The global response to the coronavirus crisis has caused the sharpest drop in carbon output since records began. In the UK, when the lockdown was at its most stringent back in April, carbon emissions fell by around 31%.
Whilst this is clearly good news for the environment, as governments worldwide set to work to inject life back into their economies, the focus must now turn to how these temporary gains can be built upon.
Worryingly, we have already seen increased commitments to the future use of fossil fuels in both China and the United States, as they try to increase productivity to make up for the damage caused by the pandemic.
As the UK forges its path to exit lockdown and restart the economy there is a clear opportunity and momentum to take a different approach and accelerate the transition to net zero.
A drastic drop in emissions
In a recent study, it was found that between January and April, global emissions dropped by as much as 8.2%. To meet the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious target, however, and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade, emissions need to be cut by 8% per year for the next decade.
This puts into context the scale of the challenge at hand.
As well as a drop in emissions, individual behaviour is also key. In this regard, we have seen a notable shift in public opinion, with many today seeing the impacts of climate change as just as important as the current pandemic.
In the Public Attitudes Tracker, released in May by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, found that three quarters (76%) of people said they were either very concerned (35%) or fairly concerned (41%) about climate change.
In addition, a recent poll by YouGov published towards the end of April showed that the environment was among the top issues facing the UK at this moment in time. The 24% of respondents who expressed this as an issue put climate change on par with challenges such as the economy and immigration.
Positive signs in Europe
In Europe, business leaders and politicians are leading the call for a green economic recovery to ‘build back better’, making the case for low-carbon industries and renewable energy to play a key role going forward.
Keen to play our part, Low Carbon also recently joined fellow businesses and co-signed a letter to the Prime Minister, urging the UK Government to make the environment a top priority and consider how further commitments to sustainable projects and initiatives could help the UK economy recover.
What does a green recovery look like?
As an experienced investor and manager of renewable energy projects, Low Carbon has a firm idea of what needs to be done to stimulate green growth.
We feel that now is the time for government to make the switch towards sustainable projects and industries and take meaningful action towards the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) as defined in the Paris Agreement.
New renewable projects such as the increased deployment of solar PV and wind energy, would not only help our environment, but at a time when unemployment levels are rising, would create much needed job opportunities – helping to provide a much-needed economic boost.
Whether world leaders will again pass on the prospect of a green recovery, as happened during the 2008 financial crisis when fossil fuel power was favoured for a swifter recovery – or if the long-term benefits of renewable energy prevail remains to be seen. The noises coming out of Government are positive – only last week the Business Secretary said: “it is imperative that we work together, in the aftermath of the coronavirus, and ahead of COP26, to build back better.” However, we must see tangible action if we are to see this momentum continue.
Here at Low Carbon we believe the opportunity for redefining our relationship with carbon is now and must be at the heart of any ‘new normal’.