a day.
Increase Home Energy: With oil prices down, more people working at home leading to consumer energy use will go up. Household appliances and utilities are more used for taking the high demand for living and home entertainment.
Low profits reduce investing in green deals: Regulation could force a shift to clean energy, but that’s unlikely in many countries such as United States, China, Italy or Iran in a year when the industry is suffering large financial losses.