Such benefits to the environment were accompanied by an equally universal and understandable desire for a “return to normal”, a return to a world where life was devoid of the stresses and suffering caused by Covid-19. However, that world of normality came with a heavy price. It was the normality of incessant air traffic, of industrialisation and fossil fuelled vehicles. A return to that “normality” would only exacerbate the climate crisis which had attracted such attention and well-intended pledges prior to the pandemic. People began to recognise that the world needed something more forward-thinking. In the UK, the Committee on Climate Change published a list of recommendations for “a green, resilient Covid-19 recovery” in their annual report to Parliament.
Governments were requested to take the opportunity of building a fairer and more sustainable world. A green recovery is one which would address systemic problems and benefit both people and planet. It would encompass:
A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions:
This can be achieved through increased investment in renewable sources of power and clean technology. A criticism of the many attempts to reinvigorate economies was the disparity between funding for high-carbon industries at the expense of those in the green sector.
Divestment from fossil fuelled industries:
Encouragingly, progress has been made in this area with some of the traditional oil giants transitioning towards integrated companies with pledges to become net zero carbon emitters.
A move towards low-carbon industries will create millions of jobs in the generation of renewable (solar, offshore and onshore wind, green hydrogen) energy, clean technology and retrofitting of buildings with clean sources of power.
Through restoring ecosystems and supporting sustainable food and farming, a more pleasant and viable environment would emerge.
The communities which are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change need housing, healthcare and jobs. Environmental, social and governance projects would lead to positive outcomes in health and economic circumstances.
It has to be acknowledged that when a pandemic like Covid-19 hits, long-term planning can seem of lesser importance than the simple act of survival but a world which turns a blind eye to the opportunity of effecting a green recovery is one condemned to a vulnerable future. A new normal is what the world needs and a green recovery should be at the centre of this.