This Earth Day just gone, we found ourselves in the middle of the worst global pandemic in a century. Covid-19 has been hard on everyone. Half the world’s population has experienced lockdown. 9% of working hours were lost with people no longer having a job, that’s the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs. The global economy has slowed down; international tourism fell -74%, manufacturing fell -8% with a -9% drop in trade. As a result, energy demand fell, gas consumption was down -3%, burning of coal down -4% and the requirement for oil dropping -9%.
All this means that carbon dioxide emissions have experienced their biggest drop in history, however, to meet the Paris Agreement targets to limit global warming we will need to keep cutting CO2 every year through to 2030. When we finally emerge from the pandemic, human activity will pick up again. Can we still cut greenhouse gasses?
If we act now, then I am hopeful. The shift to renewable energy is happening much faster than expected, as costs come down. Producing energy from wind and solar is now cheaper than from coal and gas. Boris Johnson (whisper his name) spoke of the “green industrial revolution” that will invest £12bn of government funds, creating 250,000 green jobs and help drive a green recovery from Covid-19 by “build[ing] back better”.
Global organisations and institutions are divesting from fossil fuels and investing more sustainably. Renewable energy can power new jobs, industries and a more resilient global economy while lowering the costs of climate change and air pollution. The pandemic has shown that we can change our behaviours quickly. We have demonstrated that we can innovate at pace. When we work together, we can meet big challenges head-on. Now is the time for urgent action and to succeed we all need to take on responsibility. In every market, sustainability now means more than just talk.
more than a word.