I’ve been having a number of conversations with people recently about the impact of the current pandemic on climate change. ‘How are they related?’, I hear you ask!
Well, that’s a good question. It was very quickly noted when China shut down, that pollution levels in built up areas such as Beijing, plummeted - hurrah! And there were beautiful views of clear waters and wildlife in the Venice canals when Italy was locked down.
Early reports are showing the air quality in the UK is benefitting from reduced traffic on the roads, which is unsurprising as transport is one of the biggest contributors to pollution in this country.
Climate change campaigners have already pointed out that they have repeatedly been told it was not possible to shut everything down to save the planet as the commercial consequences would be too great. Yet here we are, with everything shut down. As an aside, I’ve never really understood that argument, as making changes to address climate change may have immediate costs and consequences, the impact of long term climate change is even greater, and will ultimately cost more if it’s not addressed.
So what will happen when life returns to normal? Even French President Macron has commented that people will no longer accept a return to dirty air and pollution.
Companies previously reluctant to allow employees to work from home (even reducing commute one day a week would have a significant impact on carbon footprints) may find they now cannot justify their position. After all, if employees can effectively work from home for two or three months, surely one day a week is fine?
The counter argument to that is that, after working from home for so long, employees may be desperate to get back into the office and have some human contact!
We're already being asked not to use public transport, where possible, but to walk or cycle instead. Both of these options have environmental benefits and also health benefits for us (not just reducing the chance of catching COVID-19).
There have been calls to ensure that investment in the economy to help us recover from the COVID-19 pandemic should be focused on green industry, and it’s easy to see why. It would seem foolish to return to where we were and if you're going to invest in business to restart the economy, you might as well get the double benefit of investing in ones that will also allow us to achieve our target of being carbon neutral by 2050.
We’ve also seen reports of an increase in local community support and engagement, which is lovely, along with renewed enthusiasm for home grown fruit and veg, and home baking (judging by the lack of flour on the shelves!).
I can’t see into the future, so I don’t know what the answer is. But I have no doubt that this pandemic will have changed the world, let’s just hope it’s for the better.
As always, I’d love to know what you think.