A Rocha UK CEO, Andy Atkins, comments on the critical window of opportunity to ‘build back better’ from the pandemic.
No sane person would have wished Covid-19 on the world. But among the glimpses of a silver lining that have been observed as a side effect of major industrial countries ‘locking down’, has been the sharp fall in greenhouse gas emissions, more space for nature, and cleaner air for people and nature to breathe as air pollution has fallen. Even these small comforts however are in danger of being lost if governments and people do not move very fast to ‘build back better’.
The world is at a moment of acute risk and opportunity. In mid-June the respected International Energy Agency (IEA) published a report in which it suggested that we have only about 6 months to ensure that economic recovery funds are invested in a green recovery – and avoid them being invested in fossil fuel and carbon-intensive industries instead. If the latter happens, says the EIA, there is little possibility of avoiding runaway climate change. We must reduce global carbon emissions steeply this decade to do so; but investment decisions taken in the next few months will lock us into energy production and consumption patterns for decades to come. So, with governments planning to commit an estimated $9 trillion (£7.18tn) to rebooting economies in the months ahead, there is the earth to play for.
The British government has made some encouraging announcements, but its actions so far – including negotiating bale-out loans to fossil fuel companies and airlines – have not inspired confidence. Yet the wider benefits of going green are multiple. Take job creation. Analysis by the IEA suggests that investing in green industries, such as retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, or rolling out wind and solar power plants, would create far more jobs than the same investment in old high carbon sectors.
Civil society is responding at all levels. On 1 June, 200 business leaders including those from such diverse companies as Aviva insurance, the Church of England Pensions Board, Burger King and Yorkshire Water, sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging the government to invest in a low carbon recovery. Then on 14th June, leaders of 56 charities from the Climate Coalition, including A Rocha UK, released an open letter to the government calling for a green and fair recovery. Environment and health campaign groups have joined forces to launch the Build Back Better campaign for individuals. And a coalition of Christian charities and denominations, chaired by A Rocha UK, announced the Climate Sunday initiative for churches. What is now needed is widespread backing by the public at large and leaders of all sectors, including the Church.
It is difficult for any individual, organisation, government or country to focus productively on too many things at once. But amidst the disorientation, grief and national trauma of the current pandemic, we must also grasp the intensely urgent opportunity to rescue our future – for people and nature. Two important opportunities to do so are approaching:
-On 30 June the Climate Coalition is organising TheTime Is Now virtual lobby for climate, nature and people. Sign up here to join and get information on how to lobby your MP effectively (resources still useful beyond this date. Hope for the Future is another great organisation who can help have your voice heard on climate change.
-Register your interest in your church participating in the unique Climate Sunday initiative, which is to begin in September. Register and find out more here.